New guidebook for Washington & Oregon rail-trails

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With 82 rail-trails in Washington state and 19 in Oregon, how can a bicyclist choose which trails to ride? More than 1,000 miles of rail-trails suitable for bicycling wind across Washington’s landscape, with some 300 miles of trails in Oregon.

Scenic but rugged section of Spruce Railroad Trail (Olympic Discovery Trail)

Scenic but rugged section of Spruce Railroad Trail (Olympic Discovery Trail)

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is helping to solve that problem by publishing an official guidebook for the region — Rail-Trails Washington and Oregon.

The guidebook just came out in May. It explores 42 trails in the two states (33 in Washington and 9 in Oregon). They run the gamut from the busy Burke Gilman Trail in Seattle to the remote Willapa Hills Trail that connects Chehalis with South Bend.

Off-road connections

As the back cover points out:

“The development of the railroads led to the creation of the prominent western cities, and now, many rail-trails, such as Portland’s 21.5-mile Springwater Corridor, serve as connections for neighborhoods, parks, businesses, and much more.”

Many of the rail-trails connect distant towns. The Chehalis-Western, Woodland, and Yelm-Tenino rail-trail network in Thurston County links Olympia, Lacey, Rainier and other small towns with off-road connections.

The trails that pass through wide rural areas of Washington and Oregon offer a full helping of scenic delights, such as waterfalls, rushing rivers, dense forests, and views of snow-covered volcanic summits.

The nation’s longest rail-trail — the John Wayne Pioneer Trail — passes for more than 250 miles from the wet western slopes of the Cascades to the desert-like sands of the Columbia Gorge to the irrigated farmland of eastern Washington.

The book

Each trail description is accompanied by a map that shows start and end points, parking, trail heads, restrooms and drinking water. The trail descriptions note the trail surface, difficulty, railroad history and important landmarks or interesting highlights along the way.

There are directions to the beginning of each trail. A legend alongside the trail description tells what uses are popular on the trails. Bicycling or mountain biking is encouraged for all the trails, except the Coal Creek Trail in King County.

The book is available as part of a membership promotion for Rails to Trails Conservancy. It’s available in soft cover and and eGuidebook.  It’s also available from Amazon.

Here’s a list of the trails reviewed:

Heritage sign on the Centennial Trail in Snohomish County

Heritage sign on the Centennial Trail in Snohomish County


Bill Chipman Palouse Trail

Burke-Gilman Trail

Cascade Trail

Cedar River Trail

Centennial Trail State Park

Chehalis Western Trail

Coal Creek Trail

Cowiche Canyon Trail

East Lake Sammamish Trail

Elliott Bay Trail

Fish Lake Trail

Foothills Trail

Interurban Trail (Bellingham)

Interurban Trail (north)

Interurban Trail (south)

Issaquah-Preston Trail

John Wayne Pioneer Trail -- dry side

John Wayne Pioneer Trail — dry side

John Wayne Pioneer Trail

Klickitat Trail

Lower Yakima Valley Pathway

Olympic Discovery Trail (3 segments)

Preston-Snoqualmie Trail

Sammamish River Trail

Similkameen Trail

Snohomish County Centennial Trail

Snoqualmie Valley Trail

South Bay Trail

Tommy Thompson Trail

Wallace Falls Railyway Trail

New growth alder on Willapa Hills Trail

New growth alder on Willapa Hills Trail

Willapa Hills Trail

Woodland Trail

Yelm-Tenino Trail


Astoria Riverwalk

Banks-Vernonia State Trail

Deschutes River Railbed Trail

I-205 Multi-Use Path

Lewis and Clark Commemorative Trail

OC&E Woods Line State Trail

Row River Trail

Springwater Corridor

Trolley Trail


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