From the densely forested Cascades to the scablands carved by the Ice Age floods, Iron Horse State Park Trail gives hikers, cyclists and, in some places, equestrians a taste of Washington’s diversity. So, hop on your bike or dust off your backpack, and take to the trail! This linear park runs from west of North Bend to the Columbia River near Vantage – and continues from the town of Lind to the Idaho border.
Heading east on this historic rail trail (part of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad from 1908 to 1980), travelers pass lush, vast Olallie State Park, with its waterfalls and seasonal colors. Explorers continue through the mountain pass into dark tunnels and over high trestles, until the landscape gives way to the amber-hued farmlands of eastern Washington. And, railroad buffs, don’t miss the historic train depots at South Cle Elum and Kittitas along the way.
You can take this trail in one-day sections or as a long-distance hiking or biking trip through diverse environments. Trailheads and access points are located every few miles along the trail. Camping can be found at Lake Easton State Park, just off the trail near Easton, and Wanapum Recreation Area, a few miles south of Vantage. Primitive campsites are available west of Thorp along the trail.
The 4,956-acre, 212-mile Iron Horse State Park Trail reflects State Parks’ long-term commitment to developing cross-state trails. It is part of an emerging multi-state trail system. The Milwaukee Road Railroad right-of-way, which includes the Iron Horse Trail, travels east into Idaho, where it connects with the 72-mile Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes and the 15-mile Route of the Hiawatha, which continues into Montana.
Improvements have been made to the portion west of the Columbia River, and plans are in place to improve the 9-mile segment from Malden to Rosalia on the eastern portion. The center section, between Royal City Junction and Warden has intact rail; it is not used as part of the recreational trail at this time.
From Renslow to the Columbia River: The trail runs through the Yakima Training Center, managed by the U.S Army. Trail users are required to self-register at one of the two trailheads at Renslow (west) or Doris (east). Other rules for using the trail through the Yakima Training Center can be found here.
Between Beverly and Lind: The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages this section of the Iron Horse Trail, which the agency refers to as the “Milwaukee Road Corridor.” More information and a link to the permit application are available on DNR's website.
Between Lind and the Idaho border: Washington State Parks requires a special permit to use this section of the trail. The permit can be requested for up to a year in duration. Individual trail users and groups of 19 and less may complete and submit the permit online. Groups of 20 or more must complete and mail in a hard copy permit with payment. For more information or request a permit to be mailed, call (509) 337-6457.
Long distance through-hikes or cycling trips require planning and extra gear and provisions, particularly water. Some detours are needed around rail lines, missing bridges and private property. Be sure to check conditions before you go. The state-managed corridor is typically 50 feet on either side of the center of the trail, but this varies. Please respect private property along the trail.
Discover Pass:A Discover Pass is required for vehicle access to state parks for day use. For more information about the Discover Pass and exemptions, please visit the Discover Pass web page.
Automated pay station: An automated pay station is located at the Hyak trailhead for visitors to purchase a one-day or annual Discover Pass and Sno-Park permit (Dec. 1-March 31).
Kiosks and panels are installed at Hyak, Easton, South Cle Elum, Thorp, and Kittitas with a map of the trail and interpretive information.
The 100-mile-long John Wayne Pioneer Trail meanders through a variety of ecosystems and geological zones.
No motorized vehicles are allowed on the trail with the exception of snowmobiles in winter, which are allowed from Stampede Pass Road to Cabin Creek.
Horse-drawn wagon users must obtain a gate combination access agreement from Lake Easton State Park.
Winter sport opportunities are available. A Sno-Park permit is required from Dec. 1 - March 31. A Discover Pass is also needed with a one-day Sno-Park Permit. For more information, call (509) 656-2230.
A recreational license is required for fishing and shellfish harvesting at Washington state parks. For regulations, fishing season information, or to purchase a recreational license, visit the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
There are five campgrounds along the trail, each with three to four campsites, one picnic table, and a vault toilet. They are located at milepost 2109.5 at Roaring Creek, milepost 2113.2 at Cold Creek, milepost 2123.2 at Carter Creek, and milepost 2127.1 at Alice Creek, and at Ponderosa Pines in the Yakima Canyon.
Check-in time is 2:30 p.m.
Check-out time is 1 p.m.
Camping is also available near the trail at U.S. Forest Service campgrounds at Tinkham, Denny Creek, Lake Kachess, and Crystal Springs. There is state park camping at Lake Easton and Wanapum Recreation Area.
Reservations & fees
Campsite reservations for Lake Easton State Park and Wanapum Recreational Area can be made online or by calling (888) CAMPOUT or (888) 226-7688. For fee information, check out our camping rates page.
Originally, the trail right-of-way was part of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad. The railroad operated between 1908 and 1980, when the company went into bankruptcy. The state's Department of Natural Resources acquired much of the property and turned it over to State Parks, which continues to acquire land and make improvements to the area.