13 December 2010

Running the John Wayne Trail at Rock Lake

The Thanksgiving-week blizzard is history.  Warm(er) temperatures and rain have washed away most of the lower-elevation snow.  This is good for runners, but bad for skiers/snowboarders. 

I've been looking at the John Wayne Pioneer Trail for the past week.  This is the trail that I ended my Run Across Idaho on, and it crosses nearly 300 miles of abandoned railroad grade in Washington.  I'm brewing an idea that I might run the entire trail (plus some) during an upcoming summer. 

Anyway, while mapping out the route I noticed a section of the trail not too far from me (1 hour drive) that ran along a 7-mile stretch of a lake called Rock Lake.  Hadn't heard anything about this, but I'm always up for a new and interesting place to run.  And because the snow had melted dramatically over the past couple weeks, I thought it would be safe to give it a try. 

Day trip! 
Sadie leading the way along the abandoned railway grade
that's now the John Wayne Pioneer Trail.

The lake and trail are spectacular!
Unbelievable that I've never heard anyone say,
"Hey Scott, you should go run that trail above Rock Lake - it's spectacular!"

Crossing an old bridge.

There were two tunnels along the section I ran.

It gets darker before it gets lighter.
(Thanks iPhone Flashlight app!)
Sadie above Rock Lake.

Sadie giving me a mini heart-attack on the cliff's edge.

Running through heavy, wet, icy snow (video):

Another amazing view from an old bridge.
This bridge challenged my fear of heights.

A couple miles past rock lake is the picturesque Pine Creek.
This was at 10 miles and my turnaround point.

Running back along the lake and across a rickety old bridge (video):

It was a fantastic run.  Again, I can't believe I hadn't heard of Rock Lake before.  I would have gone farther than I did, but the snow was getting dramatically deeper the farther away from Rock Lake that I got.  I'll definitely return again.  It was worth the hour drive.

I'm doing my weekly long runs in my weighted Chile training pack (only 82 days to go!).  It's quite a new experience to run several hours with a 15 pound pack.  It takes an extra toll on the body.  

I'm putting on a small, local 50k this weekend called the Pullman Winter 50k.  If you're in eastern Washington or North Idaho, come by and join us on Saturday.  It's super low-key and no-fee (think of it as a glorified training run).

Keep running!



  1. Sadie is such a smart girl, but I think that would give me a heart attack too! Have fun at the little 50K :-)

  2. Looks like a great run, especially when the snow clears.

    See you for the race this weekend.

  3. Sadie leads the way! You are one lucky guy!! I would make that hour drive without question. Heck, I did do that several weekends a month when I was training for MMTR.

  4. wow, can't wait to hear about this adventure!

  5. Wow Scott - it looks stunning out there!

  6. It it kinda crazy to think that you hadn't heard of this place before. It sure looked like a beauty of a run.

  7. Thanks for sharing your photo's and video, cool stuff.
    Me and tess are making a video tonight running through the sand dunes in pitch dark trying out my new super powerful 'MAGICSHINE' headtorch!:]
    Happy Running!

  8. what an adventure! and i say that is great talent running while recording and running over a rickety old bridge.

  9. Fantastic run! I'm a total train geek and those photos of the old bridge and tunnels are just amazing!

  10. Did your adventure start at the Hole-in-the-Ground Road?

  11. Looks like an amazing discovery! Thanks for the pictures.

  12. What a great discovery! But if you were a little nervous on some of those high places, how would I do?

  13. Just found your blog through my frined Ginny, great read and fun videos and what a find! Such a beautiful place Rock Lake is. Cheers!

  14. What am amazing trail!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. i didnt know there was a trail at Rock Lake. We've been there once. We usually just head straight to Sprague when we go through that area.

  16. Sorry to dredge up an old post but i've been cooking up a run from the Idaho border to golden gardens Seattle via the John Wayne and connector trails. Would love perspective from someone who has done it. Did you ever undertake this?

    Thanks for the blog. Great running reads!

    1. Hi Ian-

      I haven't done the full crossing yet. It's still on my wishlist though.

  17. Sorry to post on a dated post, but can you describe where to park? I am in Spokane and would love to hike the Rock Lake trail.

    1. Here's where I always parked. https://goo.gl/maps/pbpCt4yAAZz
      There's a little pullout to park in and then you just hop the fence and head north.

      It's been three years since I've lived there, so I can't confirm about current permit requirements, etc. This section next to Rock Lake is one of my all-time favorites. Enjoy!