photos · Trip Reports

Riding The Naches Wagon Trail To The PCT

Fair warning: I not only hike but enjoy responsible 4 wheeling with my family. This trip report does contain a little hiking but is more about the run we did.

Saturday morning Kirk, Ford and I headed off to Eastern Washington early, to meet up with his Xterra group for a run and also camping. The trip was an easy one as they go, to do part of the Naches Wagon Trail.The Naches Wagon Trail can be accessed via Eastern Washington and also a small section on the West side in Federation Forest State Park on Hwy 410 (and also via FS 70 below the PCT on the West side). The Eastern side is STEEP and hauls quickly to the crest of the Cascades.

We drove up and over Chinook Pass then down to the historic American River Ski Bowl Lodge, which sits near Bumping River off of Hwy 410. I had been there last year for a hiking get together, the property is a fun place to stay at. Sadly they have painted the walls white in the 20 seater outhouse. No more Pepto Pink for the ladies and Mint Green for the gents. Sigh!

The Xterra’s getting ready to leave. Ours is the green one with the lights on:


Once everyone was there and camps set up we all headed back to the highway for the drive down to the Naches drainage. Up FS 19 to 1914, then we turned onto the upper section of the Wagon Trail (a Jeep/motorcycle/Quad trail). While not terribly hard it does have some great sections of going off-camber where the truck was tilting at a good angle – the best being where you have to work around a stump while going around a U-shaped turn. I trust Kirk and sit there quietly even as the truck is hanging over on its side and I am looking at the ground – and then SNAP – we are back flat. Heart rate goes down and onward we head up. And I’d say this, there are sections so steep that hikers would say no thanks to – at least I’d say no thanks in the heat 😉

The payoff being right at the end you come up to an old clear-cut where you can see Mt. Rainier and you ride the crest, then to the boardwalk sections built over the meadows. The meadows of Gov’t Meadows are huge, way bigger than I noticed last time here.

Kirk approaching one section:


Coming across:


Leading the caravan:


Time for me to get back in:


I saw this sign and realized this was the plaque that a couple of people we encountered last month had been looking for. I knew where most of the signs talking about the wagon trail were, but this one is one you’d only see if motoring, not hiking.


We got to the parking area/turn around at Gov’t Meadows and had lunch. This was a Pecan Ranch Chicken Salad I made up for the guys. Recipe coming! We had time so I took Ford to the shelter which is literally a minute away from the staging area. Ford thought the cabin was pretty cool – and that it had two stories.


Trailhead crossing at the parking area. There was a big horse powered work party last weekend up here and you could smell the horse-y scent quite heavy  (not whining – they did great work! There is a new foot bridge in over the creek just South of the shelter now)


A PCT marker in the trees just before entering the meadows.


Gov’t Meadows from the PCT. It was neat though to see the lower and back sides of the massive meadows from the trail instead. Not much in bugs though there was still plenty of water up there.


When in the cabin I grabbed the shelter register to see who had been through so far this year.  On 7/23 The Tortoise and aslo Eric D. came through. I thought Tort’s sign in was intresting “What a bad place for a shelter! In the middle of logging road hell” – not to nitpick, the shelter is more for snowmobilers in winter than for PCT hikers – and as well, logging road hell doesn’t start for 0.9 of a mile heading North. Going South here is gorgeous! 😉 Be happy you have one of the few (and very nice!) shelters before you leave the beauty of Norse Peak to encounter the funville of ‘this land is ours to pillage’ that goes from Pyramid Peak to Yakima Pass (which as our loyal readers have seen from our trips, that section is a real funbag of ugliness).


7/30 brought Peter “Mile Eater” heading Southbound from Stevens Pass to the Columbia River.


I got told to quit taking photos of registers and get moving back to the trucks, so I headed back.

We headed back down till we hit what is a section of FS 793 (not fully shown on Greentrails maps, it doesn’t show the road going that high) that crosses the wagon trail and took a left on it, instead of descending the steep section of the wagon trail. We took all rights heading downhill. At one point there was an overlook of the whole section of land hidden back there – from Pyramid Peak to Green Pass to Blowout Mountain. If you want to see what is possibly the ugliest section of land in Washington State, this is it and a strong passenger car can make it up the Naches River Road to this road. Narrow but in perfect shape, though very steep in areas. We dropped to a marked intersection for #1914 (a left take you to Pyramid Peak and if the gate is open, it turns into FS 7080 – which is the access point for the PCT on the West side – what we took on our last trip.) We took a right onto 1914 and in a few yards passed the Naches Wagon Trail where we had started. Everyone pulled over and aired up the tires.

Then we had a nice drive out along the Naches. I noted where FS 1913 takes off for future trips, it becomes a road owned by Plum Creek Timber and goes to Green Pass and Blowout Mountain.

Every spot on the river was taken on the way out (can you blame them?). The best being the group that had wheeled their BBQ over to the edge of the road, all they need do was scramble up a few feet for a hot meal, then back to the river. And by river, lets just say it is more a babbling brook.

We drove East down Hwy 410 to Cliffdell, to Whistlin’ Jack Lodge for ice cream. Then we headed back West to Bumping River to our camp and besides being harassed like crazy by hornets it was a good evening.

A new recipe I worked on – Pizza Pan Biscuits! Recipe coming soon…..


The sun set and the moon came up – we got treated to flying squirrels, bats and even lady elk calling out around 1 am.


We broke camp early and headed back over the pass before it warmed up. It actually was quite chilly at Chinook Pass this morning at 9 am!

Rainier in the blinding light with Tipsoo Lakes below:


Home we headed – now I just need to vac the trail dust out of the Xterra! It was an enjoyable weekend – I got to see a trail I had wanted to experience for a couple of years. Kirk spoils me and has taken me on a couple of these over the years – to places I have hiked to, but wanted to see the other way in. Seeing the clearcuts back there, so well hidden from any paved road – that is something everyone should see. It is an industry that must be there, yet if you love the PCT you see vividly why having the PCT run through here is just not right. It is a working tree farm – it has been for years and will continue to be.

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