Distance: 15-17 miles
Altitude Change: 3,600
The Ride: If the descent down Ranger Creek Trail in Greenwater, Washington, is the icing on the Cascade Range’s cake, then the evil climb up to Corral Pass, paired with the sweet traverse along Dallas Ridge, is the thick, moist Devil’s Food that oh-so satisfies and gives you a cramp at the same time. Forest Road 7174 up to Corral Pass and the Dallas Ridge trailhead is a 5.5 mile vertical that might, just might have a 10-yard stretch of horizontal in it. But you can do the climb—you can! And when you do do it, remember to smile pleasantly at all the cars (i.e. shuttlers) passing you by. That way, you can flaunt the moral superiority of your “pay-to-play” riding principles . . . at least until they leave you in a cloud of dust.
Current Conditions (as of Sunday, August 16, 2009): The rains that came through last week have kept the dust down, which translates into positive traction climbs and Speed Racer descents. My friend Lori and I pedaled up the dirt road to reach the Dallas Ridge trailhead (at 5,300 feet) in 1½ – 2 hours. Our leisurely Dallas Ridge traverse (3+ miles) plus the Ranger Creek descent (6 miles) took us about two hours (including time for photo ops and fueling stops). Note that there are still a few eroded corners and two blow-downs on Ranger Creek Trail, but everything on Dallas Ridge is free and clear.
Why Ride It: The climb up to Corral Pass is the steeper fire road choice to connect with the Ranger Creek and Palisades trails (see another access option in my previous ride report, Hugging the Edge on Ranger Creek), but this preferred route takes you all the way up to the ridge line. Dallas Ridge itself rises and falls like ocean swells—one moment you’re cresting the wave, the next you’re surfing down singletrack at speed. The trail also rewards you with views of snow-covered Mt. Rainier in one direction and Noble Knob’s unique profile in the other.
Driving Directions: From Seattle, head south on I-5 to exit 142A, merging onto WA-18 E toward N Bend/Auburn. Take the Auburn Way/WA-164 exit, and follow the 164 through Enumclaw until you reach the 410. Turn left at Roosevelt Ave E/WA-410 and follow this road through the small town of Greenwater, Washington. In about 10 miles, start looking for the FR 7160 (Buck Creek Road) on the right. Keep driving, and just a couple of miles later, you’ll see a sign for FR 7174 up to Corral Pass on the left. Park at the base of this road.
On your bike, follow a straightforward, well-signed counter-clockwise loop, climbing the forest road up to the Dallas Ridge trailhead, which takes you towards Noble Knob Trail (#1184) but then drops down to the access trail to Ranger Creek Trail (#1197) and Palisades Trail. Follow this until the trail forks at a log shelter. The Ranger Creek option to the left takes you more directly down to WA-410. To finish off the ride, you’ll spend the last couple of miles on the road, spinning out your legs and calming down your adrenalized body. What a perfect way to bring you back to your car–and to your senses.
Until next time, see you on the trail!