Welcome to trails in trouble


 

This is the RidgeRat site's ongoing endangered trails list — may it someday be pointless and unnecessary.

What you will find here is a listing of trails in the central Washington State area that are in danger of becoming inaccessible, unusable, or obliterated due to a number of possible reasons: natural disasters, accrued damage from neglect, deliberate destruction, mineral or timber mining, inappropriate use, or even simple overcrowding. Endangered trails might be listed here because:

  • they are within areas covered by this site
  • they came to the notice of RidgeRat
  • they are not listed in the comprehensive public WTA directory of "troubled trails" (cynical joke, get it?)
  • there are indications of reasonably good condition at one time
  • at one time officially acknowledged or supported
  • currently or at one time described in surveys, registers, trip reports, maps, guide books, etc.

What you will not find here is:

  • comprehensive coverage
  • any guarantee that information is up-to-the-minute current
  • holy writ — verify the details for yourself
  • restricted routes on private land
  • cross-country scrambling or mountaineering approach routes, such as those documented in the Beckey guides
  • routes that, though officially unmaintained and primitive, are doing just fine by themselves, thank you very much

Quick Links for this page:

 


 

1 Middle Fork Snoqualmie area

  • Granite Lakes

    Maybe pessimistic. The DNR is proud of their trail development project, which consisted of "naturalizing" (mangling) miles of a stable historical timber access road with a back hoe. This could settle back to semblance of stability again, or turn into an erosion nightmare when a new cycle of neglect kicks in. Only time will tell.

  • Marten Lake

    Too fragile to survive too much attention, too expensive to build and maintain a safe trail, sometimes too unpleasant tolerate. Unclear which way this might go, but the future is tenuous.

  • Rainy Lake

    I visited this lake a couple years before construction of the suspension foot bridge across the Middle Fork River. A steep, slippery climb to a minor pond with an intriguing sunken boulder field — but too full of algae for my taste. For reasons I don't quite understand, some people love that little lake. The historical midforc.org site, now defunct, railed about how renegades had "constructed" an unauthorized trail. However, it should be noted that a book of prophecy "Washington Maps and Gazeteer", published by DeLorme Mapping Company in the early 1980's, illustrated the exact preordained route the renegades would establish. Either that, or maybe the Middle Fork enthusiasts, um, got their story a little bit wrong. A bigger mystery, with so much gushing and overbuilding everywhere else in the valley, why not just fix it up officially and properly?

  • Nordrum Lake

    The reconstructed Snoqualmie Lake trail, now much less interesting but so much easier to travel, gets the lion's share of the attention, while Nordrum doesn't even get the fox's share. I fear that the next minor rock slide or timber fall event will be a sufficient rationalization for conveniently forgetting this slightly obscure, once lovely trail.

  • Rock Creek

    The Snow Lake trail was once the center of serious conflict between trail stock on the Pacific Crest Trail system and heavy local foot traffic. Once the PCT was rerouted to Kendall Peaks, the magnificently-constructed trail from Snow Lake down into the Middle Fork River valley was discarded. There are some rough places, with plenty of brush, but otherwise much of it remains in prime condition. A shame to see this deteriorate. The roaring creeks funneling down the rock walls into the deep and lonely valley is impressive, as are the places where the wide trail tread is reduced to a carpet of moss.

  • Dutch Miller Trail

    Never easy, this rude miner-carved endurance trail was once the darling of Youth Conservation Corp kid-teams. What harm could they possibly do after the legacy of the hard-core miners? Today, with 7.5 miles of hiking just to reach the trailhead, the days of any sort of maintenance, frivolous or otherwise, are likely over. Sad to lose this historically significant area with magical secrets.

2 Bandera Plateau area

  • Pratt Lake to Pratt River

    After 80 years, the only attention this amazing little piece of trail down into the Pratt River Valley really needs is a little firming-up at a couple of mushy spots. While the seriously damaged forest along the river will never be anything like its original glory, the "river" is just a friendly creek here, in a comfortable and very quiet hollow amid a mix of spindly hardwoods and conifers. How many more decades of neglect can this trail survive? Maybe many, but the trail's demise seems both inevitable and unfortunate, despite being one of only two points of access to the Pratt Valley addition to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

3 North Fork Snoqualmie area

  • Sunday Lake

    This 3 mile trip, once recommended for young families because of the short distance, smooth grade, and a refreshing creek splash, should now be considered difficult and dangerous. Rather negligent land and road management bottled water on the south side of the North Fork county road, causing the trailhead access road 5720 to be swamped about 12" deep in muck — definitely uncomfortable to cross. A ford of Sunday Creek can be dangerous during spring runoff season. Otherwise, the rest of the trail is a casual cake-walk to a cool and quiet lake camp on historical 4-wheel road grade, now overrun by brush and rockslides.

