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".
- 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)
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.
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.
- 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+