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Two Days to Wanapum

John Wayne Trail – Rattle Snake Lake Trailhead to Wanapum Recreation Area, Vantage WA.


Day One – Rattle Snake Lake to Cle Elum

There were four of us that did this ride.  We had two full suspension mountain bikes with tires 2.5-3.0 inches wide, a recumbent with tires 2.5 inches wide (Shwalbe Big Apple, he couldn’t stop raving about them), and a Gravel Bike (road bike with 40 cm tires on it). 

We had arranged for my wife to SAG for us, and so we didn’t carry much except water, snacks and an extra layer or two.  She met us in Cle Elum the first night.

All of us are experienced cyclists and knew we were going to be doing two long days.

The first day was long but fairly easy.  The ascent to the Snoqualmie Tunnel is gradual and the trail is in great shape.  My compatriots are all from Oregon and had never seen the trail, so they were very entertained by the trestles and tunnel.  There was a report of a bear crossing the trail but we never saw it. 

Once through the Snoqualmie Tunnel the trail continues on past Lake Keechulus and is in great shape.  There are a few nice places one could camp along this section if they were so inclined.  There isn’t any potable water along this section unless you bring a water filter and drink from the lake and many streams that were running.

Once past Easton and the Lake Easton Park (where I assume one could get water but it seemed a ways off the trail) the trail meets the Yakima River and begins to meander a bit. It’s very pretty and there are some great place one could fish in the river.  It seemed like not many people would fish those areas so I suspect the fishing would be decent.

The trail then becomes very straight as it parallels I-90.  It is probably the most mundane section, long, straight and not much to look at.  The river flows away from the trail, and after a while meets the trail again next to a nice trestle where fishing or swimming would be possible.  The trial along this section is good and doesn’t present much of challenge.

You then run into the Depot at Cle Elum (South Cle Elum really.) where there is a great BBQ Restaurant that we ate at.  Good beer too.  We then rod another 3-4 miles and camped at Eagle Valley.  It is a decent campground run by the F.O.E  The tent sites are $14 a night, there are showers and water.  One can hear the highway from the campground but it isn’t so loud as to keep you awake.

Day Two- Cle Elum to Wanapum Recreation Area

There is a road that parallels the trail for maybe a half mile or so and we used that then cut over once the road turned to head up hill.  This is a great section of the trail.  The Teanaway River meets the Yakima and it’s very scenic, cool and smoot riding.  There is a tunnel that you asks you to sign a waiver which is dumb, but we did.  The tunnel might be 50 yards long but it turns so you can’t tell that until you are into the tunnel, but it’s not dangerous and fun to ride through.

The country begins to change a bit as you exit this area.  You begin to enter the high plains of Washington, the trees become more sparse and the trail again, gets very straight. But you can stop at the Fruit Stand near Thorp, or stop along one of the little bridges that cross small creeks.  They provide shade and a nice place to eat lunch.  Ellensburg is only four miles away at this point.

Once in Ellensburg, the trail hits a property that has to be detoured around, but it’s very easy. 


We stopped for ice cream before leaving town, which was a nice treat, because the trail gets noticeably rough once you leave Ellensburg.

I’m not sure how to quantify the roughness of the trail, so I’ll say we had been averaging about 12 miles per hour up until this point, and we dropped to about 9 mph for the stretch between E’ burg and Kittitas. Kittitas is a good place to water up, and I recommend carrying as much as you can.  There is a little store on Main Street.  We rode on the trail for bit longer and then took the road (Parke Creek Rd. that paralleled the trail.  It’s up hill and very exposed), so it’s hot and sunny.  We figured we would make better time along the road. 

We crossed I-90 at Prater Rd. turn off.  The signs for the trail mention there is “no outlet” but I have read accounts of continuing on the trail, and then taking an off road adventure under 90 and then back up the side of the hill to hit Boylston Rd.  Seemed like a lot of work and a ton of time, but that’s just us.

You pass under the old trestle that crosses 90, drop downhill, turn right and then will see the sign for continuing on the trail through the Yakima Training Center.  After a good little climb, you register at a small Kiosk and continue on.

Many reports have mentioned the sand along this section of the trail. We found the sand to NOT be that big of a deal.  Our recumbent rider had to walk a couple sections, but the rest of us had no problems and thought these concerns were over exaggerated.  The sand is inconsistent, sometimes being soft and other times being hard.  It seemed to me that the sand was firmest on the inclines, not sure why that is. 

This whole section is pretty much up hill, and you are very exposed to the sun and wind (which kept us cool really) it’s also very open.  I thought this was a great section of the trail.  There were many birds nad great vistas.  Once you get close to the tunnel there are some tall trees that provide shade and a great spot to stop and rest, snack and hydrate (you will be glad you carried that extra water).

This is also were you begin to enter the Boylston Tunnel.  There is signage about the rock falls and by pass, but I highly recommend taking the tunnel.  The approach is strewn with rocks from the cut, (we tried to kick them aside to clear the trail a bit) but it is very navigable.  The tunnel itself is in great shape, nice a cool, and easy to ride through.  It isn’t very long, maybe 100 yards? 

Once you exit the tunnel, there is dense vegetation (willows?) that make riding a challenge but it’s doable.  It’s also very wet, which is odd considering how high and dry the area is.  Interesting geology for sure.  I did find a tick crawling up my leg as I waited for my friends to come out of the willows, so you might give yourself the once over.

The trail is pretty much heads downhill from this point on.  My garmin indicated -2% most of the route down.  However, this is the area where there are some bad sections of sand.  They are easy to see, they don’t match the trail in color at all.  I was able to plow through them on my Full suspension bike by gear down, picking up my RPMs and keeping my wheel as straight as possible.  The recumbent had to walk some of these sections. 

There is a junction where a road comes in from the left (not sure where it leads) but you can see all the road cuts the trail makes as it heads to the Columbia River.  These road cuts are pretty cool, however some of them have a lot of rock fall in them.  I found them navigable, but my main concern was cutting a tire wall.  Fortunately, we had no issues at all along the way.  But something to keep in mind.

After five miles or so you come to another junction and there is a sign for potable water. We filled up there also.  It’s a short detour down to the left but well worth it.  This is “Doris”. Many maps show a road that leads down to the river from here but we didn’t see anything we thought we could trust.  We had hoped this would save a few miles of riding on the road back towards Wanapum, which is an area that can be pretty windy. Luckily, the wind was down this day and so staying on the main trail dropped us by the river about four miles south of the Recreation Area.  The ride is fairly easy, but there are some hills.  Make sure everyone knows about the turn off into the Recreation Area.  Two of our party missed it and rode into Vantage. (Extra Miles!)

The recreation area provides ample parking, shade, and a chance to cool off in the river, and/ or the outdoor shower they have (very cold!)

Our first day equaled 51.5 miles with a ride time of 4 hours and 46 minutes.  Day two was 61 miles with a ride time of 5 hours and 24 minutes.

This could easily be broken into three days.  I could see riding to Lake Easton, then to the Ellensburg area and on to Wanapum.  There is not much going on around Vantage.  There is one burger place that isn’t very impressive, and no place to buy groceries.  So plan accordingly.

Here are the links to my GPS bits. 




Submitted by jacknolan on 06/21/2016