Where To Go Offroading In Washington State
Jeep Trails of Washington State
If you're just getting started with offroading or are newly moving to Washington state and looking for places to wheel, welcome! This thread is for you. With periodic questions on where to wheel I figured it would be a good idea to make a central thread on trail riding areas and provides some additional information on how to get there, the surrounding areas, what to expect, and so forth. Up front is some general overview information on the state, our types of trail systems, land agencies, and customs with the sections on the actual trails toward the back.
Geographic Overview of Washington State
Trails vs. Trail Networks
Land Agencies & Permits
New To Offroading?
Clubs and Groups
General Trail Difficulty
Where To Wheel (The Trails)
NOTE: All areas described in this thread are LEGAL trails to operate your rig offroad. Do not go wheel'ln where it is illegal.
GEOGRAPHIC OVERVIEW OF WASHINGTON STATE
The state has a wide variety of climatic regions within it's borders generally dividing the state into sections from west to east as follows: Coastal lowlands and rainforest, Puget Sound lowland evergreen forest, mountainous and alpine region, dry upper steppe, and desert. The big divider is the Cascade Mountain range running north to south which splits the state into a dry side and wet side. The western half of the state is the wet side as all the clouds drop their rain as they are pushed up and over the mountain range. The eastern side is in the rain shadow of the mountains and has the desert regions. Within a 2 hr radius of downtown Seattle you can go from temperate rainforest with 150" of rain per year to about 9" of rainfall in the desert. The Puget Sound and Pacific Ocean work to moderate temperature and weather swings on western washington where temps range from typical mid-to-low 30s in the winter to upper 70's and mid 80's in the summer. Eastern washington will hit below freezing temps in winter and in the upper 90's to 100's in the summer.
This cannot be stressed enough: stick to the trails! There are plenty of fun 4x4 trails in the NW and blazing new trail or plowing through meadows does nothing but get our 4x4 areas shut down. So stick to the trails and do not deviate from established route. Dealing with on-coming trail traffic is a bit of a negotiation. Given how tight the trails are and that they are often on a mountain side it's a matter of finding a spot on the edge of the trail to temporarily park to allow another group to pass. The rest of the trail etiquette is simple: be courteous to other trail users and give deference to non-motorized users (hikers, mountain bikers, and horse riders). Do not drink and drive as it gives our sport a bad image. And keep all refuse in the rig, do not litter.
TRAILS vs. TRAIL NETWORKS vs. FOREST SERVICE / FIRE ROADS
Most of Washington's trails are grouped into networks rather than individual single trails. These trail networks are (mostly) interconnected smaller trails. The only singular trail I know is the Naches Pass Trail and it crosses the Cascade mountain range to take you from western to eastern washington. Most networks have somewhere between 16 - 80+ trail miles of 4x4 "jeep" trails. That is, those are the actual total lengths of all the trails in the network added up. Of course, there are more miles of gravel roads, dirt bike or ATV trails, etc. Figure 16-20 trail miles will keep you pretty busy for most of the day (~8-10 hrs) at a modest pace with lots of opportunity for pictures, leisurely lunch, BSing, and some winching.
The Jeep trails are usually narrow, single-vehicle-width trails with a dirt or rock base to it. The Forest Service or "fire roads" are well built gravel roads leading to and from various trails. These are usually about 1.5 lanes wide.
Most trails in the state are within a 1-2-ish hour drive of downtown Seattle with a few out-liers about 3.5 hrs away. These travel distances cover about 10 major trail networks. So there are many opportunities for day trips or weekend camping / Jeeping runs.
LAND AGENCIES & PERMITS
There are two main land agencies that control and manage the trail system: the National Forest Service and the WA State Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR). Up to this point DNR didn't charge anything to run the state trails but that is changing with the latest round of bills out of the state legislature (budget woes). The Forest Service may require a "Northwest Forest Pass" depending on the trail system. Mostly, if you keep moving on the trails and don't stop (for long) at parking areas, staging areas, or use the camp grounds then you don't need a NW Forest pass. I usually pick one up, though, partly to support the FS. It's $30 annually or $5 for a day pass. Also to note, while the DNR covers the entire state, the National Forest Service is brokent up into different regions throughout the state and you need to contact specific Ranger Stations for info on the trails in their individual jurisdiction. However, the NW Forest Pass is good everywhere (in I think WA, OR, and ID) within the National Forest Service lands.
NEW TO OFFROADING?
