Attempt at Naches Pass Trail

Bikepacking stories are coming from Arizona since a couple months and are getting me eager to get out. A post on bikepacking.net about routes in WA mentioned the Naches Pass Trail to be a must-do for historic reasons. A quick google search reveals that this trail / road indeed is steeped in history – though the reports of a hiker about gargantuan trail damage from jeepers had me wondering a bit. I checked the nearest Snotel site (Sawmill Ridge at 4500 ft.) and it was clear as of last night, just in time!

I fixed some issues on my bike last night (rear brake, chain, and my Stan’s freehub was dragging badly), and then threw the bikepacking gear together and drove to Greenwater, WA. From there, I took NF-70 to the Naches trail. The beginning of the trail (which was almost the end for the settlers) was closed to bikes due to its steepness.

Historical sign at the Naches Pass trailhead.

Historical sign at the Naches Pass trailhead.

The trail actually goes over a cliff where settler’s wagons were lowered by cowhide over a cliff! I made good use of the inclined plane (NF-70) and skipped that HAB section. From the top, I could image where the wagons had been lowered 150 years ago – and supposedly the marks from the rawhide ropes can still be seen in the trees. I found a place that may have been it, enough to fill my imagination.

Westward look over the Greenwater River basin.

Westward look over the Greenwater River basin.

Looking down where possibly the settlers wagons were lowered.

Looking down where possibly the settlers wagons were lowered.

Tree with possible marks left behind by settler's ropes (and modern day vandals).

Tree with possible marks left behind by settler’s ropes (and modern day vandals).

Then, the disaster of a Naches Pass Trail started. Steep, deep ruts, muddy. I’ve had worse, though – jeeps do leave a much wider “rut” behind than motorcycles, so even though the walls on either side were 8 foot high, it was pretty easy to push up.

Super steep (uphill) section of the Naches Pass Trail. Picture lie, it was steep!

Super steep (uphill) section of the Naches Pass Trail. Picture lie, it was steep!

Again, very steep, but this time, the smell of transmission fluid permeated the air.

Again, very steep, but this time, the smell of transmission fluid permeated the air.

When Naches Pass trail wasn't steep, it was muddy.

When Naches Pass trail wasn’t steep, it was muddy.

I encountered a couple motorcycles coming down and said they turned around at snow. Dang it, snow? And wait a minute: isn’t this trail closed to motorized use until mid-summer? I continued upwards: at times the trail had became a creek bed, other times it was fun, rideable. Higher up, the terrain changed, more rocks and less moss.

Naches Pass trail at 4200 feet.

Naches Pass trail at 4200 feet.

And, then a thick (4-6 feet!) layer of snow began covering the trail above 4400 feet. I walked over it, but it was slow.

20140531_134405smallA couple detours did not reveal an easy (snow free) way over Naches Pass, so I went back down on the fast gravel road.

20140531_135912smallWill I be back? Maybe in 3 weeks when the snow has cleared. The biggest downer was the amount of shooting going on near NF-70. Along the entire 10-15 miles of road are people stationed near their pick-up trucks just shooting like WW3 broke out. Gun shells littering the ground. Not relaxing.

Stats: 36 miles, 4400 ft, GPX track

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2 Responses to Attempt at Naches Pass Trail

  1. Hi Martin. Another good adventure. I particularly like the part about imagining the wagons being lowered. I love that historic stuff.

    LB

    • 2wheeltrails says:

      Here’s another thought that went through my mind on the hike-a-bike sections along the trail. The wagons were very top-heavy and had to go up&over mountains, rather than around the hill side so as not to fall over!
      Maybe in time I’ll find a route to connect it into a good 3 day bikepacking loop

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