  • Dog Mountain

    "The bridge at Bear Creek won't support heavy equipment, so don't go there... got that?" Well, the county road equipment was eventually extracted from the bridge, which remains forever broken. The few remaining bridge fragments are trivially bypassed on foot, but vehicles must stop. That makes almost no difference, adding a mile and a half of smooth, quick, comfortable foot travel (reminiscent of the Taylor River road-to-trail, only better) to reach the Dog Mountain trailhead. The total distance to the ridge and its unique snow-polished slabs is still only 5 miles. So why is this tough but rewarding hike (featured hike in the classic 100 Hikes) now relegated to un-history? I don't get it.

  • Bear Creek Basin

    This minor, half-mile fork from the Bare Mountain Lookout trail (spelling is correct, oddly enough) provides an adventurous side trip to historical relics at a failed mining operation. At one time, this side-trip was The Trail — the incessant switchbacks to the lookout site on the ridge top were built later. Removing the old lookout box made some sense; abandoning the historic original trail makes none.

4 Snoqualmie Summit area

  • "Old Crest" Commonwealth / Goat Creek

    Prior to the current PCT section on Kendall Peak, thru-hikers could avoid the ugly traffic jams on the Snow Lake leg of the trail via this more tenuous, but much shorter foot trail over Commonwealth Pass, down along Goat Creek, and from there to the private Goldmeier Hot Springs — where PCT traffic was not particularly welcome. The trail has not been maintained for decades and is in poor shape today. Perhaps losing this hazardous trail is a good thing, to give the resident goats some peace?

5 Kachess Highlands area

  • West "Little" Kachess

    How is it possible for that high bridge above Box Canyon Creek to be lost? I'm sure there is a story to be told, but if you can surmount that problem the trail high above the Kachess reservoir is mostly quite good, except for a couple of sandy washes with barely a hand-width of trail tread left. Do you feel well-balanced and lucky? The Forest Service has no interest fixing this, because trailhead access conflicts with the orderly money stream at the campground pay station. ("What do you mean, you don't want to use either the camping or picnic areas? Is there a trailhead?") I have seen reports that the bridge across Box Creek is out, which would be a major loss. Also, note that reaching the trail from the other end, at the Mineral Creek connector trail, requires fording the Kachess River, which can be intimidating or worse in certain times of the year.

  • Kachess Crest loop

    After a trivial ford to the east side of Silver Creek from the Silver Creek trailhead area, this trail follows the creek upstream to the western fringe of Easton Ridge, and from there straight up. A day loop, smooth but long and adventurous, stays mostly on the ridgeline except for contouring across one small meadow on a west-side slope. At South Peak meadows, pass the junction of the North Peak trail, cross the face of West Peak, and climb on firm trail over a lesser ridge to drop down to Silver Creek. All of this has been off the maintenance radar for decades.

  • French Cabin Creek

    This once-easy access trail to the Kachess Ridge trail, with connections to Silver Creek to the south and Thorp Mountain to the north, was nearly buried with clearcut logging debris. Today, it is likely jammed with scrubby and miserable uncontrolled regrowth, with future maintenance unlikely.

  • North Peak

    This trail was great once, but after being chopped by logging roads, then gated closed, the trailhead was forgotten. Except for the lack of access, this short ridgetop trail might be in decent condition.

  • Little Joe Lake

    Up a short trail, to a woodsy camp by a marshy nonspectacular pond. A good place to let youngsters go wild, nobody to bother there, and little to damage given prevailing conditions. Well, forget it. A nasty web of large downed trees presents serious obstacles to the ascent (barely passable by goats). Beyond the lake, the continuing loop trail west up the ridge circles across across to Thorpe Lookout, nice trail except for the unobstructed views down to devastated checkerboard clearcuts. No wonder the USFS would prefer that you don't see this place.

