Last summer, my partner Kelli and I loaded our bikes and camping stuff onto a bus to Fall City. Our goal was to have a nice 25-mile ride down the Snoqualmie Valley Trail through North Bend and up Middle Fork Road to the Middle Fork Campground.
It was a mostly great ride, but it is about to become amazing. The Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust announced that the Federal Highway Administration (with some Washington State funds) will pave ten miles of the road over two years. The project will cost $20 million, with $1.35 million coming from WSDOT.
When finished, Middle Fork Valley could easily become a very popular bike camping destination, in addition to other recreational activities. To get the valley ready for the added attention once the road is completed (as early as 2015), the MTS Greenway Trust is crowd-funding $25,000 for various recreation and restoration projects. People who want to help out should contribute online by May 1.
Bus-Bike Camping to Middle Fork Campground
For people starting in Seattle, here’s how our trip went.
Kelli and I caught the Sound Transit 554 express bus from Seattle to Issaquah. From there we transferred to King County Metro’s 208 (no Sunday service) to North Bend via Fall City. You can stay on the bus until North Bend (giving you about 15 miles to ride to Middle Fork Campground), but we hopped off in Fall City so we could catch the Snoqualmie Valley Trail into North Bend. UPDATE: Zach informs us in comments below that the 208 no longer serves Fall City. However, it does go to Snoqualmie Falls, which would be a good place to start your ride.
If you have never ridden this section of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, I simply cannot recommend it enough. There’s a steep climb to get to the trail from Fall City, but it’s worth it. It could be the most wonderful section of trail I have ever been on. The hard-pack gravel surface was smooth and easy, the grade was slightly downhill, the views were astonishing. Really, just a magical place to be and a wonderful place to start the ride:
The ride was wonderful and easy all the way into North Bend. From there, we grabbed lunch before heading to Middle Fork Road for a 15-mile subtle climb to the campsite. Things started off wonderfully. The Middle Fork Valley is beautiful, in large part due to work in recent decades to clean the area up after years of people using it as a dumping grounds.
But then the road conditions changed. After a few miles of degraded but perfectly bikeable street, the road turned into a rocky mess. The final ten miles were unexpectedly grueling. An old logging road in awful repair, the road was covered in large loose rocks (the size of golf balls and baseballs) sitting on a base of fine white dust that got kicked up into a choking cloud whenever a car passed us. The rocks made the biking somewhat difficult on our road bikes, but it was doable. The dust, however, was miserable.
Every time a car passed, I’d close my mouth, squint my eyes, and try not to breathe too hard. It got everywhere, covering our clothes and bikes, and getting in my mouth. It also covered all the roadside plants, giving the beautiful forest an eery dead feeling.
Once we got the campground, the hiking and exploring was wonderful. We made it out to a then-mostly-dry waterfall called Otter Falls with an amazing swimming hole and view of the surrounding mountains:
Due to its proximity to North Bend, I could easily see the Middle Fork Valley becoming a great bike camping destination and a great trip for people new to bike camping or who simply want to have a relatively easy adventure. But the road is currently bad enough that I would not recommend it (I had initially planned to write this post as part of a series about bus-bike camping trips from Seattle, but dropped the idea because the road was so unpleasant).
That’s why I got so excited to read the MTS Greenway Trust news. In my head, I’m already planning my first trip back as soon as the road is finished.
Below is more information on the project: