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Mountains to Sound Greenway offers a bike tour on John Wayne Pioneer Trail

By Gene Bisbee
Biking Bis
If you’ve been thinking about a multi-day bike ride along the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trek might be just for you.


If you’ve been thinking about a multi-day bike ride along the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trek might be just for you.

The Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a hike/bike adventure next month through the 100 miles of forests, farms, parks, and communities that it seeks to protect along Interstate 90 from Ellensburg to Seattle.

The bicycle section of the Trek encompasses three days of bicycle riding from Ellensburg to Rattlesnake Lake on July 11-14. The entire trip, which concludes with several days of hiking, runs through July 19..

Participants can sign up for either the entire three-day trip, with overnights in South Cle Elum and Snoqualmie Pass, or the single-day trip that starts with a passage through the 2.4-mile-long Snoqualmie Tunnel and ends in the cool waters of Rattlesnake Lake.

The bicyclists will cover about 80 miles over the three days. You can travel at your own pace, but there is no sag support from motor vehicles along the route. You should expect to finish what you start every morning.

I’ve ridden between Ellensburg and Rattlesnake Lake several times in recent years. The trail surface between the Snoqualmie Tunnel and Rattlesnake Lake (and beyond onto the Snoqualmie Valley Trail) has been hard-packed in recent years and pretty easy with most tires.

East of the Snoqualmie Tunnel, however, there are many soft sections with deep, loose crush rock. (In fact, I just got mired in a couple of inches of loose gravel along Lake Keechelus this past week.) Therefore, I’d recommend using a bike with the widest tires you can run. A mountain bike with 26X2 tires would do much better than my 26X1.25 tires on my touring bike.

(I just heard back from a Mountains to Sound Greenway rep on Saturday. That newly laid gravel is only along the trail next to Lake Keechelus.)

For those who choose to walk, the Trekkers continue on two feet from Rattlesnake Lake to Seattle with overnights Snoqualmie Point Park, Preston, Issaquah, and Bellevue.

Camping gear for hikers and bikers will be shuttled to the next campground every morning, and organizers will provide food. Still, organizers urge bikers and hikers to carry the 10 essentials.

All the details about the trip can be found at Mountains to Sound Greenway Trek.

The Trek

The biking trek starts with an early start in Ellensburg after camping overnight there. The bike trekkers will use the John Wayne Pioneer Trail for their entire three days of exploring. Although the trail is the nation’s longest rail-trail at 253 miles, the bicyclists will get to see some of the most picturesque parts.

During the first day, the bicyclists will ride to Thorp (basically a large fruit stand near the trail), and then enter the Yakima River Canyon. The grassy hillsides are dry this time of year as the trail drops below the landscape. It passes through a couple of old railroad tunnels as it follows the corridor of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad.

At South Cle Elum, bicyclists can visit the old railroad yard. The layout of the old yard has been preserved, and the train station is a restaurant now.

On the second day, the bicyclists will continue the gentle grade toward the Snoqualmie Tunnel. They’ll pass lots of farms and short railroad tunnels at Lake Easton State Park and another located between Easton and Hyak.

On the third day, bicyclists will need  fresh batteries for their headlamps as they enter the 2.4 mile long Snoqualmie Tunnel, which celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2014. The tunnel is unlit. A jacket is a good idea, as a cool breeze often blows through this time of year and water drips from the ceiling. When I passed through this week, the floor of the tunnel was swept clean.

Exiting the west portal of the tunnel, bicyclists will begin an 18-mile run down to Rattlesnake Lake. There are a half dozen high trestles over canyons that offer amazing views of the Cascades and I-90 below.

Here’s the itinerary for the entire trip. If you bike, you don’t have to hike, and vice versa. See the details.

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