John Wayne Pioneer Trail

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

The John Wayne Pioneer Trail follows the former railway roadbed of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad (Milwaukee Road ) for 300 miles (480 km) across two-thirds of Washington from the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains to the Idaho border. The trail is named in honor of the John Wayne Pioneer Wagons and Riders Association for their assistance in creating the trail. In 2002, it was designated a National Recreation Trail.[1]

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 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 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]

Access Points[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:[4]

  • Rattlesnake Lake, Cedar Falls – western terminus and connection to the Snoqualmie Valley Regional Trail
  • Twin Falls
  • Hyak – provides access to the 2.3-mile long Snoqualmie Tunnel through the crest of the Cascade Mountains. In winter this site provides a public sledding area and ski trails groomed for track and skate style cross country skiing from Hyak eastward. Washington DOT Sno-pass parking is required at this site in winter. Within walking/snowing/skiing distance is a state parks owned lodge.
  • Easton – descending the eastern slope of the Cascades
  • Cle Elum – provides access to the Upper Yakima River Canyon
  • Thorp – near the historic Thorp Mill
  • Kittitas, Washington – in the open farm valley of the Yakima River drainage east of Ellensburg, Washington
  • Army West – at the western edge of the stretch passing through the shrub-steppe country of the U.S. Army's Yakima Training Center
  • Army East – at the eastern edge of the stretch passing through the shrub-steppe country of the U.S. Army's Yakima Training Center as it reaches the Columbia River


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 Washington, once home to the largest railroad turntable in the world, the Parks Department 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. (subscription required (help)). 
  4. ^ Brochure: 'Your Guide to the John Wayne Pioneer Trail – Iron Horse State Park'; Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission; undated (copy distributed at trail heads 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