Sometimes hiking in the Pacific Northwest is about pie… yes pie.

In an effort to shake off the cobwebs of winter and get ready for an early summer trek around Mount Rainier on the 90 mile Wonderland Trail, I have been doing weekly hikes in the wilds within an hour of Seattle. This weekend’s training hike took me to the Iron Horse Trail and down to Twin Falls. Although this is not a particularly difficult hike from an elevation point of view, it did provide the distance I was looking for as I ramp-up to daily 12-14 mile legs for the Wonderland.

Iron Horse Trail
Restrooms and the trailhead are clean and well maintained. Photo by Sheri Goodwin.

The Iron Horse Trail is a wide, well-maintained trail and is good for families or chatting friends that want to walk four abreast. The trail is also a good, flat ride for mountain bikers or kids just learning to pedal. There are several ways to get to Twin Falls, but if you want a worthy effort, take exit 32 just east of North Bend and follow Cedar Falls Road for approximately 3 miles like you’re going to Rattle Snake Lake.

Now here is secret #1… the day I went, the Rattle Snake Lake parking area was full, and cars were lined up along the road; however, just past the Rattle Snake Lake parking area on the other side of the road was the nearly empty Iron Horse parking lot with immaculately clean restrooms.

The Pacific Northwest Railroad Boom and Bust

Iron Horse Trail
Silk arriving from China in western ports was transported by rail to eastern manufacturing centers. Photo by Sheri Goodwin.
Iron Horse Trail
Snow in the passes had to be cleared by members of the snow gang. Photo by Sheri Goodwin.

The Iron Horse Trail is just a short jaunt from the parking area and will take you 4.5 miles (9 round trip) to Twin Falls, crossing the scenic Boetzke Creek Trestle Bridge.

Ready for secret #2… read about the history of the railroad before hitting the trail. The Iron Horse Trail is part of the old Chicago-Milwaukee-St. Paul-Pacific Railroad line that operated from 1908 – 1980 and played a major role in the economic development of the area and the Far East silk trade. The trail now extends more than 100 miles from Cedar Falls to the Columbia River. I didn’t read the historical material at the trailhead until I came back, and the hike was diminished because of it. Read the material and then imagine the big iron horses forging the wild Pacific Northwest and 100 man snow crews clearing mountain track in the dead of winter. You can almost hear the voices.

On the Trail

Iron Horse Trail
Trailhead distance sign to Twin Falls and other destinations. Photo by Sheri Goodwin.
Iron Horse Trail
Catch the dramatic views and falls from the middle of the Boetzke Creek Trestle Bridge. Photo by Sheri Goodwin.
Iron Horse Trail
Trails are wide and well maintained, great for group hikes and mountain biking. Photo by Sheri Goodwin.

The trail to the falls branches off of the Iron Horse Trail at around the 3.6 mile mark. The Twin Falls trail is .9 miles and is a fairly steep mix of rock, dirt and stairs. At the bottom of the hill, the trail opens into beautiful forests and the falls can be heard rushing just ahead of you. If you brought lunch, there are some good benches on the trail or comfy spots just off the trail. Be careful of the chipmunks, they want lunch, too, and they’re wicked fast. The falls are majestic, cooling after a hard hike and well worth the effort to get to them.

Iron Horse Trail
Stairs and bridges lead the way to Twin Falls viewpoints. Photo by Sheri Goodwin

After the Hike

For me, hiking the Great Northwest is more than the breath taking views and literally breath-taking exercise, it’s also about seeing and spending time in the small communities that often surround our national treasures.

So, here is secret #3… on the way back to I-90 from the Iron Horse, you have to stop at the Riverbend Café for the homemade pies. I can’t tell you anything about the rest of the menu, because as soon as I stepped into the restaurant I saw and smelled the pies, and I wanted nothing else. Yes, I am one of those people that think desert is the whole point of the meal, but, even if you aren’t like me, you’ll appreciate the warm flaky crust that melts in your mouth and the fresh Washington fruit filling. I got mine a la Mode, but the pie is so good it can stand alone on the plate. I simply can’t tell you the last time I had pie this good. Coupled with a good cup of coffee and a friendly staff, the Riverbend Café is a must after a long day on the Iron Horse Trail.

Iron Horse Trail
Don’t miss the great pie and friendly atmosphere of the Riverbend Café. Photo by Sheri Goodwin.

Resources

Riverbend Café
14303 436th Ave SE
North Bend, WA

Washington Parks Iron Horse website: (http://www.parks.wa.gov/521/Iron-Horse)

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