Author Topic: Anyone ridden the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in WA?  (Read 2895 times)

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Offline Wirelizard

Anyone ridden the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in WA?
« on: January 01, 2014, 06:27:55 am »
My brother and I have been kicking around ideas for a Canadian border/Seattle to Portland OR ride via some non-direct route for a while now, with various options considered.

Just a few days ago he discovered the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, a rail-to-trail conversion that starts just east of Seattle in the Snoqualmie/North Bend WA area, goes through the Cascades more or less parallel to I-90, through Ellensburg then on across the Columbia and eventually almost all the way to the Idaho border. (where it links up to other trails that could take you all the way to Montana, actually...)

Link to the TrailLink map for the John Wayne: http://www.traillink.com/trail-maps/john-wayne-pioneer-trail-%28milwaukee-road-corridor%29.aspx

Link to one possible route on Google Maps: http://goo.gl/maps/gf1FV (the Columbia Gorge route here is pretty nailed down; the Anacortes-Seattle-Ellensburg stretch is obvious; the middle third across central WA is pretty much entirely up in the air at this point!)

We were wondering about the Seattle-Columbia River stretch, and then coming back down the Columbia into Portland via the Columbia Gorge (which seems really well set up for cycling) but central-southern WA is pretty unknown territory for both of us.

Has anyone used the JWP trail as a route through the Cascades? Is it doable with cyclocross/hybrid style touring bikes?

Similarly, anyone familiar with that central-southern WA area, Ellensburg/Yakima/Tri-Cities/etc? It's not a part of WA either of us has spent any time in.

Offline 22hornet

Re: Anyone ridden the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in WA?
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2014, 04:55:47 pm »
I have ridden from North Bend to Cle Elum on the John Wayne with both mountain and cyclocross bikes, either one is fine on this section, just be aware that the 2 mile tunnel over snoqualmie pass is closed from November thru May, it is a cool way to cross the cascade range for sure.

Offline hyegeek

Re: Anyone ridden the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in WA?
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2014, 05:57:04 pm »
I'm currently planning a trip on that trail. From everything I have seen (visiting sections in person and by research), anything east of the Columbia river (or even Ellensburg) will be best traveled with a fatbike.

Offline Wirelizard

Re: Anyone ridden the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in WA?
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2014, 09:16:46 pm »
It was mostly the Snoqualmie pass/North Bend to Ellensburg section I was wondering about that, as the alternative to the John Wayne is being stuck on I-90, which sounds unappealing and possibly impossible/illegal for bikes...

Once you get to Ellensburg there's alternative routes available if the JW turns gnarlier. South to Yakima, or on regular roads down the Columbia to the Tri-cities area. We would ultimately be heading down the Columbia Gorge to Portland.

Depending on other commitments this will probably be a late August or even post-Labour Day trip, if we do it this year.

Thanks for the feedback!

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Anyone ridden the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in WA?
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2014, 12:41:42 am »
It was mostly the Snoqualmie pass/North Bend to Ellensburg section I was wondering about that, as the alternative to the John Wayne is being stuck on I-90, which sounds unappealing and possibly impossible/illegal for bikes...


Those sections are very good, straightforward and nice surface.  I've spent a lot of time on it, because I live in the area.


May the wind be at your back!

Offline aRoudy1

Re: Anyone ridden the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in WA?
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2014, 09:19:13 pm »
There are a couple of tunnels on the JWT between Cle Elum and Ellensburg--at least one of which is permanently closed.  There are actually a couple of alternatives  besides I-90.  If you look at the Manastash Metric route, ( http://www.drier-ride.org/map.htm ) you'll see hwy 10 paralleling I-90 on the North and back roads such as Upper Peoh Point Road on the South side; Hwy 10 would be your best bet.

Offline scottb

Re: Anyone ridden the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in WA?
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2014, 01:49:54 am »
The John Wayne Trail is great, I highly recommend it. I've only done it from it's western end as far east as Hyak, but I've heard that the surface is similar the rest of the way to Ellensberg and then gets rougher the farther east you go from there (because more horses use it). The surface is pretty nice crushed gravel, easy as long as you don't have skinny tires which I assume you wouldn't touring anyway. I was on it a month or two ago with 28mm tires and was fine. The nice gentle railroad grade is great too.

I see on your Google map that you'll be on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail beforehand as well. That is another great trail and the surface is very similar with decent crushed gravel. Linking those two trails together you can be on a separated from traffic trail all the way from Duvall to Ellensberg which I think is pretty amazing.

I'm considering a similar trip from Seattle out to Ellensberg and down past Mt Rainier before getting to the Columbia River Gorge to Portland.

Offline 22hornet

Re: Anyone ridden the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in WA?
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2014, 03:48:04 pm »
You should ride the Yakima river canyon road from Ellenburg to Yakima awesome scenery a little hilly but well worth it

Offline Wirelizard

Re: Anyone ridden the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in WA?
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2014, 02:52:34 am »
You should ride the Yakima river canyon road from Ellenburg to Yakima awesome scenery a little hilly but well worth it

That road caught my eye while messing around on the Google Maps setup in my initial post, actually. It's tempting, especially as it looks like the newer, straighter road to the east would carry most of the traffic. A very twisty little route indeed!

Thanks for all the awesome feedback from those of you who've actually been there, if/when this trip actually happens I'll keep folks here informed!

Offline Wirelizard

Re: Anyone ridden the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in WA?
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2014, 11:41:00 pm »
There are a couple of tunnels on the JWT between Cle Elum and Ellensburg--at least one of which is permanently closed. 