  • Red Mountain trail

    From the Little Joe trail just short of the lake, this deteriorating but still detectable trail in a tangle of small fallen trees heads directly to the Red Mountain summit, then over and back down following a rocky crease to the Cooper River road. Described partially in Hidden Hikes; definitely in bad condition, and virtually gone in places.

6 Teanaway area

Trails snaking up to peaks of the Wenatchee Mountain range, with sparking creeks, falls, and panoramic views of the Stuart Batholith — all tying to the Ingalls Creek Trail as a central hub. Ingalls Creek Trail is obviously in no danger, with three (count 'em!) WTA maintenance projects that I know about in the last so many years — from my surveys, that's roughly one work party per fallen tree. But the "Washington Trails" magazine finally (Sept. 2017, p8) explained all. The reason for the astounding effort: upgrading" the trail to horse standards. Bizarre as it seems, WTA famous for this sort of thing. They can have their work party equipment and amenities packed in for them, while everybody else copes with the hoof-chopped tread, stink-piles, fouled creeks, and elk hunters that outnumber the elk... Meanwhile, virtually all connecting trails remain cynically disregarded.

  • Falls Creek

    The trail appears to be reasonably intact up to the avalanche valley 3/4 miles from the pass on the shoulder of Navaho Peak, but effectively missing from that point onward.

  • Cascade Creek

    A gorgeous trail, extremely busy — if you count the elk. Otherwise, switchbacks in the middle portion of the trail and a traverse just below the rim of the descending lower trail are failing, and few dare to go here. It would be trivial to restore, but not to the usual WTA equestrian standards, so you know what isn't going to happen.

  • Hardscrabble Creek

    Portions of the upper trail in hard rock country seem to be gone — lost forever? I need a second opinion about this one.

  • Fourth Creek

    Due to moderate grade, and a connection to the short, accessible, and busy Beverly Creek trail, there is a chance that this trail is OK. But given appearances at the two ends, I doubt it.

  • Turnpike Creek

    Most of this trail is a stony wash, seriously broken by horses. Ironically, that appears to be why the trail remains passable, even if it is more like a glacial moraine than a trail.

The Jolly Mountain burn in 2017 blistered a cluster of trails, and we really don't know what the full impact will be. I have listed trails in the burn zone as at risk for this reason alone. Depending on how little is done, that classification could prove premature, but the outlook is poor.

  • Howson Creek

  • Sasse Ridge

  • Yellow Hill

  • West Fork Teanaway

  • Middle Fork Teanaway

  • Way Creek

  • Elbow Peak

  • Malcolm Mountain

  • Johnson Creek

  • Jolly Mountain

The following trails were already in a world of hurt even before the fire hit them.

  • Jolly Mountain to Middle Fork Teanaway Bypass

    Maps or not, the actual existence of this trail is subject to debate.

  • Jolly Creek

    Prior to the fire, this trail was already devastated by motorcycle wheels. Absolutely miserable, the most horrendous case of motorcycle gully damage I've ever seen, reducing the trail to a 4-foot deep V-gully. Basically it's like walking a tightrope, heel to toe, because actual foot placement is not an option. Though unusable, this is a trail that is not going away soon. Avoid if you possibly can. Please USFS, keep this trail at least partially intolerable, to discourage the wheels, which should never have been allowed in the first place.

  • Lake Ann

    The southern end of the trail from Esmiralda Basin is probably adequate, but the other half, while still present in pieces, was likely broken and abandoned on purpose to contain razzers on the Van Eps Pass side.

7 Cle Elum River area

This is an area of strange contrasts, with trails desperately in need of attention, and trailheads dramatically insufficient, choked with people trying to crowd onto a few major trails popularized by the usual guidebooks.

  • Trail Creek

    Nothing whatsoever wrong with this trail, just off the radar and therefore vulnerable. The two shin-deep fords of the Waptus River to reach the PCT are not to be feared.

  • Goat Mountain / Lake Michael

    The higher, far-end part of this trail remains delightful; unfortunately, the switchbacks ascending from the junction at Trail Creek have been scraped off the mountain by irresponsibly managed horsie-hooves, making the climb miserable. Now that nobody has enough room to park horse trailers at the trailheads (taking up the space of at least 6 passenger vehicles each), this once-active equine highway is fading fast.

