Palouse to Cascades Trail

A trail and state park that runs 206 miles across Washington that's formerly known as the John Wayne Pioneer Trail or the Iron Horse Trail. Enjoy any of several possible easy one-day to long overnight, mountain bikes, bikepacks, cross-country skis, or snowshoes with views of mountains and waterfalls as well as interesting history as this portion of the trail traverses from Rattlesnake Lake to and beyond Snoqualmie Pass to Idaho.

Getting there

access points

** Note that the appropriate parking pass depends on the trailhead being used **
      • Rattlesnake Lake: Exit 32 off of I-90. Discover Pass.
      • Twin Falls Natural Area/Olallie State Park: Exit 38 off of I-90. Discover Pass.
      • McClellan Butte Trailhead: Exit 42 off of I-90. Northwest Forest Pass.
      • Annette Lake Trailhead: Exit 47 off of I-90. Northwest Forest Pass.
      • Iron Horse State Park Hyak Trailhead: Exit 54, Discover Pass.
      •  Hyak Sno-Park: Take Exit 54 off of I-90. Discover Pass.

on the trail

The trail runs from Rattlesnake Lake to the Idaho Border. There are several possible hikes, mountain bikes, bikepacks, cross-country skis, and snowshoes of varying length and elevation gain (or loss) done as a round trip or one-way with a car shuttle.

Snoqualmie Tunnel

This is the only hike in Washington that is almost entirely inside a tunnel, providing a unique opportunity to experience some of our state's history. The tunnel was formerly used by the Milwaukee Road rail line which still operated within the memory of many current Mountaineers members.  The Hyak trailhead is at the former train station where skiers disembarked before roads were built to Snoqualmie Pass. The train station has been renovated to include nice restrooms for hikers and skiers. It is always cold in the tunnel, even on a hot day, so it is important to wear warm clothing.  Lights are needed because there is no lighting in the tunnel. Reflective material needs to be on hikers' clothing because bikers use the tunnel and need to be able to see the hikers to avoid collisions. The tunnel is 2.3 miles long.

Rattlesnake lake to Hall Creek Trestle

From the Iron Horse State Park parking area, follow the signs for Iron Horse State Park.  After you pass a sign with  mileages for destinations including Twin Falls and McClellan Butte, make a left to head east through forest with openings of shrubs that can have lovely fall color.    At 1 mile, cross Boxley Creek and pass the Cedar Butte trailhead on the right. Continue about 1 mile further past  the falls of Boetzke Creek and the abandoned Ragnar train depot.  At 4.5 miles, pass the eastern end of the Twin Falls trail on the left, and at 5 miles, the unmarked trail to Mount Washington. Continue ahead and, at 5.5 miles, cross two impressive former railroad trestles over Change and Hall Creeks with great views of West Defiance Ridge to the north and Deception Crags to the south. This trip is 11 miles round trip with 300 feet of elevation gain and a high point of, 1,100 ft.

Keechelus Lake & John Wayne Trail

15 miles round trip with 500 feet of elevation gain, 2,540 ft high point
Difficulty: Cross-country skiing N1 Nordic basic, strenuous Beginner Snowshoeing

The groomed cross-country ski trail cruises through the trees and parallels the Keechelus Lake with occasional views across the lake. At 2.5 miles the trail crosses a ¼-mile wide avalanche chute that's marked with a red sign at the old rail road snow sheds. Consider turning around here if avalanche forecasts indicate unstable snow. If you do continue, do so as quickly as you can. Continue south enjoying occasional views of the lake. At 5.75 miles reach Meadow Creek and the intersection to the Lake Keechelus dam, a good lunch spot and turn around. For strong skiers the trail continues south crossing another avalanche chute at 7 miles. At 7.5 mile cross the Stampede Pass Road and turn left and ski to the Crystal Springs SnoPark.

bikepacking

  • Cedar Falls Trailhead to Alice Creek Campground: 25 miles round trip (shortest possible option)
  • Cedar Falls Trailhead to Lake Easton State Park: 70 miles round trip
  • Snoqualmie Valley Trailhead in Duvall to Alice Creek Campground:  80 miles round trip
  • Snoqualmie Valley Trailhead in Duvall to various campsites on the Palouse to Cascades Trail or to Lake Easton State Park: up to 120 miles round trip
  • Gaia GPS Track of the Seattle to Alice Creek Section
Camping

On this section of the Palouse to Cascades Trail there are  four  primitive walk-in/bike-in campgrounds, each with three to four campsites, one picnic table, and a vault toilet: Roaring Creek (MP 2109.5), Cold Creek (MP 2113.2), Carter Creek (MP 2123.2), and Alice Creek (MP 2127.1).  There are also private campground Cle Elum-Roslyn area like the Whispering Pines Campground and Washington Horse Camp.

Water

Water can be found at the Snoqualmie Valley Trailhead public bathrooms, and the Alice Creek, Lake Easton State Park, Carter Creek, Cold Creek, and Roaring Creek campgrounds.

notes

  • This trail is shared with other users. Please be considerate of other users. In winter, please avoid snowshoeing on the ski tracks.

Information for Leaders

permits

The Mountaineers has a commercial use permit with Washington State Parks for all free and fee-based outings at state parks. Leaders should carry a print or digital copy of our  commercial use permit to show rangers they may encounter. 

  • Suitable Activities: Bikepacking, Cross-country Skiing, Day Hiking, Snowshoeing, Trail Running
  • Snowshoeing Category: Beginner
  • Seasons: Year-round
  • Weather: View weather forecast
  • Difficulty: *Varies*
  • 2,600 ft
Map
  • Green Trails Rattlesnake Mtn No. 205S
  • Green Trails Snoqualmie Pass Gateway No. 207S
  • Green Trails Mount Si NRCA No. 206S
Activities

Upcoming Activities

Intro to Trail Running: Backcountry Field Trip - Snoqualmie Tunnel

Trail Running Field trip: Introduction to Trail Running: Backcountry
A field trip to a backcountry location to reinforce what you have learned and evaluate
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
Tue, Jul 27, 2021
No Prerequisites
1 participant on waitlist 0 instructors
Registration closes Jul 25
Foothills Branch
Trip Reports
Titles

This is a list of titles that represent the variations of trips you can take at this route/place. This includes side trips, extensions and peak combinations. Not seeing a title that fits your trip? Log in and send us updates, images, or resources.

  • John Wayne Pioneer Trail
  • Iron Horse Trail
  • Iron Horse State Park
  • Snoqualmie Tunnel
  • Keechelus Lake & John Wayne Trail
  • Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail
Resources

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