McClellan Butte / John Wayne Trail

Three weeks out from Cascade Crest, I wanted one last big weekend.  Yesterday I ran over to Seven Hills Running Shop to join their Saturday morning group run, managing to get a lot of distance in around Seattle – although it was mostly flat.  Today I wanted to cap off a 40 mile weekend and make sure to get some vert.  I’d yet to run to the top of McClellan Butte (snow stopped me a month ago), so I figured it was time!  The John Wayne Trail is a great way to get to some of the trails on the south side of I-90, while adding some runnable miles, so I drove to the Upper Twin Falls Trailhead in Olallie State Park.

The Route

From the trailhead, it’s a short 1/4 mile climb up to the John Wayne Trail.  McClellan Butte is east from here about five miles.  The trail is simple gravel railroad grade (it used to be a major railroad), although the trip east towards the pass has a very slight uphill.  One thing I love about this trail is that you can get fast running, while still feeling isolated from things and having some amazing views.

View from JWT
View South from the John Wayne Trail, over one of the bridges.
JWT straightaway
Easy railroad grade, with plenty of shade.

Five miles down is the well marked turn-off onto the McClellan Butte trail.  The two trails actually intersect here, so you can turn either way.  I was interested in climbing, not heading to another parking lot, so I turned right, up the mountain.

McClellan Butte Trail Sign
McClellan Butte Trail Sign

It feels strange to say this, but the trail up isn’t anything special.  I have to qualify that and say “by Northwest standards.”  We’re spoiled with amazing trails out here.  This one is like many: soft, shaded, winding.  There is plenty to see.  And as I discovered, plenty to eat.  My lanky arms helped to pick some amazing Salmon Berries.  I also found myself munching on Thimbleberries and Huckleberries, but Salmon Berries are always my favorite treat.

 

MB Trail Bridge
Plain old Northwest trails.
Salmon Berries
All your Salmon Berries are belong to me.
Thistles
Plenty of flowers on the way up.

The top is the real reward here.  Views all over the Cascades, in every direction.  There is a couple hundred foot scramble on steep, exposed rock to the very top, which apparently is even better – but being three weeks from my big race, I erred on the side of caution.

Cascades from MB top
Cascades for miles, even on a hazy day.

After the descent, I went all the way back to the trailhead where I started.  To add a few more miles on, I continued west on the John Wayne Trail onto the Twin Falls trail, to have a look at the falls.  Spectacular.

Top of Twin Falls
Top of Twin Falls.

The Verdict

This is a great run to mix up fast, flat running with some serious climbing.  The views are varied.  The John Wayne Trail gets very busy, but I found the McClellan Butte trail relatively quiet, even on a summer weekend.  The whole route was in the 21 mile range, with a little under 5000′ of climbing.  A nice, tough long run.

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