Trail Reports

Naches Area Trail Report

MudThe Naches area flanks the east side of the country's largest volcano: Mt Rainier. The trails in this area are off Rt. 410 near the Little Naches River. The Wagon Trail is a historical trail that was blazed by pioneers in the 19th century (an historical marker marks the event.) It is still popular with the off-road crowd today. It is typical of the trails in this area. The Kaner Flats trail offers incredibly scenic views with lots of variation in the terrain. Kaner Flats is a hardcore enthusiast's favorite. Kaner features tank traps, long challenging muddy hills, steep climbs over miles of rock and enough off-camber situations to keep the blood pumping. Once you get up and over all the "moon rocks" you climb to the top of the Manashtash Ridge. The reward is spectacular views of Rainier, area lakes and even a peak at Mt. St. Helens. Kaner Flats should only be tackled by experienced drivers who drive as a team and are equipped with strong rigs and the necessary safety equipment (ie: working winches!) We have suffered several breakdowns up there and one member survived a rough triple rollover! There is great camping everywhere and warm beds (with cold fridges) back down on Rt 410 at Squaw Rock. What's not to like?

Its always the same story: some guys finally get their rigs into trail shape while others are never really ready. But small groups  are always enjoying overnight (and more) wheeling trips to this beautiful part of the state of Washington.  One of the biggest expeditions occurred in October, 2005 when 11 rigs braved two nights in the cold Fall altitude on top of Quartz Mountain.

Alan, John, Kevin and Max enjoyed a two night stay in the mountains. Todd Bull was to take part in the trip as well. He was prepped, ready and on the road before having to turn around and head back for home after his windshield wipers gave out in the middle of a heavy rain storm. We begged him (via cell phones) to join us but he wisely chose not to risk challenging the mountain pass roads in the rain without wipers. Safety should always come first! Todd is great guy and we were all disappointed that he could not make it. We then got supplies and fuel in Enumclaw and headed south on Rte 410. After going through Greenwater we headed to the very bottom of the lower section of the Wagon Trail. We aired down and drove up the steep twisty sections. The lower region of the Wagon trail is good fun. It gets easier once you reach the upper plateau though, and we stopped for a while to stretch, smell the mountain air and enjoy the feeling of getting away from civilization.

Alan then decided he would challenge a deep mud filled tank trap. He gave it a couple good runs before backing out with gallons of slimy muck pouring out the doors. We ran the rest of the Wagon trail without incident. It was way colder up there than it was at sea level in the Puget Sound area. We encountered no other 4x4's which was odd. We did pass a group of dirt bikers, a couple of whom were totally worn out after battling the off camber hills all day. We passed one rider, just sitting there frozen, after collapsing on the side of a hill, totally exhausted. It made us all feel tired just looking at his weary face as we inched by him.

Josie and the baconMost of the Wagon Trail and the trails around the area are quite scenic, but at this time of year the cloud cover was pretty low. After a few rains even some of the "easy" sections can get interesting. We had great fun yelling instructions and encouragement as we moved through some of the wetter areas. That night we made camp right next to the Little Naches River. A roaring fire, a hot meal and a few good beverages were the rewards after a long day.

We were glad it did not rain that night. It was cold! Two sleeping bags were the order of the day (or night). The next morning we coaxed the fire into life again and made breakfast. John cooked bacon and eggs. While John's back was turned, Alan's dog, Josie, darted in and woofed down an entire pan of freshly cooked bacon that was draining on a plate. We actually have a photo of Josie planning her attack! Its kind of funny now but at the time John did not think so.

