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  1. #1
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    Bike Touring Ellensburg, WA to Spokane, WA

    Hi-

    After a few days of biking from Seattle to Ellensburg via the Iron Horse Trail, I plan on departing the Iron Horse Trail and work my way to Spokane, WA.

    Any advice? Mostly looking to use roads from this point forth, but not opposed to trails similar to the Iron Horse Trail (crushed gravel, maintained trails). I'm on a touring bike with off-road tires for the trail portion, then gradual switch over to road treads as I wind my way to Boston. I'm looking to spend extra time in WA taking in the beauty and history of the former railroad beds.

    Any advice (or questions) are welcomes. Departure date from Seattle is July 2 or 3. Arrival in Boston scheduled for late August.

    Thanks.

    George Maurer

  2. #2
    Squeaky Wheel woodway's Avatar
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    I cannot help too much on a route to Spokane, but traffic is pretty light out that way. Getting across the Columbia is a challenge. If you don't want to detour, you can cross on I-90 but you probably want to plan to do it early in the morning before traffic picks up.

    The further east you get on the Iron Horse the less maintained it is. Doable on a touring bike but it's going to be a rough ride.
    Last edited by woodway; 03-24-14 at 09:52 PM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Black wallnut's Avatar
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    If it were me I would depart the Iron Horse trail in Cle Elum and then go SR970 to SR97 to SR2 to Spokane. Due to closure you would have to detour from Cle Elum to Thorp anyway. The Vantage Bridge (I 90) does not have a shoulder at all. I've ridden it myself and know others that have however near 4th of July there will likely be lots of traffic which will make it fairly unsafe. Blewett Pass is on the other hand a beautiful 2-3 lane highway. The Wenatchee valley is also beautiful. There are two bridges that cross the Columbia in Wenatchee, as well as I think a MUP bridge. From East Wenatchee you can go through Quincy (SR28) or follow US 2 up through Waterville and Coulee City with attractions worth seeing close to Coulee City; Dry Falls, just a few miles from Coulee City and Grand Coulee Dam 35 miles North of Coulee City. From Coulee City east the towns are about 10 miles apart with a jump of 20 between a couple of them.

    The SR 28 route you could also see the Grand Coulee, upper and lower by going east through Quincy and then Ephrata and then North through Soap Lake and take SR 17 to Coulee City passing right by Dry Coulee. Or follow the I90 corridor through Moses Lake, meh and Lind, Ritzville, Tokyo. Some longish stretches between waterholes and limited camping opportunities. Or just follow SR 28 out through Wilson Creek and Odessa, Harrington.

    It really matter how much time you want to take through Washington. Ellensburg, being the center of the world, is a great place to stop and visit. We have an awesome micro brewery, Iron Horse Brewery. A handful of good restaurants. A well stocked LBS with a friendly staff. If you came through here and still wanted to avoid the Vantage Bridge, you could go south through the Yakima valley and the Tricities before going back North towards Spokane. There really are a number of possibilities depending on how much time you have and what you want to see. Any other questions please ask. I've driven over all our cross state routes. Ran the US 2 route years ago as an Athletes VS MS run although I've not cycled it. I have cycled Blewett Pass and Ellensburg to Moses lake with two different routes in Grant County I90 and SR281 to SR 17.


    Mark

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    Fantastic, Mark. I will check all this out.

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    Senior Member Wildwood's Avatar
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    Are you set on going to Ellensburg?
    I've ridden parts of the Iron Horse on an unloaded touring bike with almost new 32mm tires and had 2 flats in 30 miles, it can be rough - not a crushed limestone trail like in other parts of the country. Have several extra tubes and a spare tire. When I rode across the state I took the northern route through Arlington/Winthrop/Omak. Then you can drop south to Grand Coulee and follow Black Walnut's route. Or you could take the shortest route through the Colville IR, which was my choice.

    Good luck.
    '81 Austro Daimler Olympian, '86 Eddy Merckx Corsa Extra, '87 DeRosa Professional, '99 Calfee TetraPro, '03(?) Macalu Cirrus, '04 Tallerico, '97 Co-Motion Tandem

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    Im not set on Ellensburg. Im actually recreating a journey a friend of mine made back in '88, when she was 48, from Seattle to Boston. She had a touring bike and stayed on US 2 much of the way. She died of cancer a year ago, and now that Im 48 and an avid biker, Im "recreating" her route to raise $$ for cancer awareness, but I realize that, if Im able to carry some spare tires with (and I have time to switch all this out), I'd like to modify her out path to take in the paths that might not have been available to her back then. You only come around once. So, I discovered the Iron Horse Trail in some blogs, and plus Im a huge RR buff, so I thought Id take the time to work the western part of the trail (and it seems, from all accounts, to be decent for trail bikes up until just before the Yakima range, and after that, its a real challenge meant for a different ride and mind set). Do these other routes of yours follow any old RR beds or have any sense of that to them? I will look into these. Id gladly start the journey with some serious treads and then switch out to road treads by the time I get to the better roads. Part of my goal, truthfully, is to find as many "west-east former RR beds now turned to bike trails" that I can along the way, just for the sake of departing the highways and getting "out there".

    Any further commentary is welcome

    G

  7. #7
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wildwood View Post
    When I rode across the state I took the northern route through Arlington/Winthrop/Omak.
    This is the route I would take, too. Better scenery, less traffic.

    Black Wallnut is right about Blewett, too. Very nice ride. Especially the old road.

    I've done the Iron Horse a few times from just east of North Bend to a bit east of the pass, and it's worth doing at least once, but it isn't the best way across the Cascades.
    Don't believe everything you think.

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    I need to start on the sound. Its water to water (left coast to right coast. S where do you suggest i start, as the Iron Horse route allows me to be on trails only (mainly) from Seattle to Ellensburg.

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    Senior Member Wildwood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gemaurer48 View Post
    I need to start on the sound. Its water to water (left coast to right coast. S where do you suggest i start, as the Iron Horse route allows me to be on trails only (mainly) from Seattle to Ellensburg.
    If I were riding across the country I would forget trails and stick to paved roads. Spare your wrists/butt/feet all the bumps of trails. Start in La Conner (on the Sound) , to Mt Vernon, Hwy 20 to Omak. I went Hwy 155 to Nespelem, across the Colville IR to Inchelium, south to Hunter, east to Springdale, then on to Idaho. Whether you go south to Spokane depends on the intended route over the Rockies.
    '81 Austro Daimler Olympian, '86 Eddy Merckx Corsa Extra, '87 DeRosa Professional, '99 Calfee TetraPro, '03(?) Macalu Cirrus, '04 Tallerico, '97 Co-Motion Tandem

  10. #10
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    You should always take "if it were me ..." with a grain of salt, and that includes mine. You have a lot of reasons for doing this trip, stuff that doesn't apply to the rest of us, so the things that appeal to me might bore you. That said:

    • I'd personally leave Seattle on the Burke Gilman Trail, part of the Rails-to-Trails hall of fame.
    • Follow trails or the quieter roads to Arlington.
    • Take SR-530 east through Darrington up to SR-20 at Rockport.
    • Follow SR-20 east.

    I've done a lot of that in sections, anywhere from 30 to 50 miles a day. Only as far as Winthrop. This will keep you on pavement the whole time (might have just been my CX bike, but the Iron Horse trail always beat the **** out of me and left me feeling pretty sore). This will take you through a national park, by the Grand Coulee Dam, and show you a side of the Pacific Northwest that most people don't see or know exists.

    I don't know the story behind this, and probably should, but here's one of the sites on 20 through Newhalem.



    It's just always parked there.

    EDIT: This is basically what Wildwood is suggesting, too.
    Don't believe everything you think.

  11. #11
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    Right on, Forrest. All these viewpoints are welcomed, so thanks. I'm not in a rush, and I'm built like my bike, so....I'm not afraid of some of the trail aspects of this. I'll start looking at these!

  12. #12
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    I guess if you do the Iron Horse, you should make a detour to see Stampede Pass. It won't set you back more than 10 (?) miles. Seattle and Tacoma have always had a rivalry; in "historical times" they were competing to be the biggest city in the Northwest, the new New York. Everybody felt like the first city to be connected to the rail system would be the one to grow. People ultimately dug through a hillside at Stampede Pass, bringing the train first to Tacoma.

    Stevens Pass has an old railroad, it was the site of what I think was the worst rail disaster in this country? The train got stranded by avalanches. I don't know the history very well. Route 2 over Stevens is not a fun ride, I'd describe it as a near-death experience on the west side. But if you go that route, Tumwater Canyon heading into Leavenworth is very nice, and Lake Wenatchee is a great detour.
    Don't believe everything you think.

