Biking home from the mountains

2023 Aug 4

The Seattle area has a good number of rail trails. (A list.) The Iron Horse State Park trail (also called the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail) connects the Cascade mountain's Snoqualmie Pass to trails in the larger Seattle urban area. Through a combination of map exploring and on-bike exploring, I found a route that went from the pass all the way home, primarily by trails.

trail route from Hyak to Bothell

I told a friend about my plans and he said he would like to do the trip with me. So, early in the morning his wife dropped us off at the Hyak Sno-Park.

Right at the beginning the trail goes through a nifty old railroad tunnel. When you enter the tunnel it is a surprising transition because it takes you from hot to damp cold, bright to dark.

In this image (from a different day) air was blowing out and the moisture had condensed, so clouds were billowing out of the tunnel.

east opening of tunnel with sun beams

The tunnel is about 2 miles long and is not lighted. In the middle you cannot see light from either end, so it is not quite straight. In the summer it is a popular place. I have encountered families walking it by the light of a small flashlight.

This is near the west opening and the distant lights are from bike headlights.

sunlight inside tunnel

On the walls it has some variety (I think) of lichen growing which collects droplets of water. These function as reflectors and make brilliant splotches of silver across the dark wall.

bright spots on wall

That wire up on the wall is labelled as a 25,000 volt power line. It is out of reach, but it has scary warnings at several places along the way!

Interestingly, the west opening has an extra arch.

west opening of tunnel

The track is a dirt road in good repair. It has a couple of campgrounds; this is Alice Creek.

dirt road and campground adjacent

Snow was a problem for the railroad in the winter. In certain places they made large snow sheds to protect the route from avalanches. This one is a reconstruction using original old timbers.

under a tall train shed

The line follows the side of the mountain as it comes down and is bridged across some of the valleys. It is so absolutely cool to be able to ride over these trestles.

railroad trestle with gravel on road bed

Dennis and I documented being there!

two guys with mountain valley in back

There is a spot farther on that is popular for rock climbing practice. This day a number of kids were learning the sport.

people climbing on rocks adjacent to trail

After this the trail arrives at Rattlesnake Lake. The route then was:

  • The Iron Horse State Park trail from Hyak to Rattlesnake Lake
  • Snoqualmie Valley Trail to downtown Snoqualmie
  • Road-adjacent trails to Snoqualmie Community Park
  • Neighborhood roads and trails to local Azalea Park
  • Deep Creek Trail in woods to
  • Preston-Snoqualmie Trail to
  • Issaquah-Preston Trail to
  • East Lake Sammamish Trail to
  • Marymoor Connector Trail to
  • Sammamish River Trail to
  • Burke-Gilman Trail to
  • Kenmore and then 2 mi of surface roads home

About 73 miles. •••

I learned a few things on this trip:

My bike was not very efficient. In part I have corrected this by an upgrade to the bike. However, I also needed to improve my process of maintenance on the bike chain.

I have a strange body because I don't get very thirsty. This was a hot day and I got dehydrated. I have to proactively drink more.

Before a long trip like this, spending more time experiencing the saddle would be wise.

I want to do it again.