Exit 38 - Snoqualmie Tunnel Loop

Time for another bike ride through the Snoqualmie Tunnel. Gary and I first did an after work mountain bike ride through the Snoqualmie Tunnel in 2005. We had a great time and so we did it again in 2007. The tunnel was closed for several years until funds were found for a renovation. It reopened in early July 2011. Late that month we did our third loop trip. The trip takes about 4 1/2 hours with photo and food breaks. We do not want to do the two mile section on I-90 in the dark. Since this trip is always midweek after work we shoot for near the latest sunset of the year. Late June is perfect. This year John, with his new mountain bike, joined us.

I met Gary and John at a wide spot on old Highway 10 off of exit 38. By 4:15 pm we were on our way. A short downhill leads to the parking lot for the Iron Horse and Twin Falls trails. A steep gravel road climbs to the railroad grade. That had our hearts pumping. Other than an easy 21 miles on the Suiattle River Road this spring I had not been on my bike since last years tunnel ride. The sign at the junction with the grade stated that we had 13 miles to ride to the tunnel.

The old railroad grade of the Iron Horse Trail is very gently graded gaining about 100' per mile. The day was warmer than forecast but still in the mid 70s. Much of our route up the grade was in shade and very pleasant riding conditions. This was definitely the best weather we have had for this ride. At the climbing wall there were a number of folks enjoying the sunshine. After that we did not see many others. Just two groups of bikers and some hikers near the tunnel. While we were right above a major intercontinental highway there is a buffer of trees most of the way. It kept out much of the noise. At first we could see Mt Defiance ahead then Bandera and later Granite Mountain through openings. There are a number of trestles too that are far above the ground.

We kept up a steady pace all the way with just stops for photos. Improvements to the trail now have campsites and bathrooms in several spots along the route. We passed the McClellan Butte trail and later the old snowshed near Humpback Creek. After that is the Annette Lake trail. At a little more than 14 miles we reached the tunnel. There are three picnic tables and a bathroom. With stops it took us just under two hours. It was now 6:15. The table in the sunshine made for a great dinner spot. Two other bikers arrived who followed our route. They were going back via the grade. We had a more interesting route ahead.

The first time Gary and I rode through the tunnel we had new three LED headlamps. Fine for walking in the dark. Not good for biking in total darkness at faster speeds with cement walls on each side. We had a tough time getting through. Since then we have used 1 watt LED headlamps with better success. Still not a lot of light but much better than that first time. This time John had a mega light attached to his bike. It took all the excitement out of the tunnel but made it much safer. We could actually see the ground well out ahead of us.  The tunnel is 2.2 miles long. Gary's thermometer read 49 degrees in the middle. A quick 20 degree drop from outside temperatures.

At the east end the sun was already gone. It was a little chilly. We manhandled our bikes up the embankment to the road at the Hyak ski area entrance. From here we had several miles of uphill to Snoqualmie Pass. It is strange to start near North Bend and approach the pass from the east side. Minimal traffic on the old highway as we headed up to the high point at the pass. That is where the fun starts. Down and under the highway then onto the old switchbacking road down to Denny Creek. The road is nicely paved and seldom used. We did not see a car going up or down. The speed limit is 35 and that was just about our high speed. We reached the Denny Creek trail lot in 8 minutes and the I-90 interchange in 15 minutes. Fast and fun.

From there we crossed about the highway and took the dirt Tiinkham Road down to exit 42. The road is slightly downhill and easy pedaling. Here we did see three or four cars and two motorcycles. Busier than I-90 as it turned out. At exit 42 we crossed the highway again for the fast downhill two miles to our exit. On the way up we saw a highway sign saying the road would be blocked in both directions for blasting at 8:00 pm. We reached the highway just after 8:30. Enough time to allow all the cars that made it through to pass on by. We had the whole highway to ourselves. One or two cars did pass by and two semis at the very end but that was it for two miles. Very nice.

We exited and had a couple easy mies downhill back to our cars arriving at about 8:45 pm. The usual 41/2 hours total time. The stats are 35 miles with about 2000' of elevation gain. As usual we had a great time. A few muscles that don't get used in hiking but not too much pain the day after. I'm sure we will be back again next June.

I just had a cellphone camera and Gary and John had real ones. Their photos were better. I have added the photographer in parenthases in each full sized photo description.

Getting Ready
13 Miles To The Tunnel
Bandera Mountain
Trestle Crossing
Jim & John
Granite Mountain
Nearing Snowshed
Dinner Time
The Snoqualmie Tunnel
Into The Darkness
Gary & Jim In Tunnel
Disembodied Gary
Up The Embankment
Rampart Ridge
Snoqualmie Pass
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2012