The Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail (PTCT) stretches 289 miles across Washington from Cedar Falls near North Bend to the Idaho border south of Spokane. It is a rail trail that passes through a 2.3-mile-long tunnel, crosses over the Columbia River, over the land scoured by the Ice Age Floods and through the wheat fields of the Palouse region of Washington.
We have divided our description of the route into two sections, West of the Columbia River and East of the Columbia River. This is because they are significantly different in terms of services, access from public roads, and cell coverage. Travelers east of Renslow need to be prepared with water, supplies and have endurance. There are also many detours required at this time, so researching the detour maps is important.
The PTCT is managed by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. There website for the PTCT is https://parks.state.wa.us/521/Palouse-to-Cascades. It is open to non-motorized uses such as hiking, biking, and riding horses. It is also used for cross-country skiing, horse drawn wagons, running, bird watching, exploring railroad history, exploring geology, and traveling crossing Washington. There is no camping allowed in the State Park except at the five designated campsites. On the east side of the Columbia River an online registration is required for use. No hunting or shooting is allowed on the trail.
There are limited services along the PTCT. The names on the accompanying maps in some cases are the former railroad station locations and there is no community there at all. Many of the small communities have very limited services for the traveler, with indoor accommodations only available at Snoqualmie Pass, South Cle Elum, Cle Elum, Ellensburg, Kittitas, Othello and Ritzville.
The chart below is an estimate of the distance between places along the PTCT. It is based upon the original railroad mileposts and the recommended detours. The milepost values are posted along the trail on white markers that say “Chicago”. Sections of the trail dead end due to either a missing trestle or private property thus resulting in detours.
Links to other trails
The west end of the PTCT connects to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail at Cedar Falls. This is a rail trail managed by King County that goes north to Duvall. At the east end in Idaho the railroad ROW is privately owned, but there is a bypass route that allows connecting to the Trail of the Coeur d’Alene’s in Plummer, Idaho. The PTCT also passes under the Columbia Plateau Trail (CPT) at a former railroad stop called Paxton. The CPT has not been fully developed and the surface still has the original railroad ballast.
The PTCT is also a part of the Great American Rail Trail. This is a project of the Rails to Trails Conservancy to encourage the development of a rail trail across the United States. The PTCT is a critical link in this plan.