Looking for a things to do to get you in the Halloween spooky spirit?Walk the 2.3 mile Snoqualmie Tunnel, part of the Iron Horse Washington State Park. Located at the summit of Snoquamlie pass at Hyak, it is part of the rails-to-trails movement of the 1980’s, when the state acquired the rail lines from the bankrupt railroad company and removed the tracks, resulting in level, well-maintained trails spanning 1,612 acres. These kinds of trails make hiking with a child in a wheelchair or stroller, or biking with a trailer completely accessible. Aside from a gate we had to maneuver around, there are no obstacles to accessibility. It’s a fun fall getaway.
Note to self, next time bring flashlights.
Only 5 minutes in and you find yourself in complete darkness, with the exception of a tiny bright speck of a dot far off in the distance. It is literally the light at the end of the tunnel. We weren’t prepared for this hike, all we had for light were the flashlights on our cell phones. We turned them on and continued walking toward the tiny light in the distance telling spooky stories, singing songs, listening to the echos, and sharing our favorites jokes. After walking for about 15 minutes, the light didn’t really seem to be getting much closer, and my husband’s phone battery was getting low. I turned off my phone flashlight to save it for when his died out. A couple of people on bikes rode by, their lights disappearing within minutes.
Halfway there, kind of.
Reaching the halfway point in the tunnel was eerie. That small bright light in the distance was a little bigger, but not much, and when you turned around you saw that same small bright light behind you. Those were the only ways out. Now just over one mile in, turn off your lights and the darkness immediately envelops you in the blackest black, the sounds of dripping water in the background. There was a strong wind, and our hands and ears were cold – at this point it was about 10 degrees colder than it had been outside. We talked about what might be at the end of the tunnel and how early settlers must have felt going into the unknown; nowadays we seem to always now what’s on the other side. We made sure my daughter with special needs was bundled up tight and continued walking.
Halfway through the tunnel.
The end was really the halfway point.
Emerging into the light, our eyes adjusted to the brightness we had lacked for the last 50 minutes. We looked up, surprised to see that we had just walked through the huge mountain overshadowing us. Everyday we drive through tunnels without giving it a thought. Walking through a tunnel of that size makes you pause at the enormity of such an undertaking. Now on the other side, we found a mountainside with leaves changing to orange and a trail that continued on. Restrooms and picnic tables makes it more convenient for families, and a great stop for a snack. We had fun taking goofy family portraits, looking around a bit, then got ready for the walk back. My husband’s phone battery went dead 10 minutes in and we switched to my cell phone flashlight – glad we had a spare! The wind that we encountered on the way in was not present on our hike back. The time passed quicker – or maybe we were walking faster, it was getting late and we were pretty motivated to get back before the sun went down.
Nothing says fall like some comfort food.
Back at the car, we loaded up, and started talking about dinner. It was a cool, crisp fall evening and I wanted some comfort food. We checked out a couple of local restaurants, but nothing fit the bill. Then I remembered the North Bend Bar and Grill about 25 miles back down I-90 toward Seattle, I had seen it a few weeks earlier when exploring the Snoqualmie Valley. It’s a cute stone and timber building on the corner of East North Bend Way, I remembered it had seemed pretty popular. We weren’t disappointed. It was the busiest restaurant in town, and worth the wait for great comfort food.
Back on the road for home; our bellies full and warm, our bodies a little tired from the outdoor exercise. The kids quietly sleeping in the back seat, my husband and I listened 80’s music, reminiscing about our past, fully enjoying our present. Our spooky walk was the perfect thing to do on a fall afternoon to get us in the Halloween spirit.
Tip for walking the Snoqualmie Tunnel:
- You will need a Discover Pass, $35 annually for all Washington State parks, or pay $10 for one day parking. We saw the ranger giving tickets, so don’t skip this part.
- It was at least 10 degrees colder in the middle of the tunnel than it was outside, be sure to bundle up, especially if you have a child in a stroller or wheelchair.
- Bring headlamps or flashlights for the kids – make sure you have more than one in case one goes out.
- Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash – our dogs had a great time.
- The Snoqualmie Tunnel is only a tiny part of a great, accessible trail system that allows families with special needs kids like mine the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful Northwest outdoors. Go to the Washington State Parks website for a full map of the area to plan more hikes for your family.
- North Bend has cute shops to explore and was made famous in the David Lynch TV series Twin Peaks. If you are a fan, check out the popular sites, including Twede’s Café just 2 blocks from the North Bend Bar and Grill.
Karin Sheets is a Seattle-area techie, travel writer and mother of two teens, one of them with special needs. She encourages all families to live the adventure of life. Her personal blog is www.specialneedstravelmom.com and you can follow her @ionMyAdventures on Twitter or www.facebook.com/SpecialNeedsTravelMom.