  • Spinola Meadow Side Trail

    The glaciers left a well-exfoliated rocky lump; the PCT was rerouted to the far side of the lump to keep meadow moisture off the boot soles. Probably not a bad idea in general, but the fine old meadow-side route and glorious camps, once shown on Green Trails maps, are fading.

  • Spinola Meadow Connector

    This cross link between Trail Creek directly over the ridge to the gorgeous Spinola Meadows was once "the PCT". Narrow and steep, and now add rough and stony, it is easy to see the motivation for the horse-friendly PCT switchbacks from Deep Lake up to Cathedral Rock. After that construction, decades ago, the old route was immediately abandoned, and its days are numbered.

  • Cathedral Crest

    Once the only way (and a fabulous one) to get to the Peggy's Pond area was to leave the Spinola Meadow Connector trail at the top of the ridge, then follow the ridge top to Cathedral Rock and beyond to the cabin site below the lake. Trail and cabin are both in ruins, but sparse bits of ridge-top trail and some fabulous views are worth a short diversion from the main PCT route.

  • Davis Peak

    This well-built lookout trail was once a tiring but very rewarding day trip. The rapid succession from large valley pines to alpine conifers is remarkable. Views are incredible, over Lake Terence and across the Waptus Valley to Cone and Bear's Breast Mountains. Apparently, it's too much elevation for maintainers to handle. This will go from a very good trail to a very miserable one after it is broken and dangerous.

Just north of the Cle Elum reservoir near the Salmon LaSac recreation areas, trails with seemingly abundant support (expensive horse facilities at roadside trailheads) were already in trouble. See reviews in Hidden Hikes. Though barely spared from the Jolly Mountain burn, expect these trails to be rough, overgrown, obscured, unmarked, and inconsistent with maps.

  • Big Boulder Creek

  • Paris Creek

  • Salmon LaSac Creek

Generally, trails further up the Cle Elum river valley, running up the ridge eastward toward Teanaway country, are fading. That does not apply, of course, to areas actively thrashed by invasive species such as motorcycles. The general rule is: expect no trailhead, no parking, no trail markers, vexing access restrictions, and completely inadequate maps.

  • Van Eps Pass / Van Eps Creek

    Roads. Motorcycles. You know the rest. Old Green Trails and USGS maps disagree about trail routes on both sides of the ridge. Expect motorcycle damage far beyond legal boundaries at the machine-overridden Van Eps mine site. Delicate cleanup by tactical nuke might mitigate the motorcycle damage. On rare occasions, the Forest Service admits existence of the continuing trail down to Jack Creek, without knowing its route.

  • Scatter Creek

    The handwriting is on the wall for this one. Green Trails maps long ago dropped the final leg up to Solomon Pass.

  • Solomon Creek

    Once shown on Green Trails maps, and featured in 100 Hikes, this followed the north bank of the creek down the east side of the pass into the Jack Creek valley. The Jack Ridge fire of 2017 might have destroyed (or uncovered!) the eastern terminus.

8 Skykomish area

  • Miller River

    This 4.4 mile road/trail extends from the site of the West Fork Miller River Camp (long abandoned of course) along the West Fork Miller River (actually a rather minor creek), past smooth-washed stones and sparkling pools. There are numerous mining relics to explore high up the valley. Parking is now cut off by a huge boulder. And the reason for cutting off access... is baffling.

  • Big Heart to Chetwoot Lake

    We pretend that the West Fork Foss trail stops at Big Heart Lake. Anybody who has ever been there know that the High Route continues as a legitimate trail far beyond that, but conditions get very sketchy in pieces along this grand ridge-top trail. The cute and highly effective switchbacks descending the east side of the rib down to Little Chetwoot Lake are now so obscure that they are rarely found — and the "obvious" off-trail route is dangerous.

  • Rock Lake

    Once this was a feature in 100 Hikes. I loved it. Why exactly must we now pretend that this steep but lovely 3-mile hike, on firm tread, does not exist? (While the unspectacular 0.5 mile trail to Evans Lake does?) Is the old log "landing site" that now serves as a highly suitable trailhead, with a sweeping view over sprawling clearcuts, too much of an embarrassments?

  • Deception - Mt. Sawyer Connector

    Two cuts across the trail by unmaintained logging roads on the south slopes of Mt. Sawyer — I suppose these are enough reason to forget about this easy, seldom-visited connector trail between Deception Creek and the popular Sawyer Pass area of the Tonga Ridge Trail.

