+9 9 votes

Penstock Pipeline (Old Pipeline Trail)

For starters it’s flat and relatively short. If you’ve got a family along or you’re out of shape, that’s good news. But there’s more going for this hike than the ease factor. In spring, when the Wenatchee River is raging with melt water and the surrounding woods are blooming with flowers, the hiking is spectacular. In summer, the trail’s access to sandy beaches and dipping pools along the river makes for a welcomed hot-weather escape. In fall, the yellow foliage and the ability to see spawning salmon in the green river water provides yet another reason to hike this trail. In winter the trail is nice snowshoe outing (although parking is an issue). Finally there’s history among all the railroad relics found here (the pipeline that once ran here carried water to generate electricity for the Great Northern Railroad).

Recommended Activities: Hiking, trail running, bouldering. Snowshoeing is sometimes a possibility but depends on parking.
Nearest Town: Leavenworth
Skill Level: 1
Fitness Level: 1
Distance: About 3 miles round trip 
Elevation Gain: Almost none 

Access. Leave Leavenworth heading west on Highway 2. Drive 1.5 miles to milepost 97.5 and turn left off the highway onto a gravel road leading to small parking lot and primitive bathroom facilities. You’ll see a rust-colored bridge before you. Park.
Note: This parking area is not signed and is very easy to miss.

Trip Instructions:

  • Walk to the upriver part of the parking area, go around a gate, and then walk 75 yards farther upstream to the old bridge.
  • Cross the bridge and follow the river upstream. There are quite a few short spur trails leaving the main trail that head down to sandy beaches or interesting sites along the river. Explore them. There are also some spur trails into the woods that climbers use to access boulders with interesting bouldering problems.
  • After about 1.25 miles, the good trail ends. A tree blocks the main trail and a spur descends to the river. If you try following the main trail, it becomes much fainter and less traveled. Soon it rounds a rocky rib above the river and, unless you’re a competent scrambler, it’s time to call it quits. Incidentally, very close to where the good trail ends and across the river from Castle Rock, there are some big boulders at river level that are popular among the bouldering crowd. It can be fun to spectate their gymnastic antics.
  • Retrace the same route back. Check out the beaches and historical relics you didn’t stop for earlier. 

Map. View our topo map. Print on 8.5" x 11" paper in portrait mode.

Winter Usage. This riverside trail makes a fun snowshoe outing. The problem? The parking area is not plowed so once there's a substantial amount of low-lying snow, you won't be able to get into the lot described above. Some people use nearby pullouts along the highway and walk a short distance along the road to the trailhead. What's available in this respect depends on the year and walking the highway is never completely safe. In winter, you'll want to scout out the parking in advance and determine whether or not the walk to the trail is a little stupid or a lot stupid. You might also lobby the City of Leavenworth to keep the parking area plowed for winter recreationalists.

Land Ownership: Forest Service.
Fees/Permits: None required as of 9/15/2008.
Additional Information:
Click here to read the Seattle PI's report on this trip.

More Hikes: Maps and details of over 150 regional walks in our on-line hiking guidebook.

Leave It Better Than You Found It
. This should be every outdoor user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull some noxious weeds along your route, throw branches over unwanted spur trails, don’t ride or walk wet trails when you’re leaving ruts/footprints deeper than ¼ inch…

Disclaimer.
 Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Conditions change, and those contributing these reports are volunteers--they may make mistakes or may not know all the issues affecting a route.You are still completely responsible for your decisions, your actions, and your safety. If you can’t live with that, you are prohibited from using our information.