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Coal Mines Trail - Cle Elum to Roslyn

Our Hiking Time: 2h 20m
Total Ascent: 200ft
Highest Point: 2200ft
Total Distance: 6.5 miles
Location: N 47° 12.5280, W 120° 58.5360
Required Permit: None
Difficulty: Easy
Nathan's Photo
We’re always looking for ways to inspire hiking during the winter months. With the New Year upon us, we wanted to find a hike that any family to could take on New Years Day to start 2013 off right. With that in mind, we decided to head out over Snoqualmie Pass to take a winter walk down the Coal Mines Trail.

In 1884, the rapidly expanding Northern Pacific Railroad began laying track toward Stampede Pass, in an effort to finally connect the Puget Sound to the Midwest. The previous year, the company’s engineers had located rich coal deposits near the railroad’s planned route and wasted no time in setting up a means to extract the substance that was fueling their locomotives. By 1886 the Northern Pacific Coal Company’s settlement around the coal mines was platted as Roslyn, named by the railroad’s vice president, Logan Bullitt, after a city in New York associated with his girlfriend. Nearby, the town of Ronald also sprang up, named after Alexander Ronald, the superintendent of the coal company. A spur track was quickly built from Ronald through Rosyln to Cle Elum, where the coal could be loaded onto trains and shipped where it was needed. In 1987, the tracks were removed and in 1994 Coal Mines Trail was created following the old railroad grade.

The mines along the Coal Mines Trail operated for 77 years before the last one closed down in 1963. During that time the population of the area mushroomed as miners from many different groups came to work the mines. As they arrived, miners found others that spoke their language and shared their culture, creating small ethnic communities all along the rail route. That tradition had some interesting side effects such as the Rosyln cemetery, which consists of 5,000 graves divided between 25 different religious and ethnic cemeteries. Some of those graves are a product of Washington State’s worst mining disaster in 1892, when 45 miners perished after an explosion in the lower levels Roslyn’s No. 1 mine.

The trail begins directly from the street, passing the tree-lined backyards of current neighbors. Wide and flat, the trail can handle bikes and strollers in warmer months and snowmobiles and cross-country skiers when it snows. Houses quickly yield to more trees, cottonwoods and maples at first, followed by pines and firs further down the trail. With no elevation to slow you down, you’ll quickly glide past interpretive signs marking long-gone settlements such as Happy Hallow and Ducktown, as well as mine and building locations.

At just over a mile pass what remains of a coal washer that used waters from Crystal Creek to separate the coal from less useful substances. A quick climb up the hill reveals your first glimpse of the neatly sculpted hills made of slag and tailings from the mines. Miners dumped everything they brought up out of the ground in massive piles near the mines, some of which rise right next to the trail. At two miles a spur line leads out to the No.9 and No. 10 mines, where the curious can do some exploring and find the sealed mine entrances and the cement foundations of surrounding buildings.

Continue to follow the trail for another mile to find the site of the No. 1 mine and other buildings on the outskirts of Roslyn. From here, the trail takes you though the town, past a number of former mining offices and stores, and onward toward Ronald. The last mine on the route is the No. 3 mine, which has plenty of artifacts and crumbling foundations to explore.

While the Coal Mines Trail is not exactly a hike, it allows absolutely anyone to wander through the area’s coal mining past. Easily accessible and walkable year-round this trail should be on your list of alternatives when you need to entertain your non-hiking friends and family. During the fall months, the changing leaves attract even more folks to this popular walk. Try starting off your year with something a little different, and give the Coal Mines Trail a visit.

To get there, take I-90 to Exit 84 to Cle Elum, merging onto 1st Street. Continue for a mile to Stratford Street. Take a left and find the signed trailhead on the corner of Stratford and 2nd Street. Parking spots are available in front of Flag Pole Park, which includes a large map of the historical highlights along the trail. If you’re looking for more detailed information, free Coal Mine Trail pamphlets are available at the Cle Elum Chamber of Commerce located just across the street on 1st Street. -Nathan

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Coal Mines Trail

Surprise and Glacier Lakes Trail #1060

Our Hiking Time: 5h 30m
Total Ascent: 2700ft
Highest Point: 4900ft
Total Distance: 9.5 miles
Location: N 47° 39.4980, W 121° 8.5020
Required Permit: None
Difficulty: Moderate
Nathan's Photo
Over the years we’ve had a number of folks pointing us toward Surprise Lake for both summer and winter hiking. A few weeks ago we decided it was time to see if the hike could live up to the all the good reviews. Enough snow had fallen around Stevens Pass that we packed up our snowshoes and set out on what we thought might be our first snowshoe of the season.

We recommend this hike for anyone looking for an engaging hike throughout the year. It is a little long for more causal hikers, and the elevation gain is not insignificant, but most of the work is a short series of switchbacks at around the three mile mark. However, if you budget enough time, this hike should be attainable for almost every hiker. The lakes are more than worth the effort, and the hike even makes for a decent little backpacking weekend. While Surprise Lake is popular in the summer, few people make the trek in the winter, making this a good time to do some exploring and get the lakes all to yourself.

There's a lot more to Surprise and Glacier Lakes, and you can learn all about it in our book, Hiking Through History Washington.  You'll find a trail map, route descriptions, history, and more for this and many more hikes throughout the State. Help support hikingwithmybrother.com and the work we do by picking up a copy!

To get there, take Highway 2 out past Skykomish toward Stevens Pass. Just past milepost 58, look for an unmarked road on your right just beyond the Iron Goat Interpretive Site. Turn onto the access road and follow it across the Tye River to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks. Cross the tracks and head to the right paralleling the tracks for a short distance to a spur road heading into the trees. Follow this road a few tenths of a mile to the trailhead. -Nathan

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Surprise Lake

Easton Ridge Trail #1212

Our Hiking Time: 4h
Total Ascent: 2200ft
Highest Point: 4500ft
Total Distance: 6.5 miles
Location: N 47° 14.9040, W 121° 8.3640
Required Permit: None.
Difficulty: Moderate

Nathan's Photo
A few months ago before the grey of autumn brought along chilly winds and endless rain, we found some time to head out over Snoqualmie Pass to tackle Easton Ridge. Much like nearby Kachess Ridge, the hike promised an exposed ridgeline with broad views of nearby peaks and lakes. Easton Ridge not only delivered the views, but also surprised us with abundant fields of wildflowers.

Easton Ridge works well for an early season hike. At a lower elevation and located east of Snoqualmie Pass, it tends to melt out quickly. And while more folks are discovering the hikes near Easton, they do not get nearly as much traffic as other I-90 hikes leaving you to enjoy the big views without a lot of company. Although there is a bit of elevation gain, but most hikers should be able to tackle Easton Ridge, making it a great alternative on a sunny weekend. We recommend you tackle this hike in late June or July when the wildflowers will be at their height.

There's a lot more to Easton Ridge, and you can learn all about it in our book, Hiking Through History Washington.  You'll find a trail map, route descriptions, history, and more for this and many more hikes throughout the State. Help support hikingwithmybrother.com and the work we do by picking up a copy!

To get there, take I-90 to Exit 70. Take a left over the freeway and turn left onto West Sparks Road. Continue for a half-mile to FR 4818 (signed Kachess Dam Road) and take a right. Follow FR 4818 for a mile to an unmarked road on the right. Follow this road for a half-mile to the small parking area at the trailhead. -Nathan

Easton Ridge
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