Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition
Route Description West of the Columbia River
The western section runs from Cedar Falls (south of North Bend) to the Columbia River, a distance of about 111 miles. The trail surface is compacted gravel suitable for hiking, mountain bikes and horses. Between Cedar Falls and Hyak it is smoother and more compact. There are some sections of deeper gravel to the east of Hyak. Note that the Snoqualmie Tunnel is closed November 1st to May 2st due the potential for falling ice from the ceiling. For current conditions along the trail contact State Parks at 425-455-7010.
Cedar Falls to Hyak 22.4 miles
The PTCT starts at the western end at the former railroad station called Cedar Falls. This is located south of North Bend near Rattlesnake Lake. The PTCT connects to the Snoqualmie Valley Trail which is a rail trail that continues north to Duvall. The PTCT climbs east through dense trees. It passes over several tall trestles. There are rock walls popular for rock climbers along this section. There is an additional access point at the Olallie State Park and at Garcia where a road crosses the trail. The highlight of this section is the Snoqualmie Tunnel. It is 2.3 miles long, the longest on a rail trail in the United States. It is closed approximately November 1 through May 1 each year due to the potential for ice to fall from the ceiling of the tunnel. Call 509-304-8114 to check on the dates. Make sure you have good lights and dress warm as it is quite cold inside the tunnel even on hot days.
Hyak to Easton 17.9 miles
Hyak has a large parking area with restrooms and water. Just ¼ mile east is another trailhead called Lake Keechelus Trailhead. The trail runs right along the lake with great views of the Cascades Peaks to the north and east. At 2 miles is the Cold Creek campground. There is no potable water provided, but there is a restroom. In another 3 miles there is another campsite at Roaring Creek. There is now a long section through deep woods. Then a high curved bridge over Cabin Creek. One mile after this bridge is access to camping at Lake Easton State Park to your left. Look for a small sign on a post to the left. If you go through a crazy looking bridge you have gone too far east. You will need to wander through the woods and go right on a closed road to get to the campground at the far side of the lake.
In Easton the trail comes out past a house onto Cabin Creek Road. Go straight across this road at angle and to the right of the fire station. The road leads to the Easton Trailhead. There is a gas station in Easton that has some groceries and a restaurant.
Easton to South Cle Elum 11.9 miles
Heading east at 2/3 of a mile you cross a private road called Tall Timber Trail where there is camping at a private retreat center called Double K. The PTCT going east generally parallels I-90, then veers south and crosses the Yakima River before arriving at South Cle Elum. There is a restaurant in the historic railroad depot. There is also an interpretive trail that explains more about the railroad history. There are full services in Cle Elum to the north.
South Cle Elum to Thorp 18.5 miles
At South Cle Elum the railroad depot has been restored by the Cascade Rail Foundation (CRF) and is now home to Smokey’s Bar-B-Que. Adjacent to the trail is an interpretative trail explaining the former Milwaukee Road’s development of South Cle Elum. Further south is the Iron Horse B&B, a renovation of the former crew quarters for the railroad. There are full services in Cle Elum about 2 miles north.
The PTCT to the east follows the upper Yakima Canyon. It is on the south side of the river closely hugging a huge hill most of the way. Here you will find deciduous trees and shade even in summer. In about 7 miles there is Ponderosa Campground along the river. There are two short tunnels further east a few miles before Thorp.
Thorp to Ellensburg 7.3 miles
The Thorp trailhead requires actually driving on the trail to access it. The Thorp Mill is a historic facility to the north and there is a food market near the freeway that can be seen from the trail. The trail to Ellensburg has a fairly good surface and there are a few road crossings.
Ellensburg to Kittitas 6 miles
As the PTCT approaches Ellensburg, the actual trail ROW has been overtaken by development. Visitors need to use city streets to go through Ellensburg to the Rodeo Grounds on the east end of town where the ROW is again usable. See detour map HERE. There are all types of services available in Ellensburg including accommodations, restaurants, and groceries.
Kittitas to Renslow 5.7 miles
There is a trailhead at Kittitas next to the railroad depot. There is a sign with the history of the PTCT, formerly called the John Wayne Trail. There are a grocery, restaurants, and accommodations in Kittitas.
Renslow to Columbia River 22 miles
Renslow is the name of a former railroad station stop. Now it is notable for the high trestle that crosses I-90. There is a bypass of the trestle for those who do not wish to use it. At Prater Road, turn right (south) and cross over I-90 then left onto Boylston Road which takes you to the I-90 trailhead for the PTCT.
On the south side of the Renslow Trestle you will enter the Yakima Training Center (YTC). The land from here to the Columbia River is controlled by the US Army. You are required to sign in and out when traveling across this area. They do not do active training exercises on or near the railroad ROW, so it is safe. It may be closed, but this is rare.
The Boylston Tunnel is in disrepair and closed due to rock fall. There is a route over the top of the tunnel which is rugged, but passable. The surface on this section is quite sandy and there is considerable rock in the cuts. There is nothing out here but open views, and likely no cell service. Its remoteness is one of its great benefits to the traveler and portends what the PTCT will be on the east side of the Columbia River.