  • Deception Creek

    Visitors are impressed by the Deception Creek falls, below the trailhead at the highway rest stop. But spring thaws make for some intensive runoff events. The weak bridges and trail structures further up the valley are not going to stand the strain for long, and that will be that.

9 Surprise area

  • Deception Lakes to Surprise Gap

    A massive WTA effort was put into rebuilding this previously abandoned piece of trail. With the point being... what exactly? That piece of trail was never in trouble and never out of balance with its level of use. Now who knows? Redirecting unwary hikers to Surprise Gap, and from there to the unstable washes on the other side rather than the USFS-preferred route via Pieper Pass on the PCT, all seems generally ill-advised. Meanwhile, the historical trail leading to large-group hiker and horse camps at the east end of the largest Deception Lake was obliterated, along with the historical sign pointing to there. That should help to increase crowding and damage on the west side of the lakes where the PCT passes, motivating more make-work WTA activities. Sometimes you just have to wonder.

10 Beckler/Skykomish River area

Thanks to the washout (permanent most likely) of the major access road into the Upper Skykomish area, all of the trails except for Blanca Lake now face abandonment. At present, access seems available to the Quartz Creek / West Cady trailhead, but expect deteriorating conditions and eventual abandonment.

  • Quartz Creek to Curry Gap

    Firm enough, short enough, and leading to a small but sufficiently hearty meadow for grazing horses. Now that the roads are too treacherous for transporting horses there, I expect this trail to be quickly forgotten.

  • Bald Eagle

    When Quartz Creek goes, this trail goes with it.

  • Little Blue Lake

    Dependent on maintenance of the Bald Eagle trail.

  • West Cady Ridge

    The first parts of this dry trail might survive, up to the first ridge spur, but maintenance is unlikely the rest of the way to Benchmark Mountain and the PCT. Once dry but very comfortable hiking.

  • North Fork Skykomish River

  • Pass Creek

A once vigorous trail system from the Beckler River to the Cascade Crest, now a victim of the accursed "checkerboard" that resulted from the illegal gifting of public land to the railroads. Unfortunately, Forest Service efforts to mitigate damage and preserve the trails — well, that pretty much dropped with the trees. As a result, a trail system that once spanned more than 50 miles has now dwindled down to about 12, in chunks.

  • Johnson Ridge / Scorpion Mountain
    There is never adequate money for keeping trailhead access roads maintained after "multiple use" has finished clearing trees. Once the road deteriorates sufficiently, its fate will be the same as the others, and this trail will be forgotten casually and quickly, even if it is currently very popular.

  • Alpine Baldy

  • Kelly Creek

    Apparently, there are local enthusiasts out there who are nipping away at the encroaching brush in an attempt — futile? — to keep this trail open. For shame! (Hey, keep up the good work, and don't expect the WTA to stop by any time soon.) Still endangered, with future road access indeterminate.

  • North Crest Cutoff

  • Evergreen Mountain

  • Rapid River

  • Meadow Creek to Fortune Ponds

    Either road or trail non-maintenance could kill off the last remains of this classic trail.

11 Upper Icicle area

  • Upper Icicle Valley

    Unclear whether rock slide damage will mean the end of the trail up to Josephine Lake from the head of the valley.

  • Frosty Creek

    After failure of the Frosty Creek bridge across Icicle Creek, the two added miles to reach the rerouted Frosty Creek trail put this once popular trail beyond the reach of too many visitors. Now the next bridge is starting to fail, and anything could happen, or not. A program to leave massive fallen trees across the trail is well entrenched and could signal the end.

  • Leland Lake

    Such a long way... and it's another trail on the wrong side of the failing bridge. This trail tends to degenerate into a toothpick pile — except with gigantic toothpicks. Even if the Boy Scouts love this trail (oops, political correctness, make that the "Scouts BSA"), expect that one day there will be one toothpick too many.

  • Doelle / Frosty Ridge trail

    This wonderful little trail has only one hazard: a confusing detour to nowhere just north of a small creeklet near the ridge crossing. It would be easy to fix, but won't be. It has been a shame watching this lovely and relatively resilient trail deteriorate over the years.

12 Chiwaukum area

  • Battle Canyon / Badlands Trail

    One of my favorites, once an unexpectedly easy trail with phenomenal views over Battle Canyon and Painter Creeks. The entire trail appears to be seriously scorched from the very hot Chiwaukum fire complex. If not completely gone already, this trail is likely to be forgotten. A real shame.

