I was wondering if you could suggest some day trips that are somewhat fun for driving. Im not looking for off road trails like evans/walker *my jeep won't make those lol* per se, but a little gravel road on a scenic road is what im looking for. I moved to wa in aug 11 and didn't get to explore much.
Sorry I couldn't provide more. I know there are other areas but I only have enough time for these.
A few ideas:
The Table Mountain area near Liberty, WA (just off Hwy 97 north of Cle Elum / Ellensburg) has a bunch of "easy" trails as well as lots of gravel mountain roads for exploring. Plenty of camping opportunities, too. Would recommend you go when it's dry (well into summer) otherwise the trails are slicker 'n snot and not even lockers help much. Other than that, the trails are pretty smooth (most of them). Trails and gravels roads are on both the east and west side of Hwy 97. The Cle Elum Ranger District has a trail map for the whole area including Table Mountain. Link.
Cle Elum Valley Trails
Take exit 80 and head north of Roslyn all the way to Salmon La Sac. Then head further north another 6-7 miles on the gravel road. This is the start of the Fortune Creek Trail which is an old mining road. It's a reasonably easy trail but is much more interesting than the gravel roads and it climbs up a mountain valley to top out at ~6000 ft of elevation at Gallagher Head Lake. Link to google map. Link to NWJeep'n.com's map page.
The ridgeline south of Ellensburg has Durr Rd which is a old gravel road that drops into a canyon, crosses a shallow creek, the climbs up some steep grades to the opposite ridgeline. Very stark, dry scenery with stunning views. On the linked map, Point A to B is paved road. Point B to C is gravel, including the canyon drop and creek crossing. Point C is the radio installation on the ridge. Note on the map there are other roads to explore there. Link.
Washington Back Country Discovery Route
Popular for the Overlanding crowd, this route goes from the Columbia River to the Canadian border right through the middle of the Cascade Mountains. It takes about 4 days but you can run shorter segments. Mostly it follows forest service roads so you shouldn't have an issue. Link.
LT Murry Wildlife Area
Managed by the WA DNR (Dept. of Natural Resources) this has a few very rough roads that crisscross this land. Very near Ellensburg. You'll need to get a Discovery Pass to drive the land, though.
North Fork of the Snoqualmie River
A little closer to home than Eastern WA is the North Fork of the Snoqualmie. Point B to C is all on gravel roads. SOme of which run through some clear cut but it gets you back into Fedral land at Point C, at which point there is some camping opportunities and some exploration up two mountain valleys. If you continue up FS Rd 57 just across the last concrete bridge there is a hiking trail that will take you WAY up on top of the mountains. Its free to drive around up there and camp. But if you park at the hiking trail head you'll need a NW Forest Pass (but not anywhere else up there). Link.
Funny that you would mention that... I have been DYING to hook-up with someone (anyone) to go off-roading with! You didn't mention what area you live in, but here are my suggestions. I live in south-central WA Grandview (Sunnyside area). There is actually a really fun ATV trail area literally down the road for me! It is called Sandman. It is mainly of medium difficulty because of the steepness of some of the area- at one point you have to go kind of diagonally going up the hill so you don't end up in the canal!!! The area across from the Zillah dump has some fun easy OVR trails. There is even a steep hill where all you see is sky while going up. It is pretty short though. As for other places, here is my suggestion: Go to highway 12. Once you get in the Cascades area, take any road leading off 12. You will almost assuredly find dirt roads, gravel roads, forest roads, and old abandonend logging roads. *** A word of WARNING about logging trails. There are often times where the roads can get to the width of a large car. There is NO to minimal maintenance. You can encounter windblows/treefells, mud/dirtslides, and rockfalls. The "roads"' conditions WILL change every year. The first time of the season that you attempt one of these, I HIGHLY recommend that you bring someone as a spotter in case you have to turn around at a tight spot- often the other "side" is a several-hundred foot drop!!! I always bring my wife with me the first time I go out for the season. Also, if you do encounter rockslides, you will want 8 or 10-ply wheels otherwise you might have to deal with a flat. I don't mind doing some easy trails either- I just like to get out and about! For anyone else who wants to go off-roading, I am willing to try harder trails with mud, rocks, sand, whatever. I have a 2010 Rubicon with a 4" suspension lift, 37" tires, a metal aftermarket front bumper with two tow hooks, and a 9,500 lb Warn winch. I am available pretty much any day and can even do overnighters. I will go anywhere in Washington, western Idaho, and northern Oregon. The only definite times I won't be available is on some Saturdays (not all) since I have to drive the float at parades because my daughter is Miss Grandview this year (mixed blessing lol).
Not to sound too needy, but I would really like to do a medium to difficult run with ANYONE!!!
hahaha its all good. thanks for your suggestion, im usually open on weekends and want to really explorer around the city. im only sitting on 3" lift and 31's. let me know if you want to do something this sunday
I don't know about Straddleline as I've never been down there. Last time I was down in the Capitol Forest there was some random trails but no offical ORV park and Straddleline didn't exist yet. It looks more like a skill building ORV / motorbike area. And judging from the maps I'd prefer a bigger area to go. I think for all the driving it's a little far to go for limited trail milage. . . . sort of like Tahuya.
But that's just me.
Check it and and post some pictures!
I hadn't realized you're up on 31's and a 3" lift. You could go a lot more places set up like that in a Cherokee.
Manastash Ridge (AKA Naches or Little Naches)
If you're looking for big open space then Manastash would be good. This is one of my favorite places to wheel and explore and is about 2 hrs from Seattle, sited south of Cle Elum / Ellensburg and north of Hwy 410. Most of the trails aren't too extreme but they range over a 115 sq mile piece of territory. Access might be tricky this year as last spring there was severe flooding that wiped out some roads. I'm not sure the Forest Service will fix them by this spring and who knows what new damage there might be from this spring's snow melt. Still. It's some great wheel'n and exploring. Try the following trails:
Manastash Ridge Trail
Wells Meadow Trail
Buck Meadow Trail
Tripod Flats Trail (you should be able to handle this)
Look to mid-late June for this area to open up and contact the Cle Elum Ranger Station for info. And you probably want to stay off of Shoe String, Tipover, and Kaner Flats trails. And, down in the Hwy 410 valley between Whisltling Jack's and the FS Rd 19 on the otherside of the river is Boulder Cave which is very cool to explore.
Here is a video I worked up from a run we did in 2009:
Each year for the last several years some friends and I will take our Jeeps on a 4-day, 3-night expedition to Manastash. Typically we'll get there via the Naches trail (See below) and just camp out on the side of the trail for a few days while we do some wheel'n.
This is the route we did for our Naches / Manastash run last
year. 4 days, 350 miles (including out and back from the Seattle Area)
Manastash Ridge Trail.
At peak of Frost Mountain.
The trail up to Raven's Roost (or take the gravel road).
This is a 4x4 trail that crosses the Cascade mountains from western to eastern WA. You catch it a little out of Greenwater, WA on Hwy 410 (near Enumclaw, WA) and it drops you out in the Little Naches River Valley. . . . which is adjacent to the Manastash Ridge ORV area. So. . . take the Naches over the mountains, and then climb up Manastash Ridge for more wheel'n. The trail is open from mid-July to mid-November. Opening weekend is usually nuts. contact the Enumclaw Ranger Station for info on the western side and the Naches Ranger Station for info on the eastern side.
Bridging on the Naches Trail near Government Meadows.
More bridging on the Naches Trail on the eastern side down in the valley.
Note that a lot of these places listed are closed until Jun 15th and places like the Cle Elum trails are going to be snowed in until at least mid-July.
Jumpoff Lookout might be open/passable, although you'll have to go around Mt Rainier to get there (410 isn't open yet). It's mild enough and easy enough to find that going by yourself wouldn't be an issue. Navigation will get you right there if you plug in the GPS Coordinates. It's all FS Roads which are both in Google and Garmin's database.
I would recommend airing down though, the road is rough and rocky, it'll be a real punishing ride at street pressures.
Of the things listed above, Durr Road is a good choice for this time of year. Another idea is to just go up to the Ice Caves in Arlington and take a short hike (need a Discovery Pass because its a state park). If you head up into the Cle Elum area, the FS4330 that leads to all the trails is a nice FS road that goes for 12-15 miles or something up into the woods following a river.