According to this from July 2013, all the tunnels on the Cascades section of the John Wayne are now usable, but I'm not familiar with the area and different articles use different landmarks to section the trail up, so it's possible there's still closed tunnels in there somewhere.

Offline aRoudy1

Re: Anyone ridden the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in WA?
« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2014, 02:35:35 am »
The Thorp tunnel is the one I thought was permanently closed.  I haven't seen anything in the local papers about it opening, and the last time I was out in that area the 'Detour' signs were still up.  If the weather cooperates, I might try checking it out.

Offline Wirelizard

Re: Anyone ridden the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in WA?
« Reply #11 on: April 01, 2014, 02:52:44 am »
Just to add a couple of potentially useful links to this thread, as a resource for anyone considering a similar route...

Snohomish County (immediately north of Seattle) runs a number of campgrounds, several of which seem to be reasonably accessible to touring cyclists. http://www.snohomishcountywa.gov/1082/Campgrounds

King County (which also contains Seattle) operates just one campground, but it's also in a reasonable location for the route we're considering down from Anacortes area. http://www.kingcounty.gov/recreation/parks/rentals/camping.aspx

Heading eastward, I'm not even sure Kittitas County has a Parks/Rec Deptartment; their website is terrible: http://www.co.kittitas.wa.us/departments.aspx

I haven't looked up the other counties east and toward the Columbia yet - that's for another evening.

Washington State Parks have an awesome website - http://www.parks.wa.gov/ - and a couple of relevant parks, notable Lake Easton and the small campgrounds just west of Snoqualmie Pass in Iron Horse State Park proper.

Trying to piece together reasonable day lengths and existing campgrounds is kind of challenging, especially as the ferry from the Victoria, BC, Canada side is 30km north of Victoria proper and only runs once a day most of the time, around noon, and gets into Anacortes around 3pm. That makes the first day challenging, in terms of getting anywhere. Staying near Anacortes seems like a good plan - Bay View or Deception Pass State Parks, maybe.

That would mean a long day on the 2nd day down past Everett to either the King County park or even up into Iron Horse State Park up the Pass. Still trying to figure out stages and options after that.

I've discovered that Google Maps is terrible at telling you where campsites are...

Offline Itinerant Harper

Re: Anyone ridden the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in WA?
« Reply #12 on: April 01, 2014, 11:39:54 am »
I don't know about your time constraints or what have you but from Anacortes to North Bend but if you aren't super time compressed I'd take the Mountain Loop Highway and camp in the National Forest there. There are many campgrounds in that area you so you could adjust the miles to your needs. This is a really scenic route, though it does have many miles of gravel road. Not a problem on my touring bicycle with 38mm tires but YMMV.  I basically did a trip from Kirkland WA to Red Bridge Campground on the Mountain Loop Highway to Bayview State Park which by your itinerary you could certainly do. As the Mountain Loop campground was day 1 on my tour I of course got off late so one could certainly make it well beyond Kirkland with an earlier start. It also would be very easy to connect to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail from the Mountain Loop and this would take you right up to Snoqualmie/North Bend/Rattlesnake Lake where the Iron Horse Trail begins.  Anyway if this seems interesting I could dig up more details on the route.

Offline Wirelizard

Re: Anyone ridden the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in WA?
« Reply #13 on: April 02, 2014, 07:39:35 am »
We've been thinking of this as about a week on the road, a couple of days in Portland hanging out drinking local beer, then the train back to Vancouver BC and home to Victoria on the ferry - the Cascades train up from Portland apparently allows bikes as as luggage, intact, instead of just in boxes as cargo, which is useful.

We'd have to extent the trip at least a couple of days to include the Mountain Loop Hwy, but that would be an interesting detour.

Going by the campsites I found, one possible itinerary (not including a Mountain Loop Hwy detour) would be:
Day One - Victoria-ferry-Anacortes/Bay View SP 60km (+ferry time)
Day Two - Anacortes/Bay View SP-Tolt-MacDonald Park and Campground - 135km (!)
Day Three - Tolt-MacDonald Park and Campground - Lake Easton SP 99km
Day Four - Lake Easton - Yakima 128km
Day Five - Yakima - Brooks Memorial SP 92km
Day Six - Brooks Memorial SP - Starvation Creek SP - 121km
Day Seven - Starvation Creek SP - Portland - ~93km

This makes Day Two the longest day, although all of Day Three is one continual climb until just before Lake Easton SP. Day One is shorter than it needs to be, but there's a long gap between campsites between the area right around Anacortes down to the four campgrounds Snohomish County runs near Arlington - 50-70km, which given the ferry only gets to Anacortes from the Canadian side around 1500 puts you awfully late to be getting a site at one of them, although the county does take reservations.

The distance between Anacortes and Snoqualmie Pass/Lake Easton SP is just long enough, and the spacing between known campsites awkward enough, that you're going to have one long tough 120km+ day, or you have to add an extra day and have four shorter, easier days. Tradeoffs...

Day Four could be extended to hit the Columbia and stay at Maryhill SP, but that makes it about 135km on roads with no shade or shelter from the elements and a fairly stiff climb up and over. Breaking it at Brooks Memorial SP makes Day Five longer but more of it is along the Columbia and on more sheltered roads. I haven't been to eastern/central Washington in years, I'd forgotten until I started looking at Google Maps Streetview just how barren that area can be!

Thanks for the Mountain Loop idea - if you want to put more information on that here, please do. Even if we wind up not using it, it could well be useful to someone else!

Offline scottb

Re: Anyone ridden the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in WA?
« Reply #14 on: April 02, 2014, 09:19:01 pm »
You may want to try warmshowers.org. There might be some people in a more ideal place for your first night.