Iron Horse State Park

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A Milwaukee Road passenger train after leaving Seattle, on the right-of-way circa 1925
Bridge across the Yakima River and the BNSF Railway line at Lake Easton
Cross-country skiing on the Iron Horse State Park trail

Iron Horse State Park, part of the Washington State Park System, is a 1,612-acre (7 km2) state park located in the Cascade Mountains and Yakima River Valley, between Cedar Falls on the west and the Columbia River on the east.

The park is a rail trail that crosses Snoqualmie Pass. The heritage park commemorating railroading was once in the right-of-way of The Milwaukee Road, officially the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad. The right-of-way was acquired by the state, through a quitclaim deed, as a result of the railroad's 1977 bankruptcy, leading to the railroad's decision to embargo all traffic to the west coast in 1980. The state acquired the land in the early 1980s and eventually converted into 110 miles (177 km) of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trail. It is the developed portion of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, which continues to the Idaho border.[1][2]

The trail west continues as the Snoqualmie Valley Trail of the King County Regional Trail System.[3] The trail east along the old Milwaukee Road is also called John Wayne Pioneer Trail, though Europeans arrived by boat or by travelling north from The Oregon Trail (1840),[4] or the railhead near south Puget Sound (1853 or c. 1872, respectively).[5] Arrival to the Snoqualmie Cascades of the Great Northern Railway in 1910 and the Chicago, Milwaukee and Puget Sound Railway in 1911 provided one of the means for development of the logging railroads and timber industry that eventually cut nearly all the Cascade Mountains forests.[6] The park runs along the backbone of the Mountains to Sound Greenway.[7]


Like most rails-to-trails projects, Iron Horse is popular with hikers and cyclists. There are many trail heads across the state, most with modern facilities, ample parking for a less common trail, and even a handful of campgrounds.[8]

The trail passes through mostly woodland, along lakes and waterfalls, and goes directly through the divide at the old Snoqualmie Tunnel. The park is easily accessible from I-90.

Iron Horse seems to be more popular for its scenery than its history, although it is less well-known than other nearby areas like the Alpine Lakes Wilderness or Snoqualmie Falls.

The park trail continues through the Town of South Cle Elum where the preserved Milwaukee Road depot and substation, as well as the remains of the rail yard are located. The depot, substation, and rail yard are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. There is a small museum in the depot. In Kittitas, the trail passes The Milwaukee Road depot and the ruins of one of the substations. That depot is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to these buildings, other infrastructure remains, such as tunnels and bridges.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Trails". Washington State Parks. Retrieved 2014-08-20. 
  2. ^ "Iron Horse State Park". Washington State Parks. Retrieved 2014-08-20. 
  3. ^ "Snoqualmie Valley Trail". King County Regional Trail System. Department of Natural Resources and Parks, Parks and Recreation Division. 2005-09-19. Archived from the original on 2006-10-01. Retrieved 2006-04-21. 
  4. ^ Oldham
  5. ^ (1) "In 1853 the Northern Pacific railroad line reached Puget Sound, linking the region to the other states.", Puget Sound # History, but no references provided.
    (2) Wilma
    (3) Prater
  6. ^ MacIntosh
  7. ^ "History of the Greenway Landscape". "Mountains to Sound Greenway: About the Greenway". 2006. Retrieved 2006-04-21. 
  8. ^ "Washington State Tour Planning and Bicycling Maps". Collection of maps and resources. WSDOT. 2006. Archived from the original (Web and PDF) on 2007-08-06. Retrieved 2007-07-03. 


External links[edit]