For the first time since 2009 all five tunnels on the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in the Iron Horse State Park are open for bicycling.
You just have to leave your name at the entrance to a couple of them. Liability issues, you know.
The state closed all five tunnels on the 100-mile stretch of rail-trail between Cedar Falls and the Columbia River in 2009 after inspectors found seeping water and falling rock inside them.
Although the state created detours for each one, the routes often went for miles out of the way and in one case involved the unpleasant task of bicycling on Intestate 90.
The first of the tunnels was reopened in 2011 when contractors completed upgrades to the 2.2-mile long Snoqualmie Pass Tunnel. That sparked a resurgence in use on the trail, as many groups shuttled their bikes to Snoqualmie Pass for a 20-mile downhill ride from Hyak Trailhead to Cedar Falls Trailhead.
News came earlier this summer that the state was repairing two more of the tunnels — Numbers 48 and 49 — between Hyak and Easton.
As that still left two tunnels — Number 46 and 47 — closed in the Thorp and a 14.5-mile detour, the Mountains to Sound Greenway and Rails to Trails Conservancy both made pleas for the state to reopen those tunnels as well.
The Mountains to Sound Greenway announced recently that not only are the upgrades complete to two tunnels near Easton, but the state also reopened the two tunnels in the scenic Yakima River Canyon near Thorp.
People using those Thorp tunnels will have to sign a liability waiver.
In a notice on its website Iron Horse State Park website, however, the state warns:
“… if you enter these tunnels you do so at your own risk. Prior to entering the tunnels visitors are required to fill out a waiver form and place it in the drop box located at the entrance of each tunnel.”
The truth is, lots of folks blew off the “No trespassing” signs on these tunnels anyway. There were bicycle tires tracks and an obvious path through the tunnels last summer, although tunnel floors were littered with rocks that either fallen from above or the side of the tunnel.
If you sign the waiver and use these tunnels, I recommend going slow and using a light to look for debris.
Even though the Thorp tunnels are open, Mountains to Sound Greenway supports upgrading them:
“The Greenway Trust strongly supports efforts to completely repair the Thorp tunnels, and will encourage Washington State Parks and the Washington State Legislature to fully fund this magnificent recreation facility in our state.”