  13. #13
    Senior Member aRoudy1's Avatar
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    Stampede Pass is an active rail line. Access to see the tunnel portal is gated and quite rugged terrain; I've hiked into it, but no way with a loaded touring bike.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Black wallnut's Avatar
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    I'm sure the more northern route is more scenic from the get go. Iron Horse trail to me makes sense as perhaps the safest way over the cascades. Cut off at Cle Elum and take a meandering back road towards Liberty and then over old Blewett pass and on into Dryden turning right to Wenatchee. Take 28 east from there to Soap Lake and up the Lower Grand Coulee past dry falls, in fact Sun Lakes State Park would make a great camping spot for a night or two. The detour up to see Grand Coullee Dam. head east from there either on the south side of the river along SR 174 through Wilbur and east on US 2 into Spokane or double back NW a few mile and go over the Mtn. to Keller and stay on the reservation side to the Gifford Ferry or even farther north at Kettle Falls.

    Other than Iron Horse/ John Wayne Trail I do not know of any other rails to trails east west routes through Washington state. There are a couple of rails to trails routes near Coeur d' Alene Id that you might wish to look at.

    I think seeing both Grand Coulee Dam and Dry Falls are well worth the effort it takes to get there on a bike. The Dam in the summer at night puts on quite a light show with plenty of camping nearby.


    Mark

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    Squeaky Wheel woodway's Avatar
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    If you are set on the Iron Horse Trail, I would ride the route suggested by Black wallnut. I've ridden the trail from Rattlesnake Lake all the way to the Columbia. Once you get through the tunnel and head east, the surface gets progressively rougher. Certainly you can do it on a loaded touring bike but you are not going to enjoy it.

    If it were just up to me, I would take the route suggested by Seattle Forest. You'll enjoy the heck out of that route.

    Hopefully SR 530 will be back open by the summer.

  16. #16
    Ellensburg, WA scozim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Black wallnut View Post
    If it were me I would depart the Iron Horse trail in Cle Elum and then go SR970 to SR97 to SR2 to Spokane. Due to closure you would have to detour from Cle Elum to Thorp anyway. The Vantage Bridge (I 90) does not have a shoulder at all. I've ridden it myself and know others that have however near 4th of July there will likely be lots of traffic which will make it fairly unsafe. Blewett Pass is on the other hand a beautiful 2-3 lane highway. The Wenatchee valley is also beautiful. There are two bridges that cross the Columbia in Wenatchee, as well as I think a MUP bridge. From East Wenatchee you can go through Quincy (SR28) or follow US 2 up through Waterville and Coulee City with attractions worth seeing close to Coulee City; Dry Falls, just a few miles from Coulee City and Grand Coulee Dam 35 miles North of Coulee City. From Coulee City east the towns are about 10 miles apart with a jump of 20 between a couple of them.

    The SR 28 route you could also see the Grand Coulee, upper and lower by going east through Quincy and then Ephrata and then North through Soap Lake and take SR 17 to Coulee City passing right by Dry Coulee. Or follow the I90 corridor through Moses Lake, meh and Lind, Ritzville, Tokyo. Some longish stretches between waterholes and limited camping opportunities. Or just follow SR 28 out through Wilson Creek and Odessa, Harrington.

    It really matter how much time you want to take through Washington. Ellensburg, being the center of the world, is a great place to stop and visit. We have an awesome micro brewery, Iron Horse Brewery. A handful of good restaurants. A well stocked LBS with a friendly staff. If you came through here and still wanted to avoid the Vantage Bridge, you could go south through the Yakima valley and the Tricities before going back North towards Spokane. There really are a number of possibilities depending on how much time you have and what you want to see. Any other questions please ask. I've driven over all our cross state routes. Ran the US 2 route years ago as an Athletes VS MS run although I've not cycled it. I have cycled Blewett Pass and Ellensburg to Moses lake with two different routes in Grant County I90 and SR281 to SR 17.
    I would probably recommend Hwy 97 over Blewett as well. I did this on a touring bike last summer. Don't do it on a Friday, though, as there is heavy weekend travel from the Puget Sound. While it is 2 lanes at the climb to the top the last couple of miles have about 18 inches of shoulder and a guardrail. The weekend traffic is fast in the left lane and big on the outside lane (RVers).

