Sunday, September 7, 2008

Alpental to North Bend 50k Trail

50k trail run from Alpental parking lot to Mt Si trailhead via the Middle Fork valley. Click to enlarge map and profile.

Point to point: 31 miles
Running time: 6-8 hours
Starting elevation: 2350 feet
High point: 3500 feet at 1.5 miles
Elevation gain: 3700 feet (6200 feet descent)
Best time of year: mid-June to late Fall (to avoid snow)
Maps: Green Trails 206, 207, 174, 175 (easily done with no maps - see below)
Permits: self-register at Alpental/Snow Lakes trailhead

Christopher and I hatched this idea when we were running the Middle Fork trail a few months ago. Actually, it is quite an obvious link-up if you study at a topo map of the area for 30 seconds. Another thing we wanted to do was find a great trail run that would leverage the service of Bus-up 90. Unfortunately, we caught the bus on the very last day the service was running just before it got shut down due to idiotic over-regulation by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC).

Craig Hanela and I started our day in the Mt Si parking lot where we were picked up by the bus. Les, our driver, was super accommodating about pickup and drop-off locations this day because he was running the service for free thanks to their problems with the WUTC. I would love to see a government that actually gives a damn about public transportation solutions in some fairytale future so that we could have a service like this that supports multiple trailheads in the I-90 corridor (please see the response from Sharon Wallace (WUTC) below). In the meantime, you'll have to do your own 25 mile car shuttle.

The start is in the Alpental ski-area parking lot and you head out on trail 1013 toward Snow Lake (This is not to be confused with the Kendall Catwalk PCT trailhead which is closer to I-90). The trail from Alpental to Snow Lake is popular and well maintained. In about 1.5m you reach the high point of the day on the saddle before descending toward Snow Lake. (There is a minor trail heading off left to Source Lake during your climb to the Snow Lake saddle. Ignore it.)

The descent takes you around the North shore of snow lake and after another 1.5 miles you arrive at one of the few trail intersections you'll encounter: Trail 1012 goes left toward "Gem Lake". You take a right, staying on 1013 and heading toward "Middle Fork Road".

The 4 mile section down from Snow Lake to the Middle Fork trail is a well constructed but underused trail. About 1 mile of it is overgrown enough to slow you down to a walk but still not unpleasant. The rest of this section is runnable.

You'll have the trail to yourself for most of the descent and the mossy forest path is much less trampled than the usual busy trails we run. Pristine.

At the bottom of the hill you'll arrive at your 2nd trail intersection of the day. At this point the Middle Fork trail is on an old road bed. This is trail 1003 and you want to turn left to head downstream for the next 10 miles. Points of interest in this section include:
- Dingford Creek Trailhead at 3 miles (you'll see a large bridge crossing the river to your right- ignore it)
- Wildcat Creek at 4.5 miles (good place for lunch and water refilling)
- Gateway Bridge at 10 miles (this is where you cross the Middle Fork)

Turn left on 1003 - head downstream along Middle Fork

Ignore the Dingford Creek turn-off and arrive at Wildcat Creek for lunch

Gateway Bridge signals the end of the Middle Fork Trail

Gateway Bridge is at a popular trailhead for the Middle Fork trail. This trailhead can be reached from Exit 34 off I-90 via the Middle Fork road (Road 56). It involves 9 miles of what is usually a nasty dirt road drive.

When you arrive in the parking lot, head straight through to the road and you'll find a well marked trailhead for the CCC extension trail on the opposite side of the main road at the entrance to the trailhead parking. Follow this trail for 3 miles. It is well constructed and super runnable. It ends abruptly, dumping you out on Road 56 (elevation 960 feet).

Turn right and follow Road 56 for less than 1/10th of a mile to an obvious blocked old road heading off to the right. There is room for a few cars here and you may see signs of ORV activity. This is the start of the CCC road and it will take you all the way to North Bend for the next 10 miles. The first 3 miles are scruffy and not well maintained but it is a road: how hard can it be? After a highpoint of 1500 feet you'll descend back to 1380 feet and exit on to the Bessemer Road.

3 miles of CCC trail to Bessemer Road (click to enlarge)

Run downhill on the road and when you encounter the major left turn in the road at just less than 1/2 a mile, look for a blocked old road off to your right: that is the CCC trail. As the trail starts again, there is a significant creek and it makes a good final water stop. For a more aesthetic water stop, hold out for a mile or two: there are a few more reliable sources ahead in more open locations. This last 5 mile section of the CCC trail is popular and well maintained.

Arriving at a gate signals the end of the CCC trail and the start of residential roads: you now have 2+ miles of road running between you and the Mt Si Trailhead. Half of this is dirt and the rest is blacktop. All of it is downhill. For the dirt, simply follow the downhill option when confronted by an intersection: this will keep you on the correct and larger road. Once on the blacktop, follow your nose.

Splits (approximate):

  • Alpental to intersection below Snow Lake: 3m+
  • Descent to Middle Fork: 4m+
  • Along Middle Fork to Dingford Creek trail: 3m+
  • Along Middle Fork from Dingford Creek trail to Wildcat Creek: 1m
  • Along Middle Fork from Wildcat Creek to Gateway Bridge trailhead: 5m
  • CCC extension trail: 3m+
  • CCC road trail to Bessemer Road 'crossing': 3m
  • CCC road trail to North Bend: 5m
  • Final roads to Mt Si trailhead: 2m+
That's it. My intention was to make it easy to do the run with just this description (even if you have the navigational skills of a dead hamster). Please e-mail me for clarifications, suggestions or if you have any corrections that I should make.

Alternate reference for the Snow Lake trail:

Alternate reference for Middle Fork trail:

Alternate references for CCC trail:


climb @ said...

I am sorry I missed the first running but I'll be sure to knock it off before the snow falls.

swallace said...

The Utilities and Transportation Commission is required to regulate privately-owned companies that provide public transportation services. The commission has an obligation to protect consumers by making sure these companies operate within Washington State law – that they are safe, reliable, insured and properly operated. Bus-Up 90 provides scheduled bus service. This means they are required to complete and submit a document, called a ‘tariff,’ for public record that details their operations and procedures. The tariff ensures that customers will know what to expect regarding the rates and services of the company. As of September 12, 2008, Bus-Up 90 has not submitted a completed tariff. Commission staff have offered assistance to help them complete several missing pieces. Until this document is submitted for public record, the Bus-Up 90 service cannot operate. If you have any questions, please call me at the commission at 1-888-333-WUTC (9882). Sharon Wallace, Consumer Protection and Communications

seagus said...

These route's are great, creative and fun. I hadn't thought of starting at Snow Lake.

keep'em coming!

Maxim Kazitov said...

and you can add Goldmyer Hot Springs to you Route