If you are new to Jeeping and offroading it is HIGHLY recommended you get together with other experienced offroaders to learn the ropes. Not only is this a way to build your skill sets and learned from more experienced offroaders but also meet others with similar interests. Keep checking the Washington subforum here on JF as people are often posting open invitations to runs they are going on. Also, you'll want to make sure you and your rig are prepared for trail duty with a minimum of skid protection of vital parts, STRONG tow points front AND back, a tow strap with looped ends (no hooks), some 3/4" d-shackles or clevis shackles, plus gloves, and a shovel.
CLUBS AND GROUPS
There are also dozens of official clubs in the area. Many are affiliated with the Pacific Northwest 4 Wheel Drive Association which itself covers WA, OR, and ID. This link will take you to the PNW4WDA's region map where you can select the area you live to look up local clubs. Joining affiliated clubs gives the PNW4WDA a bit more political clout in the state legislature and with the land agencies to help keep trails open. It also helps keep you informed about what's happening with the trail systems, and offers you a good support system for the trail.
Most trail networks will have a mix of tough to easy trails. Though overall while our trails are fun they aren't on the insane level of the rock crawling of SoCal or Moab. Start with the easier trails until you get a feel for the rating system (Easy, More Difficult, or Most Difficult), your skill level, and the capability of your vehicle, not to mention your comfort level (which may be at a lower threshold than your skills or vehicle capabilities). Our trails have sections that are very tight as they thread through dense stands of trees or cut into the ground. Root snags can cause body damage on the tighter sections. And slimey roots can pull or push your rig from side to side on the trail. That said, a moderately modified CJ, YJ, or TJ on 33's can handle about 90%+ of Washington trail miles will little difficulty. Modified Cherokees also do quite well on our trail systems.
WHERE TO WHEEL (THE TRAILS)
NWJeepn.com has an EXCELLENT trail index with more detailed info on specific trails. They also have directions on how to get to the various trails. Below are some overviews with google links to the approximate trailheads.
Walker Valley ORV Park (DNR)
1 Hr north of Seattle. ~15 miles of 4x4 trail or so.
Day-use, no camping.
Restroom facilities, staging area / parking lot
Map to Walker Valley Staging Area.
Located in a working forest that is periodically logged, the trails run through some wooded areas and some recently clear cut areas in the foothills of the western Cascade mountains. Trails are a mix of easy to moderately difficult. The trail bed tends to be damp throughout most of the year. Puddles and mud are shallow but may make the trail slick. Decent amount of elevation gain with the upper trails topping out at 1500 ft and a few glimpses of decent views out over the Puget Sound area. Because of the lower elevation of this trail network it's open year round, though there may be snow on the upper reaches. This would be an area I'd recommend for beginners, provided you take it easy and back off of things if you're not comfortable with the trail. The easy parts are truly easy, however. It's also an easy day-run from the Seattle metro area. From the Seattle region heading northbound on I-5 the gas station at Exit 221 makes for a convenient place to top off fuel tanks on the way to the trail.
Reiter Foothills (DNR)
1 Hr NE of Seattle. ~15 miles of 4x4 trail.
Day-use, no camping
Temporarily (hopefully) closed while the DNR converts this formerly no-mans-land into an official ORV park. Unfortunately it got tripped up in the budget crisis which will probably delay things for a good long time. But keep an eye and ear out for happenings with the DNR and Reiter Foothills.
Evan's Creek ORV (Nat'l Forest Service)
1.5 Hr South and SE of Seattle. 20 miles of 4x4 trails.
Camp sites available and dispersed camping permitted.
Restroom facilities in the campground, two staging areas
Open seasonally April - December
Map To Evan's Creek Staging Area
Trails run up and down the sides of the Cascade foothills ranging in elevation from ~3600 ft to 5,000 ft of elevation. They wind their way through tall stands of fir trees and a lush woodsy understory. The trails will be very wet and slick spring and fall and tend to dry out and become dusty in parts during the height of summer. Trail bed is a dirt, rock, log mix for the most part with some deep trenching that can pin the trails in where they cut into the ground. Watch for roots and stumps that stick out from the side and could cause body damage. At one of the outlooks you get a million dollar view right into the side of Mt. Rainier. There is camping here if you want to over-night (need NW Forest Pass). The trails are on the more technical side but are passable with caution. Because of the higher elevation snow sticks around longer in the shadows of the forest and well into late spring or early summer. It is a challenging trail system for beginners and yet still very fun for those with built rigs. Located just outside the very NW corner of the Mt. Rainier National Park boundaries. Drive south to Bonney Lake, then out towards Buckley, then Wilkeson and out State Route 165 and head up to Mowich Lake.
The gas station in Burnette, WA is a good place to fill up on gas. They also have a good supply of munchies and also sell the NW Forest Pass. The NW Forest Pass can also be purchased at the Enumclaw Ranger Station.