  • Deadhorse Pass

    This side trail is becoming harder to find, and even harder to follow, despite being relatively free of obstructions.

  • Glacier Basin Trail

    Unmaintained for many years, condition unknown.

13 Icicle Ridge area

  • Index Creek

    About to be choked by slide alder brush in steep lower reaches, about to disappear in meadows, about to be washed away at the upper end. Great other than that.

  • Painter Creek

    Amazingly beautiful trail, but about to fade out as it meanders back and forth across the creek in thick meadow brush. The lower end of the hanging valley dropping to Chiwaukum Creek might be in trouble because of fire-caused soil instability.

  • Icicle Ridge / Cabin Creek to Leavenworth

    Trail is obscure to gone much of the way. Some portions with fire damage likely worse. Condition of water sources such as the spring at Fourth of July unknown.

14 French-Blackjack area

  • French Creek backdoor

    The USFS would like to abandon it. Dry, stony in places, but easy to follow, hardly as bad as trails in this area get. There are two serious log-falls. Two. There are some annoying small logs in the lower trail. One of the best trails in the French Creek area. Outrageous that this should be lost over so little.

  • Klonaqua Lakes

    The boot-hacked scramble climbs up out of the creek to bypass collapsed trail. It might last a while, but it is never going to get proper repair because it can't withstand horses. The only reason it is kept open at all is so that the water impoundments can be operated. After automated gate controls are installed, perhaps the passage of boots will not remain sufficient to keep this classic trail open.

  • Snowall Creek

    Great trail. Fantastic place. But if you don't know exactly where you are going, when you run into the creek wash at the end of the valley, you might be out of luck for continuing to Cradle Lake.

  • Blackjack Ridge

    Passable up the ridge on one end, passable down the ridge on the other. A sweet little camp just short of Pablo Creek. The other six miles are a serious mess with unthinned regrowth after fire. Always was a navigation and bush-beating challenge, maybe now too brutal?

  • French Creek Pass to Meadow Creek

    Great classic trail on both ends, but horrific brush in the middle. Beware, you might need to follow a wash down the west edge of the Meadow Creek Meadows to connect between the official and actual trail.

  • Trout Lake - Meadow Creek Connector

    This is a great trail over the ridge, much easier than you would expect given the horse-friendly grade. Clean-up would be easy, but under present conditions with fallen trees at approximately 50 yard intervals for the entire distance, the effort is discouraging.

15 Enchantments area

  • Enchantments core

    Fuggeddaboudit. Lost forever to Enchantments Incorporated. You have no chance of going there unless you know the off-trail backdoors, or are in an investment pool that can stack your lottery odds.

16 Nason Ridge area

  • Nason Ridge - Rainy Pass to west ridge

    Conditions previously bad, as reported in Hidden Hikes. Probably worse since that publication.

  • Merritt Creek to Rock Lake

    Minor problems could easily turn into major ones here. The trail seems to vanish at a large fallen tree obliterating a switchback, not far from the junction with the busy Merritt Lake trail. That obstruction leaves most would-be visitors baffled, though a dedicated bearing-follower can find a way around without too much difficulty. It would be trivial to fix, but obviously that won't happen. Passage across the watery Royal Creek basin requires route-finding skill. There is a treacherous wash area near Rock Lake. Most of the trail is in fine shape, but the lack of maintenance is a bad omen.

  • Snowy Creek

    Bicycles have found this trail. Anticipate that it will be shredded and then forgotten. The Snowy Creek to Rainy Pass branch of this trail is miserably brushy.

17 Little Wenatchee area

  • Blue Lake

    It could be argued that there is no need for this trail, given that the route via June Mountain and Little Blue Lake is in much better shape. Yes, it's good if you have time for the roundabout 3.7 miles, and if the usual snow-filled chutes aren't too crazy dangerous for you. The tough 1.3 mile alternate is barely viable at present, as natural erosion continues taking its toll.

  • Poets Ridge

    The deteriorating conditions discourage wheels, which is perhaps a blessing, but conditions are bad enough that hikers can't follow the trails either. For example: The Poe Mountain access trail from the Little Wenatchee trailhead appears to peter out at a high meadow — but that is actually a secondary side-track. The junction to the main Poet Ridge trail, about 0.2 miles below, is hidden in brush.

