Naches Trail & Manastash Ridge
August 11th, 2012
Saturday was the third and final trail run for our intro-to-offroading church group. The weather was as good as one could ask: warm but not hot, with clear blue skies. Given that this would be the finale for the group we shot for an ambitious day run across the Naches Trail and then up and over Manastash Ridge. We would leave at 7am from the Bothell, WA area and return at midnight.
We met and fueled up in Enumclaw, WA, then convoyed on Hwy 410 to the town of Greenwater and up Forest Service Road 70. Along the way we saw a whole bunch of other Jeeps out for the day with several heading in our direction. And as we arrived at the end of pavement where we started to air down we ran into my Jeep club. It was a pleasant welcome to the morning as we chatted with everyone while prepping the Jeeps for the trail.
The rest of the club finished before we did so we said our goodbyes as they rolled out. 15 minutes later it was our turn to head out. Up the Naches Trail we went. For those that don't know, the Naches Trail is a historic wagon train route dating back to 1853. And it is the only Jeep 4x4 trail that I know that crosses the Cascade Mountains into eastern Washington. Starting at the lower, western end of the trail we climbed up several steep, rutted sections of trail. The first few climbs all the Jeeps handled without issue. There was my rig that was slightly built up, but then we had two stock Jeeps on all-terrain tires. The only difficulty for the day came about 15 minutes into the trail when we were working our way through a wet, muddy rutted section that cross through two up ended tree root balls.
The low belly clearance of the stock rigs combined with the slick trail conditions and the all-terrain tread meant the two Jeeps really had to work it to get through this section of trail. One made it but I needed to drag the other through with the use of a tow strap. Once past this we'd have no further difficulty the rest of the day.
As we neared the Naches Pass our group stopped at Government Meadows and had lunch inside the log cabin there. By this point the day was getting hot and it was pleasantly cool in the cabin. My 4 yr old son had a good time exploring the structure as we ate. Just before we finished anther party had arrived at the cabin, it's open for public use on a first-come-first serve basis. The new arrivals were interested in camping out in it over night and had come to claim it. They politely waited as we finished lunch and cleaned up, then we headed back to the Jeeps that were parked at the edge of the meadow and rolled out again.
Five minutes later at the eastern end of Government meadows the Jeeps were driving up and over the wood bridging over the marshy areas. Then we hit a gravel road. At this point, in the interest of time, we said goodbye to the Naches Trail and cut out on the road. We had driven the most interesting and challenging half of the Naches and cutting out on the gravel road at this point would save us about 2 hrs. 15 minutes later we were back on pavement on FS Rd 19 and we cruised down that at a leisurely pace as it followed the Little Naches River down the valley. A few miles from its intersection with Hwy 410 again we headed up the Kaner Flats trail.
Kaner is one of my favorites because of the several steep hill climb sections. It's a trail that takes you into the heart of the Manastash Ridge ORV trail network by climbing up the side of Manastash Ridge. At points along the way you can look back over the valley for some beautiful views. The trail conditions were dry and dusty and all the Jeeps had good traction motoring up hill for the next hour or so. When we approached Ardvark Hill, the second and last major hill climb, we heard chatter over the CB radios. Turns out it was my Jeep club again. They were still about 20 minutes ahead of us at Lily Pond Lake. We said hello and then pressed on ourselves up Ardvark Hill. My club was heading off to Quartz Mt. and we would be heading in the opposite direction to Funnyrocks.
I took the steeper route at Ardvark hill. It's getting interesting because in addition to the steepness there is a challenging ledge to climb up about the halfway mark where a root has been dug out into a 2 ft step. After one attempt by one of the other Jeeps, both of them took the bypass to the right which zig-zagged up to the top of the hill.
15 minutes after reaching the top of this section we came out of the woods along Lily Pond Lake ourselves. And we picked up more CB radio chatter from my club again. They were almost to the top of Manastash Ridge to the west of us. We set off to the east, dropping down several steep sections on our way to FS Rd 1708. The lower half of 1708 had been washed out two years ago. It's slated for repair but that hasn't happened yet and the route we took is the only one that can reach the upper sections which would save us a bunch of travel time. This was the most direct way to Funnyrocks, our destination for the day if we had one. The alternate way would have been to follow my club members to the west and loop around on Shoestring Trail but we didn't have enough time for that.