    The other option you have from Wenatchee is to head through East Wenatchee and continue on to Quincy past Rock Island dam. The road there had a decent amount of travel but also had a really nice shoulder. Hwy 2's shoulder can get a little narrower. The east/west roads in the Quincy area go for miles and are boring as you know what because they're so straight. However, they also have very little traffic. I documented the roads I traveled in that area on my blog last summer. You can always drop south and ride I-90 which has plenty of access to stops and rest areas. Or take the frontage road that parallels I-90 but doesn't have the same amount of traffic. Lots of options - but on a touring bike I'd stay away from the Vantage bridge on I-90 unless it's early in the morning and during a weekday.
    1984 Gitane Sprint; 1984 Gitane Tour de France;1982 Trek 610; 1980's Univega Supra Sport (fixie); 1975 Teledyne Titan;1984 Peugeot PSV10N; 1968 Peugeot PL8; ;1982 Nishiki Marina 12; 1972 Peugeot PX-10; 1987 Trek 800 Antelope (touring/commuting set up); 1981 Trek 510; 1993 Trek 950 mtb; 1996 Klein Pulse II mtb; 1997 Klein Pulse Comp mtb; 1989 Peugeot Limestone hybrid (for touring); 1989 Spectrum Titanium

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    Squeaky Wheel woodway's Avatar
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    Just a note - the Iron Horse trail is open between Cle Elum and Thorpe. State Parks has provided waiver forms that you need to fill out and deposit in the box before you enter the tunnels.


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    You refer to east-west roads out of Quincy. Are you speaking of Hwy 28 toward Spokane, which eventually rejoins US 2? Even if bikes were allowed on interstates (they aren't here in MN), I don't think Id be comfortable on I-90. But I like the idea of going from Wenatchee to Quincy then headed east from there to Spokane.

    Ultimately, I will be ending up in Glacier National Park to stay with a friend, so any advice on the Spokane to Glacier route from any of you would be welcomed, too. I can put up a separate post for that, too.

  19. #19
    Ellensburg, WA scozim's Avatar
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    No, just the normal county roads heading east from Quincy. I'll have to go back and look at my map but I dropped south out of Quincy 1-2 miles and then picked up a road that was probably between 10 and 15 miles before I turned south again on Dodson road. I was headed to Potholes State Park to camp that night. Dodson crosses I-90 where you can then pick up that frontage road that goes just along the freeway.

    Edit: just checked my blog - it was south out of Quincy on Road P and then east on Road 9 NW
    Last edited by scozim; 03-28-14 at 12:36 AM.
    1984 Gitane Sprint; 1984 Gitane Tour de France;1982 Trek 610; 1980's Univega Supra Sport (fixie); 1975 Teledyne Titan;1984 Peugeot PSV10N; 1968 Peugeot PL8; ;1982 Nishiki Marina 12; 1972 Peugeot PX-10; 1987 Trek 800 Antelope (touring/commuting set up); 1981 Trek 510; 1993 Trek 950 mtb; 1996 Klein Pulse II mtb; 1997 Klein Pulse Comp mtb; 1989 Peugeot Limestone hybrid (for touring); 1989 Spectrum Titanium

  20. #20
    Senior Member Black wallnut's Avatar
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    Spokane to East. North Idaho Centennial Trail along Lake Coeur d'Alene in northern Idaho
    and Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes and Hiawatha bike paths in North Idaho

    Keep in mind I have not ridden either. I have a very good friend that rides the second one several times a year but not the whole thing, he raves about it btw. A more northerly route would be north through the panhandle up 95 and then crossing into Montana on us2. I've considerable miles on that road in a semi truck and I would not recommend it as there are places where I think the shoulders are too narrow considering the volume of traffic. Interstate 90 on the other hand has suitably wide shoulders as I recall all the way into Montana. I somewhat envy you. You will no matter which route ride through some awesome places.


