Distance: 18 miles
Altitude change: 3513 ft
Conditions (as of Thursday, July 23, 2009):
Conditions are ideal! The singletrack is finally dry, and though the endlessly rocky descent is also quite loose, the switchbacks are easy to slide around. Ride it now, I tell you. There are wildflowers blooming in the upper meadow. The standing mud bogs are dried up. There are no remaining blow-downs (thanks, wood fairies, for your chainsaw magic!) And the several river crossings are easily manageable, due to low water levels.
Directions: From Seattle, travel on I-90 East over Snoqualmie Pass to Exit 70 (Easton). Take the off ramp and exit left to cross over the highway then take the next left onto Kachess Dam Road. Follow this road for .6 miles as it parallels the highway, and take a right turn to stay on Kachess Dam Road. It becomes Forest Road 4818. Park under the powerlines (it will be easy to find your way back here after the ride).
Big-ring it along the gently-sloping dirt road (4818) for 6 miles. Along the way, you’ll pass the pristine lake on the left, camping sites and private residences before your next turn off. Shortly after passing the group campground on the left, start looking for Forest Road 4824 on the right. Now the trail starts upwards. Put it in a low gear and stay there for 5 miles, ignoring spur roads. This road starts out steep then becomes more manageable midway in the climb. When it turns steep again, you know you’re nearing the end. Look for the road to open up to a scenic vista of rocky outcroppings above you with views of the lake far below. As soon as the road plateaus, you’ll see a trail to the right cutting through the trees. Take this right and immediately start looking for a trail to the left. It may not look like a trail, half-hidden in the trees as it is, but this is your way down into the valley. See those rocky peaks? That’s where you’re headed.
Descend on the trail until you hit the hike-a-bike section. Ten minutes or so later, you’re tired of lugging your bike around, but the hard part’s over. Now for a thrilling and visually stimulating ride through the backcountry: rocky and root-covered singletrack through flower-dotted meadows and trickling streams, opening up to dry, loose trail with sketchy switchbacks and challenging rock gardens.
After you come in hot at the bottom of the final steep descent, take the sandy road straight until you see the powerlines. Follow these back to your car to complete the loop.
This ride takes me between 2 ½ and 3 hours to complete. Or, take along a picnic and enjoy the whole day:)