Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail

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Rail cut in the eastern end of the Iron Horse State Park portion of the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail as it nears the Columbia River south of Vantage
The Saddle Mountains as seen from the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail. Photo looking east southeasterly at Boylston tunnel

The Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail, formerly known as the John Wayne Pioneer Trail, is a rail trail that spans most of the U.S. state of Washington. It follows the former railway roadbed of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad (Milwaukee Road) for 300 miles (480 km) across two-thirds of the state, from the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains to the Idaho border.

The former Milwaukee Road roadbed was acquired by the state of Washington via a quitclaim deed, and is used as a non-motorized recreational trail managed by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. State legislation "railbanked" the corridor with provisions that allow for the reversion to railroad usage in the future.

The trail was originally named the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in honor of the John Wayne Pioneer Wagons and Riders Association for their assistance in creating the trail. The 100-mile (160 km) portion from Cedar Falls (near North Bend) to the Columbia River south of Vantage has been developed and is managed as the Iron Horse State Park. In 2002, it was designated a National Recreation Trail.[1] In 2018, the trail was renamed to the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.


In 2015, two Washington state representatives from the 9th district attempted to include language in an amendment to the state's 2015 capital budget that would close a 130-mile-long (210 km) section of the trail east of the Columbia River. It was later revealed that a typo, referring to the closed section as "from the Columbia River to the Columbia River", nullified the amendment temporarily.[2][3]

In April 2018, Washington State Parks proposed renaming the trail and Iron Horse State Park to resolve confusion.[4] The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission adopted a new name, the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail, in May.[5]

Trail Features[edit]

Iron Horse Park Access[edit]

Access points to the developed portion of the trail, managed by Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, are at:[6]


The trail features six tunnels, including the longest trail tunnel in the world, the 11,894-foot (3,625 m) Snoqualmie Tunnel, which was #50 on the railroad's numbering system. The other five tunnels in order are the Boylston (#45), Thorp (#46), Picnic Area (#47), Easton (#48) and Whittier (#49). The Boylston Tunnel was also known as the Johnson Creek tunnel to the railroad and sometimes tunnels #46 and #47 are known as the Thorp Tunnels.


The trail runs along the east side of Rock Lake in the Rock Creek drainage; the former railroad grade climbing the basalt walls of the lake can be seen

Access points to the undeveloped portion of the trail, managed by Washington State Department of Natural Resources, have not been formally opened to the public. However, the trail provides access to the unique geological erosion features of the Channeled Scablands regions of the state of Washington, and several stretches have been recognized as providing access to this area created by the cataclysmic Missoula Floods that swept periodically across eastern Washington and down the Columbia River Plateau during the Pleistocene epoch. At Malden, once home to the largest railroad turntable in the world, Washington State Parks is planning a trailhead in the former rail yard.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "John Wayne Pioneer Trail". American Trails. February 28, 2013. Retrieved August 14, 2014.
  2. ^ "Typo stalls effort to close part of John Wayne Trail". Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce. Associated Press. September 24, 2015. Retrieved September 25, 2015.
  3. ^ Babcock, John (September 23, 2015). "Wording error keeps John Wayne Trail open". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Moscow, ID. Retrieved September 25, 2015.
  4. ^ Bonar, Kayla (April 2, 2018). "State looks at renaming Iron Horse-John Wayne trail". Yakima Herald. Archived from the original on April 15, 2018. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  5. ^ Paul, Crystal (May 17, 2018). "Former John Wayne Pioneer Trail renamed Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail". The Seattle Times. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  6. ^ Brochure: 'Your Guide to the John Wayne Pioneer Trail – Iron Horse State Park'; Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission; undated (copy distributed at trailheads in 2008)

External links[edit]

Media related to John Wayne Pioneer Trail at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 47°13′45″N 117°14′59″W / 47.22917°N 117.24972°W / 47.22917; -117.24972