The upper half of Rd 1708 is starting to get interesting. Several years ago the Forest Service decided to let it deteriorate into a Jeep trail since they didn't want to maintain it anymore. As a result there are several sections of the gravel road that have been sloughing down the mountain and there are several ledges in the road to negotiate. They weren't too difficult and we cruised up to the terminus of 1708 at the base of the Four Fingers hill climb. The going was super dusty up to the top of Manastash Ridge but we all made it. I had an interesting time of it as stopped half way up to snap a picture of one of the Jeeps. Unfortunately, the dust cloud I was leading caught up with me and engulfed the Jeep. Trying to get moving again the rocks on the hillclimb just rolled under my tires like marbles. So I had to back off the throttle to let the tires get some traction again.
Three minutes away from Funnyrocks we happened upon a broken down Samurai. The fuel pump had gone out on it but the drivers were just finishing repairs on it. They lashed down a jerry can on the hood, then ran a siphone from there down to the carburator. And it worked. They fired the beastie right up but then got out of our way to let us through.
It was 5pm when we reached Funnyrocks. We spent some time there playing in the rocks and trying different lines before heading to the other side of the meadow to check out Moonrocks. The Jeeps had good traction on the sandstone-like rock outcroppings. Alex had a good time piloting his stock Wrangler all over the place. Shortly after 6pm we noticed the time as the sun's rays were slanting down at a shallow angle and decided it was time to head out.
Our group backtracked a little to the top of the Four Fingers hill climb, then continued on the Tripod Flats trail. Lots of bumping and bouncing later we reached the flats and stopped for dinner at the hunting shelter. Another older couple were staying there for the week and let us use a picnick table there. They were a nice couple and we got to talking to them after dinner. It turns out the husband is a pastor of a church in the Bellingham area ministering to the biker community up there.
At 8pm we said our goodbyes and rolled out. We pretty much flew over the last section of the Tripod Flats trail, trying to beat the setting sun and get off the trail before nightfall. And we just made it. We exited at the isolated and deserted Manastash Campground. Since the spring floods wiped out sections of the Manastash Road two years ago the only way in and out of the Manastash Campground is on Jeep trails. We weren't planning to stay here but instead used a portion of the Manastash Road between the wash outs to get to the Buck Meadows trail where we could cross on its bridging over Manastash Creek. This was the last (and easiest) trail we would run this day. The next hour was spend driving on the gravel forest service roads, heading northward on FS Rd 3330 to the Taneum Campground and an exit to I-90 on Taneum Rd.
We did our final road prep on pavement, in the dark under the stars. It was a great day of wheel'n and we had covered a lot of territory. Two hours later we were rolling back through the Bothell area at midnight. It was a long day but a good day! I hope to see very one again on future runs.
Click here for photo album.
Starting up the Naches at the western trailhead.
Driving past the two big root balls at the muddy section.
Cresting the last major hill climb on the western Naches
with a view out over the Cascade foothill looking westward.
My son exploring the cabin's loft during out lunch break.
Back on the trail again we crossed some marshy areas via
some bridging to the east of Government Meadows.
Using the new bridging on the Kaner Flats trail about halfway up the mountain.
Working my way up Ardvark Hill on the Kaner Flats trail.
Trying to take a photo of Alex on the dusty Four Fingers hill
climb near the top of Manastash Ridge. Don't stop!
Fellow offroaders jurry rigging a jerry can to replace the
broken fuel pump with a gravity fed system.
We finally reached Funnyrocks by later afternoon.
Watching another Jeeper tackle The Crack at Funnyrocks.
The Crack at Funnyrocks.
My son had a great time exploring the rock formations while we were there.
Alex taking a line down the rocks at Funnyrocks.
Preparing to drop off a modest ledge at Funnyrocks.
Exploring Funnyrocks in my Yellow TJ.
Maneuvering into a crevasse at Funnyrocks.
Doing some light rock crawling at Funnyrocks.
After Funnyrocks we head over to Moonrocks to check that area out for a little bit.
My son and I got out on foot to explore some of the canyons
cut into the sandstone formations.
Group photo perched over at Moonrocks.
Dropping down Tripod Flats Trail on our way out to the North.
Descending the Tripod Flats Trail on the way to
Tripod Flats and out last meal stop of the day.
Looking out over the Manastash Creek watershed as wecome down
the north side of Manastash Ridge heading home.