Wheels Outside the Garden--Carbon River "Road"

* Introduction * Wheels Outside the Garden * Wheels in the Garden * Garden Trails *

* Descent from Paradise * Sunrise Descent * Stevens Canyon Road * Carbon River Road *





The road from the Carbon River entrace to Mt Rainier National Park is closed from where you enter at the ranger station. Several winter washouts have made maintaining the road prohibitively expensive, and there are no plans to reopen it. However, the five miles from the ranger station to Ipsut Creek campground are open to bikes, and make for an interesting, if challenging ride.

Compared with Paradise, Longmire, and Sunrise, this is the primitive side of the park, so visitors are few, especially off season. I encountered only one other biker and a hiking couple in the ten-mile round trip.

Some pavement and smooth, fine gravel make the first portion of travel easy. You glide through the temperate rain forest, flanked by huge trees. These woods hold more biomass per acre than the tropical rainforests.

The Carbon River and many side creeks have washed out portions of the road, and detours have been constructed.

Here, rather than removing trees that fall across the trail, river rubble is graded over them.

Simple bridges have been constructed out of split cedar. Soft sand on the inclined approaches sometimes makes riding onto the bridge a challenge.

Underinflated Big Apple tires help with traction, and smooth out the bridge decking somewhat, but your internal organs probably still rearrange themselves on this ride.

This is a rainforest, so it is often wet. Best time to ride this trail is probably summer, rather than October as above. I did get stuck in the mud only once in the five miles up, and not at all on the way back.

The road within Ipsut Creek Campground is smooth and clear, the approach is not.

The dropoff from the pavement is about ten feet. A single warning cone lets you know you have already gone too far.

I was not able to pedal up the steep, sandy side of the road, although going down was easy, if a little scary.

The campground is the end of the road for bikers, but an entre into hundreds of miles of wilderness hiking.

On the trip up, I had to walk the trike about 100 yards out of mud, up sandy hills, and over large rocks. Even so, it took less than an hour to arrive here, including time for pictures.

Going down was much easier, with no walking at all. Surprisingly, even the big rocks on the bridge approach above were navigable. Return trip took about twenty minutes.

This was a very exciting ride, well worth the effort. I would strongly recommend fat tires, a 26 inch rear wheel, and a minimum of attachments.

The only things I carried were water, a small bag of tools, and three cameras. Oh, and a phone that bounced out along the way. One of the three people I passed found it and gave it to the ranger, who dropped it off at the US Forest Service building in Enumclaw. Well, there was one other thing, too. I temporarily installed my AirZound, since this trail is the same place a friend and his daughter had a terrifying half-hour encounter with a cougar.