  • Cockeye Creek

    Listed in 100 Hikes as a secondary connection between Poet's Ridge and Panther Creek (which is already in serious trouble in the White River area). Only fragments of this trail are known to still exist.

18 White River area

All trails in this area are in trouble.

  • White River Valley

    This trail has had serious brush issues. A treacherous ford remains, high up the valley, because you know the foot bridge there was not and never will be replaced. There are many miles. The USFS officially describes it as: non-existent and extremely brushy in sections, not recommended for travel... Face it, there is little hope for saving this classic long trail.

  • Boulder Pass

    This is the best and last passable route to the harsh and stunning Napeequa River valley. Even if you stop at the pass, the high camps are great, the views spectacular. But it is still 10 miles of trail, not counting the damaged access road. Maintenance is abandoned. A tragic loss.

  • Mount David

    Probably the most challenging hike in the area, once the lower ascent becomes too jammed with growing brush, expect the one mile connector from the White River bridge and trailhead to be abandoned, and that will be the end of that.

  • Panther Creek

    Sharing the one miles connector with the Mt. David trail, this "100 Hikes" feature has already fallen. This well-constructed classic trail featured in the "100 Hikes" was once the only "short hike" option available out of the White River trailhead. This "lost trail" only needs removal of fallen vegetation to become "un-lost" — but instead the quantities are accumulating. That squad of frat boys swarming through the Enchantments area to check permits every summer? They could clear out these three miles of trail in a day. Obviously, that is not going to happen!

  • Sears Creek / Canyon Creek

    Once these trails formed an interesting loop connecting the "Poet Peaks" of the Wenatchee Mountains on the west with the White River on the east — until, of course, logging tore the area to pieces. The trails were easy to forget, and were already becoming hard to find. But have they vanished completely? I don't know, but some USFS maps show them.

19 Chiwawa River area

  • Buck Creek trail

    Winter storm damage knocked down the bridge across the Chiwawa River. Maybe it was a good place to build a bridge (narrow, deep), but it's a rather horrible place to ford. Large timbers remain jammed against the banks on each side, so a hazardous scrambler's crossing is still possible, using the broken timbers as a crude balancing beam. That situation that won't last forever. And as you know, there is no money to build trail structures any more. This is heading toward a tragic loss of access for a major piece of the PCT national trail system.

  • Chiwawa River trail

    Barely past the turnoff to Buck Creek, there is one of the most shocking and unnecessary instances of trail neglect I have seen. A creeklet so tiny that you can jump it with one vigorous stride has been allowed to cumulatively carve a canyon over 6 feet deep down the middle of the trail. Pitiful. Unnecessary.

  • Red Mountain

    Once a miserable mine road — well, what part of this trail system wasn't? — today is clogged by a tumble of large fallen trees. Please USFS, leave those trees where they lie. No more horses to mash the fragile meadows and foul the water sources! But thin the near-impenetrable brush thickets at the creek crossings, so it is possible to follow the trail route. A one-day project.

  • Phelps Ridge

    Likely already dead... Bridging over the ridge from Red Mountain to Phelps creek, as shown in older USGS quads and partially in current USFS maps, meadows have completely swallowed all tread. Possibly the route is still navigable as "off-trail"?

  • Little Giant Pass

    Crossing the Chiwawa river to reach this trail is dangerous except for late summer periods of low water. I can see why someone would want to pretend that this trail never existed. Now that maintenance is ended, say goodbye to the only alternate route for accessing the harsh but amazing Napeequa Valley trail.

  • Napeequa Valley

    With neither of the two available access trails maintained... this one is doomed.

  • Raging Creek / Crook Mountain

    As so often happens, another perfectly good trail, once featured in the 100 Hikes guide, is sacrificed for the convenience of the ultimate multiple use — logging. The trailhead was deliberately obliterated at the conclusion of the last logging-related project in the area. Those chainsaws could be just as deliberately used to restore this trail, but guess what?

20 Entiat River area

  • Lake Creek Basin

    A secondary trail system, with trailhead information stripped away, trail signs left to rot — perhaps to befuddle and thus discourage motorcycles? Maybe that is too late. Now encircled by roads and logging, and significantly scorched by major burns, maybe it is beyond recovery.