Wet mudMax then head off for some really expensive gas at Whistlin' Jacks back down on Rte 410. $3.30 for unleaded and $9 per six pack for halfway decent ale. We then found the lower entrance to the 676 trail. Trail #676, aka the Kaner Flats Trail, is one of the "most difficult" rated trails in the area. Its a great trail: both scenic and challenging. There are a couple of steep hill climbs that always gets the heart racing. You must pay attention here. On the first major hill Max chose a more difficult line through one section of trees on the edge of the trail. His rear right tire suddenly bogged down in some soft stuff and soon was not going anywhere. He attempted to drift backwards but soon ran out of any traction and was well and truly stuck in a off camber mixture of soft sand and rocks while still pointing up a very steep hill. About a foot or so behind him was a large fallen tree. So out came the long, synthetic winch cable. Using the winch and the low gearing of the Orion transfer case soon got him back in the middle of the hill where he could then creep up the rest of the way to the top. After a while we could hear the sound of a quad ATV roaring up the hill. The driver made it with no problems even though it looked dangerous from our high vantage point. The driver then explained he had to head back down the hill as he had buddies (also on quads) at the bottom who were too nervous to attempt the steep climb. Its important to show this set of hills great respect as serious rollovers have occurred here.

We then headed farther up the trail. We did run into a few other rigs at this point. Seemed like there were some coming down the right hand turn from the Manashtash Ridge so we went the other way, more or less towards Quartz Mountain. This area features large hills strewn with a zillion lava rocks. This is volcano country after all and one can see why its nickname is the "moon rock field".

It was while inching along a trail in this area that Alan's steering failed him. Sudden failure. Turns out the tie rod end on the power steering pittman arm snapped off. This could have been a nightmare. Luckily Alan had a spare tie rod end that sort of fit and we could move on. Upon close inspection the end looked like it had been failing over time but fortunately had finally failed on the trail instead of the highway!

Best campsite everOnce we got Alan's steering fixed we headed up and down the trail in the Quartz Mountain area for the remainder of the day. Max had problems keeping up with the group. His rig has a "granny" first transmission and the new 4:1 Orion transfer case. The gearing is way low but unfortunately the case would pop into neutral on hill descents. To combat this potentially dangerous problem he had to resort to using a combination of four tight bungee cords to keep the transfer case lever in position. This also meant that quick switches to 4-high was not an option.

As the afternoon wore on we looked for a suitable camping spot. We had the time to be real picky. We found a GREAT spot that was well away from anyone. Near a steep cliff edge, it featured stunning views of the valleys below. Out came the cooler and snacks. A thorough search for fire wood made sure we would stay warm until bed time. What a great spot! We relaxed with a few beers and listened to John's satellite radio. Max made a hot pasta with salad dinner as the group sat closer and closer to the fire as it got dark.

A dramatic moon came up over the cliff edge and bathed us in ghostly light. The sky was clear and it got really, really cold. The sinking temperature soon had everyone reaching for extra layers. We had the entire area all to ourselves and we could have made as much noise as possible. Instead we quietly sipped beers and gazed into the fire. All of us were tired and one by one we all turned in for the night.

The next morning was cold: slimy dishes were covered with ice. We snacked, packed up and headed for a group photo near the cliff edge. That day was more of the same: excellent wheeling without crowds getting in the way. We spent a lot of time slithering down through the lava rocks. While heading back over to the Rte 410 area Alan got stuck on a upwards sloping hill. We then learned that one of his hubs and winch were not functioning properly. Max then gave him a good tug to get him back up the hill and the group was soon on its way again. Just about every wheeling trip to this area brings a new round of trail mishaps, navigation problems, relentless kidding around and great wheeling!

Max, John, Alan and Kevin

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Comments (3)

  1. Alan:
    Mar 06, 2012 at 07:13 AM

    Sounds like I've been there! ;-)

  2. cruiseradmin:
    Mar 06, 2012 at 09:34 AM

    Looks like this system works.
    That was a great trip though. I will never forget John's outraged scream when Josie ate all his freshly cooked bacon!

    See that image next to my comment? That appears automatically because I registered an image at Its a free service and simple to setup. It should wok on most sites and blogs.

  3. Kevin J:
    May 14, 2012 at 10:11 PM

    That was a fun trip back down memory lane!

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