Forest Service - Enumclaw Ranger Station
450 Roosevelt Ave E
Enumclaw, WA 98022
Elbe Hills ORV Park (DNR)
2 Hrs from Seattle. 12 miles of 4x4 trails.
Camp sites available, gazebo shelter with stone fireplace, restroom facilities, staging area
Open year round but may be buried under snow in winter
Map to Elbe Hills Staging Area.
This network is located down near the town of Elbe, WA in another working forest in Cascade foothill territory. Trails wind over hilly terrain and weave in and out of forest and clear cut areas. Trails are usually pretty slick and wet and the mud holes can be substantial. This is a favorite area for buggies to play and they tend to chew up the trails to something gnarly. Still, there are some moderate trails. Body damage and general mechanical damage are not uncommon here. The toughest trail is the Busywild and is best run by the more experienced drivers with substantially modified rigs and armor.
There is a gas station in the town of Elbe, about 12 miles from the staging area. It's a small town so it may not be open late. Can't miss the gas station as you pass through it on the only road through town.
2 Hrs from Seattle. Maybe 4 miles of 4x4 trail.
Open year round.
Map to Tahuya.
Half of the limited trail miles are relatively easy and smooth rolling forest hills. The other half are a newly built technical section that looks much tougher. Elevation gains can be measured in the 10's of feet instead of hundreds or thousands of feet of other systems. Lots of big puddles that are more or less easily avoidable. Watch the depth on the water. Given the limited trails and that half of them are very easy i've only been here once. Not a bad beginner spot but, boy, lots of driving for limited trails.
Nearest gas station is in the town of Belfair, WA near by.
Naches Pass Trail (Nat'l Forest Service)
2 Hrs from Seattle. Maybe 15 miles total length.
Dispersed camping permitted on the trail, first-come-first-serve cabin at Government Meadows
Required NW Forest Pass for western part of trail if camping, stopping, or parking a tow vehicle
Restroom facilities about a mile from the trailhead.
Open mid-July to mid-November, verify w/ Enumclaw Ranger Station.
Map to Western Trailhead.
The Naches Trail has two distinct characters for the western and eastern sides. The western end of the Naches Trail has several steep climbs to get up to Government Meadows and the Naches Pass at its eastern end. The trail tends to be damp dirt with the occasional mud puddle and slimy logs as obstacles. It is crossed several times by gravel roads and toward the top the trail breaks through and skirts a few meadows. The eastern side of the trail is longer, drier, and dustier. The forest transitions from fir to pine as the trail works it's way back down off the mountain into the valley below. The trail here has very few puddles but many roots and the rocky bed make it very bouncy and slow going.
This trail "can" be traveled in 3-5 hrs non-stop. But it usually takes us half a day because of the things to stop and look at. I would say it is a very good beginner trail. It crosses the Cascades entirely on a continuous 4x4 route that follows the 1853 wagon train route of the Longmire wagon train. Near the pass it crosses the Pacific Crest Trail at Government Meadows where the wagon party camped before lowering their wagons over the 700 ft cliffs. A few years ago it was honored by BFGoodrich tires as one of the great American trails. This trail makes for a great multi-day entry to Manastash Ridge in the east which it almost connects to (5 miles of pavement driving to more trails). The trail head starts about a mile past the end of the pavement. There will be a "Y". Take the left route, it button hooks around , then go another 100 yrs, the start of the trail will be on the left (uphill side).
The western half of the trail is controlled and managed by the Enumclaw Ranger Station. The eastern half of the trail is managed by the Naches Ranger Station.
There is a gas station in Greenwater, WA, about 10 miles from the trailhead but it's hours are spotty. Second closest are the gas stations in Enumclaw, about 26+ miles from Greenwater, WA. There is also the Whistling Jacks gas station in Cliffdell, WA at the eastern end of the trail.
Forest Service - Enumclaw Ranger Station
450 Roosevelt Ave E
Enumclaw, WA 98022
Forest Service - Naches Ranger Station
10237 US Hwy 12
Naches, WA 98937
Manastash Ridge ORV Area (Nat'l Forest Service)
2.5 Hrs from Seattle. 100+ miles of 4x4 trails.
LOTS of Camping, both improved and at dispersed sites
Restrooms in the improved campsites, no restrooms on the trail, outhouse at Tripod Flats
Open year-round but trails get buried under snow between November - April/May
From I-90, Map Here.
Point A = Exit 101 off I-5
Point B = Tripot Flats trailhead in the camp ground
From Hwy 410, Map Here.