    Mark

  21. #21
    Ellensburg, WA scozim's Avatar
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    The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes for sure. I ride it every year. It's paved, 75 miles long and essentially flat. You can ride the centennial trail from Spokane to Coeur d'Alene. From Cd'A you have to drop south to the trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. Once on it you can ride to Kellogg and then I believe take back roads to Thompson Falls coming in north of Missoula. From there it's just the ride north to Glacier. Check out the Crazyguyonabike website - I'm sure you can find some good route descriptions. I've mapped the roads from Missoula through Thompson Falls to Kellogg on Mapmyride for a future 7-8 day tour that I want to do.
    1984 Gitane Sprint; 1984 Gitane Tour de France;1982 Trek 610; 1980's Univega Supra Sport (fixie); 1975 Teledyne Titan;1984 Peugeot PSV10N; 1968 Peugeot PL8; ;1982 Nishiki Marina 12; 1972 Peugeot PX-10; 1987 Trek 800 Antelope (touring/commuting set up); 1981 Trek 510; 1993 Trek 950 mtb; 1996 Klein Pulse II mtb; 1997 Klein Pulse Comp mtb; 1989 Peugeot Limestone hybrid (for touring); 1989 Spectrum Titanium

  22. #22
    Senior Member dbikingman's Avatar
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    You can ride I-90 in certain areas, I wouldn't recommend it unless necessary. It has good shoulders, but many areas have "rumble strips" that causes the shoulder to narrow if you avoid them. It is 70 MPH and would be loud and unsafe in my opinion. The other routes suggested would be safer and more scenic.

    If you need help navigating around Spokane send me a note. In any case I'd suggest you find the Centennial Trail. It will get you through Spokane to Idaho and connects to the Idaho Centennial trail. I'd suggest Thompson's pass in Idaho to Montana. Great scenery and less traffic than I-90.

    If you take a route south of I-90 say from Ritzville (for point of reference on a map) there is a rail trail (might be the eastern portion of the Iron Horse I'm not sure) goes towards Cheney. Once in Cheney the trail is paved and you can ride the trail to the Centennial Trail.

    If you come Hwy 2 you will need to exit before getting to I-90 because bikes aren't allowed on I-90 in this area. If you need I can give turn by turn instructions to get you from either east or north of Spokane to Idaho in the safest route.
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  23. #23
    Squeaky Wheel woodway's Avatar
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    Here is a washdot map that shows where bikes are not allowed on interstates/highways.

    https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=U...4,9.887695&z=7

  24. #24
    Senior Member Black wallnut's Avatar
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    The trail Cheney to Spokane is the Fish Lake trail and no it is not part of the Iron Horse/ John Wayne trail.


    Mark

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    Hi D-


    I recently posted in the Pac NW Forum about my bike trip from Seattle to Boston, with the hope of using some "rails to trails" routes as a part of what will be largely a road trip. You gave the following advice to me when it got to getting into the Spokane area of the state:


    "If you need help navigating around Spokane send me a note. In any case I'd suggest you find the Centennial Trail. It will get you through Spokane to Idaho and connects to the Idaho Centennial trail. I'd suggest Thompson's pass in Idaho to Montana. Great scenery and less traffic than I-90.


    If you take a route south of I-90 say from Ritzville (for point of reference on a map) there is a rail trail (might be the eastern portion of the Iron Horse I'm not sure) goes towards Cheney. Once in Cheney the trail is paved and you can ride the trail to the Centennial Trail.


    If you come Hwy 2 you will need to exit before getting to I-90 because bikes aren't allowed on I-90 in this area. If you need I can give turn by turn instructions to get you from either east or north of Spokane to Idaho in the safest route."


    With that said, here is where I could use some advice from you as I push into ID. My goal is Glacier National Park- first to see friends in Kalispell, then to perform a concert in the park (I'm a jazz pianist and my friend, Jack Gladstone, is a Blackfoot entertainer in the region). I'll be staying with him when I get to Browning, MT. So, what I am looking for are some options - interesting ones- that will get me to that area of Montana. I'm planning on carrying two sets of tires with me, for some of the less-road tire friendly portions of the Iron Horse Trail, as well as having regular road tires, so I don't mind switching now and then. I'm retracing the route a friend from MN took in 1988, which largely followed US 2 from Seattle into ND (She died of cancer 2 years ago and this is a memorial ride in her name to raise $$ for the Mayo Cancer Clinic), but I'm also combining it with my love of trains and of history. So, while I could take her old path of US 2 from Spokane to Sandpoint then to kalispell, I'm wondering what advice you have as alternates to that.


    I'm a Minnesotan, so we aren't used to bears, etc. That said, I plan to camp a lot of this trip, but want to be smart about it too.


    Whew. THats a lot to cover. Fire away, when you get a chance, and give me some advice? Thanks much!




    Best,


    George Maurer
    Performer, Composer, & Producer | George Maurer

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