Palouse-to-Cascades Trail, South Cle Elum to Renslow Bridge

Since hearing about the much-anticipated opening of the Renslow Bridge I’ve been eager to give it a crossing.  When Michael P contacted me about doing a ride in central Washington I suggested riding the Palouse-to-Cascade trail up to and over the freshly opened bridge.

The Renslow Bridge, a former Milwaukee Road railroad trestle, spans Interstate 90 east of Ellensburg, WA and has been one of the “missing links on the three hundred- and nine-mile cross Washington Palouse-to-Cascades Trail.  My previous experience in that area involved some tenuous overlanding and I’m excited to see that crossing I-90 is now a non-issue.

I met Michael at the South Cle Elum P2C trailhead and to avoid a strict out and back along the trail we headed east on pavement and irrigation channel access roads.  Mike is a good route hunter, and as we rode he was constantly looking for new ways to get from there to here.  The paved roads are quite hilly when compared to the railroad grade.

We hit the P2C at the Thorpe fruit stand and took to the trail.  The wind do blow out here on the prairie, and said wind is consistently west to east; I was constantly looking for any unearned speed knowing that what the wind giveth the wind taketh on an out and back.  Fortunately, we seemed to be earning our way along the loose pea gravel.  It would be nice to have these trails covered in crushed rock instead of pea gravel, but you can’t have everything.

After a quick roll through the campus of Central Washington University in Ellensburg we caught the trail and pedaled towards Kittitas.  This is where the wind really does blow but thankfully no flags were flapping.  The final climb to the bridge is somewhat sandy and here is where my 2.1” tires proved their worth.  At the final road crossing prior to the bridge a sign noted that the trail ahead was closed.  “Is that right?” Mike asked.

“Must be out of date,” I replied as we rode on past.

Michael approaching the Renslow Bridge (can be seen in the distance)

As we rounded the final turn leading to the bridge Michael said “nope it’s closed.”  Sure enough a thin wire fence had been stretched across the trail at the entrance to the bridge.  I could see a few pieces of construction equipment on the freshly paved surface, but there were no workers in sight.  I had seen social media posts that the bridge was open, perhaps it was only open for a special occasion or on weekends; the bridge did look finished so hopefully workers are just adding final touches.  We were thirty-eight miles into the ride and it was time for me to start for home anyway.

We rode the trail back to South Cle Elum with minimal headwind.  The trail is flat from Ellensburg to Thorpe, and from there it begins an extremely gradual, yet continual, ascent all the way back to South Cle Elum (the trail continues the gradual ascent all the way to Snoqualmie Pass).  Despite having to stop to open and close a few gates Mike and I rode steady and made good time back to the cars.

Not sure what the Partybarn is but it sounds fun

I’m super stoked to see that the missing link at the Renslow Bridge is very close to being a found link.