  • North Tommy Middle Tommy South Tommy

    OK, here's the problem. You've got a forest district in a relatively sparse and dry area where motorcylcles run wild. About 85% of your potential client√®le are hikers, about 15% are motorcycle speedsters. You have three trails going up the side of the valley and crossing the motorcycle-hashed Tyee Ridge trail system and beyond into the Mad River area. How do you allocate resources? Well, to serve that 15% of the people... give them 67% of your trail system. That would be the Middle and North Tommy trails, because they are relatively hospitable to wheels. The remaining 33% of your resources, these can be left for — the motorcycles. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on the South Tommy trail attempting to harden the wicked switchbacks. But this was a complete failure. Motorcycles wheels overturned the buried cinder blocks, ripping deep gashes at trail edges. Almost everywhere else (except for a few short stretches of relatively mild grade) the wheels dug a nasty erosion ditch right down the middle. The trail is now a complete misery for everybody. No point in repairs for as long as the wheels own it, hence it is pretty much useless to everybody. Your tax dollars at work. No wonder the guidebooks never cover any of these three trails.

  • North Fork Entiat River

    Will the damaged 3.8 mile access road to the trailhead ever be restored in one of the few remaining somewhat-foliated areas of the Entiat district? Only time will tell.

  • Pugh Ridge Trail

    One part of the North Fork Entiat River area hit by past fires is this connector running between the River and South Fork Pyramid Creek. While the upper part tracks the ridge top where good trail tread doesn't matter, the switchback ascent on the south end of the trail is pretty much wiped out. Don't expect anything to change here.

  • Duncan Ridge trail system

    Unknown whether the road system to reach the ridge trailhead is sound after fire damage. Definite fire damage is present all the way along the ridge trail, with possibility of partially green meadow camps at Duncan Creek, 3.8 miles. Viability of the remaining 2.7 miles to summit of Duncan Hill in an intense burn area not known.

  • Cow Creek / Fifth of July

    Bad burns have taken out all but the steel superstructure of the (ya sure yu betcha) hiker-only trail to Myrtle Lake. From there on up the ridge on the Cow Creek trail, it was in such bad shape that the wheels didn't believe it was actually a trail. That would have been good news, except now that the are is severely scorched, plan on serious problems.

  • Larch Lakes

    This trail was always a tough go, but now the lower half is badly scorched and might be impassible on steep slopes.

  • Anthem Creek

    The junction with the Entiat River trail is gone. You can easily locate lower reaches of the trail if you wish, and trace it through a tangle of downed and standing burnt trees. But it is not clear whether you want to try, now that the trail is scorched all the way up Duncan Hill and all the way across to Snowbrushy Creek.

  • Snowbrushy Creek

    Maybe lost forever. Scorched end-to-end most of the way to Milham Pass, and worse on the Chelan side.

  • Ice Lakes Trail

    Scorched for 2.5 miles, unclear whether recoverable without major rebuild. Maybe WTA plans work on this, which could help a lot, but their plan is unclear.

  • Pomas Pass

    About half of trail approaching Ice Creek from the pass is badly scorched, probably difficult to follow, possibly impassible.

  • Shetipo Creek

    Lower half of trail both badly scorched and prior to that badly mangled by motorcycles. Repair may not be feasible.

 


 

The WTA will save us!

Scanning back casually through my list, I see over 120 troubled trails — and this is only the ones I know about. The Washington Trails Association (WTA), apparently stopped publishing its endangered trails lists in 2008. Just as well, their lists selectively covered just a few trails for which WTA had planned projects.

But huzzah! The new WTA "lost trails found" program is going to restore 3 trails over the coming 3 years, so they promise. And beyond that, they are thinking about protecting 40 more trails across the Northwest Region. Hey, losing 96% of the trails in trouble is better than losing them all, right?

I don't want to be too unfairly critical of the work that WTA does, but it seems like much of their efforts are directed to spinning the social engine, over-engineering a few high-profile easy-access trails to extremes, while the surrounding trail systems decay — and patting themselves on the back for it. Case in point, check out the problems in the Ingalls Creek area.

Maybe instead of carping, I should try contributing. Like maybe, by signing up for a WTA trail work party? Good point — except, been there, tried that. I was hoping to volunteer as horse residue remover for one of their Ingalls Creek projects. Project rosters are fully booked for the entire year by early March.