A new shuttle service — Snoqualmie Tunnel Bike Shuttle — to take passengers and bicycles from Rattlesnake Lake to the summit of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in Hyak begins this summer.
The shuttle will be operated by Compass Outdoor Adventures, an outdoor education outfit that’s been operating in the North Bend area since 2007.
The shuttle will enable bicyclists to enjoy the 22-mile downhill stretch of crushed stone rail-trail on the old Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad corridor without climbing the grade to the summit.
The ride starts with passage through the 2.3-mile Snoqualmie Tunnel, an attraction in itself.
The John Wayne Pioneer Trail, at 253 miles, is the longest rail-trail in the nation. The section between the Cedar Falls Trailhead at Rattlesnake Lake near North Bend and the Columbia River is part of the 100-mile-long Iron Horse State Park.
Previously, a Kitsap-based bike shuttle service served the Cedar Falls and Hyak trailheads on the rail-trail for a couple of years until it suspended operation because of excessive fees levied by the state in 2013.
A ride along the trail offers stunning scenery in the Cascade Range, especially where it crosses six railroad trestles over steep canyons. There also are two tent camping areas on the way down, at Carter Creek and Alice Creek, an old snow shed that protected trains from avalanches, and a rock-climbing area.
Normally, I’d recommend that visitors ride up to the summit. The 2% average grade isn’t too taxing, but it does give you a sense of accomplishment to reach Snoqualmie Pass under your own power. Also the scenery passes by more slowly on the way up, allowing more chances to pause and enjoy the sights.
But a downhill ride is great for families or those with limited time or abilities. And it puts more people on the trail, which is always a good thing. Maybe some shuttle excursion riders in the future will consider exploring the dry-side of the trail as it heads east toward Easton, Cle Elum and Ellensburg.
How it works
Contact Compass Outdoor Adventures at 425-318-8876 and press “1” to make a reservation. Riders will meet the van at the Rattlesnake Lake parking lot (no fee for Rattlesnake, although there is a charge if you park at the Cedar Falls Trailhead in the state park). Passengers can either take their own bicycles, which will be carried by trailer to the summit, or rent a bike from Compass. (Compass also rents headlamps for the ride through the tunnel and helmets.)
After a 35-minute drive up to Hyak, the passengers will begin their bike ride. After a 2.3-mile passage through the cold, damp and dark Snoqualmie Tunnel, bicyclists will begin the downhill run, which can take from 2 to 4 hours. Actually, those with their own bikes could camp on the way down, as they won’t have to drop off the bikes at the Compass trailer.
Cost is $40 for those with their own bike; $75 if a rental bike is used. The outfitters offer a full range of sizes in three styles of mountain bikes — Marin Rocky Ridge (front suspension), Mt. Vision (front and rear suspension) and Attack Trail (full suspension). See bike rentals. Also check the Compass Outdoor Adventures Facebook page for special deals.
Other shuttle trips
Compass Outdoor Adventures also is starting SnoValley Shuttle Service, which will serve the trailheads at Mt. Si, Little Si, and Teneriffe. The service begins this Saturday.
The trailheads in the Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area can get congested in the spring and summer. The shuttle service will deliver hikers to the trailheads from a downtown North Bend park and ride. See SnoValley Shuttle Service.