Tumwater Pipeline Trail—Hike along “strong water” watching rafters and rapids

Watch kayakers ride the strong water of the Wenatchee River

Watch kayakers ride the strong
water of the Wenatchee River

Quick Facts:

Location: Wenatchee River Valley

Land Agency: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Roundtrip: 2.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 100 feet

Green trails Map: Leavenworth- No. 178

Access: From Everett head east on US 2 passing Stevens Pass to Coles Corner. Continue east on US 2 for 12.7 miles to trailhead located on your right (between Mileposts 97 and 98). If coming from Leavenworth follow US 2 west for 2.0 miles to trailhead.

Note: Be alert for rattlesnakes; practice Leave No Trace Principles

Recommended Resource: Day Hiking Central Cascades

Contact: Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

Good to Know: Kid-friendly, dog-friendly, historic

A family-friendly hike on an old pipeline right-of-way along the crashing Wenatchee River in a deep and impressive canyon; this trail is easy and the scenery is breathtaking. When the Great Northern Railroad abandoned its route over Stevens Pass and opted to go under the pass instead, its steam engines proved problematic in the long tunnel. So the line switched over to electric engines between Skykomish and Leavenworth. They built a dam on the Wenatchee (still there about three miles upriver from the trailhead) and ran a pipeline (penstock) down to a generating plant to produce electricity for the locomotives. In 1956 the railroad switched to diesel abandoning the pipeline and power plant.

The trail starts at the site of the power plant where parts of the foundation still remain. Head off through a pine grove to what is the most popular feature on this hike for many, an old iron bridge spanning the river. Built to carry the pipeline across the river, the bridge offers exhilarating viewing of the Wenatchee River. Watch kayakers and rafters riding the rapids.

Once across the river, follow the gentle trail along the river through Tumwater Canyon. Cottonwoods and maples adorn the trail and add touches of gold and crimson come October. At about .5 mile rock hop across a side creek. Pass by big boulders and nice sandy beaches on the river. But before you’re tempted to soak in the crystal waters, be forewarned. Tumwater is derived from Chinook Jargon, meaning strong or falling water. Not an understatement here. It’s best not to soak more than your feet in the powerful Wenatchee.

As you continue upriver pass through pleasant pine groves. Across the river, Castle Rock, a craggy protruding thumb favored by rock climbers soon comes into view. At 1.2 miles the trail abruptly ends where once a tunnel bore through the jumbled rocks and ledge now impeding further travel. Turn around and languidly return savoring the river’s beauty and power.

For more information on this hike including maps and other handy features, check out my Day Hiking Central Cascades book (Mountaineers Books). You’ll find info on 124 other hikes in it too,                                from Everett to Chelan.

125 hikes from Everett to Wenatchee!

For information on where to stay and play in the leavenworth area, consult Northwest TripFinder

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