Point A = Town of Cliffdell, incl gas station
Point B = Where the Naches Trail terminates
Point C = One route into the trail network
Manastash Ridge is a huge area and encompasses 100+ miles of 4x4 trail spread out over 115 square miles of territory. Trails traverse stunningly gorgeous scenery and criss cross ridge tops through the drier Eastern Cascade forests. Trails beds tend to be dry dirt packed over a rocky crumbled basalt rock base and become very dusty in summer. Most trails wander through the woods but some break out into meadows, sureal alien-like rock fields, some mud spots, hill climbs, and the popular Moab-slick-rock-like Funnyrocks and Moonrocks. Great views of Mt. Rainier and the other areas from multiple high points.
There are camping opportunities galore. Trails range from maybe 3500-ish to 6000+ ft of elevation. Established campgrounds will require the NW Forest Pass but you can camp for free on the trails. There are a couple ways into the trail system as it's so huge. One nice one is to run the Naches trail, drive the few miles on pavement, then head up the trails to Manastash Ridge.
There is a gas station in Cliffdell, WA and also in Cle Elum, WA and Ellensburg, WA. The closest will be Cliffdell for most of the trails.
North Cle Elum Area (Nat'l Forest Service)
2-ish Hrs from Seattle. 10-12 miles of 4x4 trail.
Camping available, restrooms at Salmon la Sac (end of pavement)
Open seasonally mid-June to mid-October
Map to N. Cle Elum Trail Area.
While not quite a network there are 3-4 small trails in this area. These trails are a very good place to get your feet wet offroad as the trails aren't difficult given they are abandoned mining roads. The trails climb the rugged mountains north of the town of Cle Elum. Camping is all over the place here, too, with trails topping out at 6,000 ft of elevation. It's cold at the upper reaches late into the summer. Try July-September for snow-free wheel'n.
Cle Elum Ranger Station
803 W 2nd St
Cle Elum, WA 98922
Liberty / Table Mountain (Nat'l Forest Service)
2.5 Hrs from Seattle. 20-35+ miles of 4x4 trails
Dispersed and imiproved campsites available
Open seasonally, verify with Cle Elum Ranger Station
Map To Liberty Area.
These trails are located in this foot hills surrounding the Liberty, WA area on either side of Hwy 97. They can get somewhat steep and gain a thousand feed in elevation. The mostly smooth trailbed is combrised of a clay-like dirt which gets a little dusty and dry in summer. But at the least hint of moisture it becomes a snot slick surface. Coupled with the steep and off-camber trails conditions it can prove surprisingly challenging in the wet.
The nearest gas stations will be in Cle Elum, WA.
Cle Elum Ranger Station
803 W 2nd St
Cle Elum, WA 98922
Rimrock (Nat'l Forest Service)
3.5-4 hrs from Seattle. 100+ miles of 4x4 area.
Many campsites and dispersed trail camping
Seasonal Use, Verify with Naches Ranger Station
Map to Rimrock Area.
Like Manastash Ridge this is a huge area. . . but it's MUCH steeper with trails running from 3,000 ft to 7,000 ft of elevation gain. . . sometime all that gain happens on a single trail in a few miles. Make sure your brakes and cooling system is in top notch condition. In the summer the trails are dry and dusty with a rocky base but snow can linger into July. Due to the severe steepness of the terrain this is not a place to play in the snow. Consult the NWJeepn.com website for their trail difficulty ratings. Because of the big Rimrock Lake there are lots of opportunities for boating, river rafting, and camping. Trailheads to the Jeep Trails can be found along FS Rd 1000. Also, due to the remote nature of this trail network it is best to plan for a few days of camping in the area.
Gas stations are far from the trails with the nearest one a 45+ minute drive away. Look for fuel in Naches, WA or Packwood, WA. Bring spare fuel jugs to the campsite, I usually bring three 5-gal. jugs for a 3-4 day stay.
Campsites require a daily fee regardless of NW Forest Pass, verify with Naches Ranger Station.
Forest Service - Naches Ranger Station
10237 US Hwy 12
Naches, WA 98937
On the Upper Mainline trail.
On the Lower Mainline Trail, this section
got greatly rutted out over the last 14
months. Used to be much easier.
Heading uphill on the 197 trail.
On the 198 trail at the top of the ridge.
The 197 trail at the "tank trap" at the top of the trail.
The 197 trail (note, there are many other trails, I just didn't
post photos, and the 197 is the trickiest of them all at Evan's Creek).
On the Mainline trail just inside the tree line.
Jeep stuck in the mud on the Mainline trail (we should have stayed right).
Hm, who wants the tow strap the most?
Naches Pass Trail.
Toward the top of the first hill climb on the western end of the trail.
Crossing a bridge near Government Meadows close to the
pass and the Pacific Crest Trail crossing.
Crossing a bridge over some nasty mud holes the Forest Service
doesn't want people driving through anymore. This is on the Kaner
Flats trail before some steep hill climbs.
Sunset at the top of "Four Fingers" hill climb on Rocky Saddle,
part of the actual Manastash Ridge. Maybe 15 minute out
Crossing a broken bridge on the Shoe String trail.
One of the trails near Funnyrocks, looking eastward.
Funnyrocks . . . 'nuf said.
Moonrocks. . . it's like Funnyrocks but about 4 min away.
One of the outlooks halfway up the Divide Ridge trail.
Heading up one of the lower trails at Rimrock
heading TO the Divide Ridge trail.
North Cle Elum Trails.
This is the trail heading up to Galleghar Head
Lake (forgot the name of the trail).
Past the lake the trail continues on.
Nearing the top of the trail and the 6,000 ft elevation mark.
(Note, I will delete these reserved posts if I don't need them but I wanted to make sure all the trail info is grouped together without comments interspersed between sections.)
Reserved 5. :)
Great thread!!! Thanks so much for the great info & detailed links/pictures.
I did want to add that there really isn't any info on the newer Jeep Wrangler model (JK and JKU).
For those who have a JK and reading conflicting numbers:
We did do a bunch of these trails in a 2008 JKU (4 door) this last weekend for the Trail Jam and although certain sites say there is a width restriction of 75" which is right about max for the JK. A JK and JKU can do the Naches trail. However, it is strongly advised to remove the doors and hard top. If you have the soft top, lower it AND remove the plastic door brackets. The Western entrance and it's tight off-camber turns will damage a JK if you don't remove your doors/top. Even at mid-July we ran into deep snow, we got stuck as did many other CJs, TJs, YJs etc. Snow is snow.
The longer wheelbase of the JKU did have advantages on funny rocks & moon rocks. A JK can do those too (depending on driver experience, chutzpah, machismo, whether or not his new $35,000 jeep is paid for etc etc).
Anyway, wonderful places for all Jeepers. Also, give a huge shout out to the PNW4WDA for all that they do over there & their expert guidance!
I'll try and refine the info in the above posts when I have some more time and inclination. But you're right. Some info on any vehicle limits or considerations should be posted.
In general the 4x4 trails we have in the NW are best suited to narrower, not-so-big vehicles. Obviously, the Wranglers fit this, but so do the Cherokees, Grand Cherokees, Toyota compact pick-up truck based rigs, the FJ Cruiser, the old FJ40s, etc. Big and full size vehicles are just too large and would alter and change the character of the trails.
Wheelbase length is another issue. . . it helps in some areas but can be a hinderance on the tighter turns. But it's workable.
To my knowledge, however, the newly re-opened Rattlesnake Ridge trail is the only one with a width and wheelbase restriction on it.
SUper thanks! Well needed info for me. Can you take the Naches trail to like the Cle Elum area? Maybe an over night trip?
Thanks a bunch-
I should really ask from Cle Elum to Greenwater?
Re: Where To Go Offroading In Washington State
There are a lot of other places in WA state where you can go off-roading.
Here in NE WA, there's seven recognized trails in the Colville NF.
And while this thread is limited to WA state, if you come over from the west side of the state, Idaho (which is a lot more OHV-friendlier than WA) has miles of trails!
If you are unsure of what's in a particular area, you can check out the following website:
This is a "work-in-progress" as we are just now bringing it online. It is a project of the Washington Off Highway Vehicle Alliance (WOHVA: website: http://www.wohva.org/) to list on one web page ALL the areas, roads, and trails that allow 4x4, ATV, and dirt bike OHV travel. We are adding a lot of sites and once that process has been completed, we'll have a link set up so you can add/recommend other sites in WA state.
Some additional info you can merge into your posts:
The North Cle Elum trails pics - the first and second one are Fortune Creek (4w301) and the third one is Hawkins Mountain Mine trail (4w304)
Also, the DNR recently began requiring the "Discovery Pass" for all WA DNR lands. It's $10 daily/$30 annually and has a $100 fine if you don't have one.
Re: Where To Go Offroading In Washington State
There's a website set up that tells all about it and provides information about possible exemptions. Check it out here: http://www.discoverpass.wa.gov/.
There are certainly more 4x4 trails out there, not to mention other motorized trails for motorbike and ATV. I haven't been on all of them so I only put up the areas I've been and felt comfortable enough with knowledge about. Please post up more info and I'll try to get it incorporated into the begining posts (note I did "reserve" a few extra posts to go back and add/edit info).
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