Major road, trail work ready to begin in Middle Fork valley

Staff reportApril 27, 2014 

Major road work and trail work might complicate recreation plans for people heading to the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River basin, including those wanting to hike the popular Mailbox Peak Trail.

Just 45 minutes from downtown Seattle, the Middle Fork Valley is a recreation destination for more than 100,000 people a year with its mountains, forests, scenic river and wildlife.

The three-year project to pave about 10 miles of the Middle Fork Road is scheduled to start the week of May 5 and will require weekday closures on the notoriously bumpy road.

The road will be closed from noon Mondays to noon Fridays. When the road is open, drivers should be prepared for possible delays of up to 60 minutes. The closure, running through Oct. 31, will extend from the eastern intersection of Lake Dorothy Road (Upper Couplet) to the Middle Fork Campground, approximately from mileposts 2.7 to 12.4.

Hikers should be aware the Mailbox Peak Trail and all the trails beyond that trail will be inaccessible when the road is closed, according to the Washington Trails Association.

Later in the summer, the road will be closed seven days a week from the CCC Trailhead to Middle Fork Campground. That closure is scheduled to take place July 28-Sept. 26.

The $20 million project is expected to take place during the next three summers. In addition to repaving the road, the project includes replacing bridges and culverts that will reduce sediment washing into the river and improve the water quality, fish passage and the ecology of the watershed.

While road improvements are getting started, the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust is planning work on two trails this season. The trust will be working with the U.S. Forest Service and other partners.

One project will be a reroute of the Middle Fork Trail. Popular with hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians, the trail is the primary route into the Upper Middle Fork Valley. The 15-mile-long trail offers views of Mount Garfield and the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River.

Severe washouts three miles from the trailhead have made the trail impassable for horses. Further deterioration will impact access for all users, said trust leaders. The plan is to reroute the trail away from the hazardous section and restore native vegetation.

The plan also calls for building a new trail to Pratt Bar. The gravel bar is large enough to hold plenty of visitors while maintaining the feeling of a remote mountain stream. But access is difficult, requiring that hikers ford a creek and negotiate a tangle of unofficial trails.

Work this summer will entail installing a footbridge and building a well-defined trail to the bar, creating dependable four-season access.

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