Traveling the Shoestring TrailThe Naches Basin is one of Washington's most popular four-wheel-drive areas. The trails it contains, which include the well-known Shoestring Trail, twist and squeeze their way through miles of dense evergreen forests, mountain meadows, and rock outcroppings that will challenge a four-wheeler's abilities. This network of four-wheel-drive trails is located on the north side of the Naches River in Wenatchee National Forest, east of Yakima.
Despite its popularity, the Shoestring Trail is not among those named on the county's guide map. However the trail itself is shown on the map as Trail 1600, passing just north of tiny Shoestring Lake. The eastern end of the trail can be accessed from the end of Forest Road (FR) 1701. At that point turn left and follow Trail 694 to the west. Here the countryside is generally open, and after about three miles you arrive at Funny Rocks. This area is reminiscent of slickrock areas of the Southwest and offers optional routes that can provide challenging rockcrawling. A half-mile past Funny Rocks a side road to the left (Trail 695) leads to more rockcrawling opportunities at Moon Rocks, and to a high ridge that provides nice views. Continuing west, Trail 694 is posted as four-wheel-drive route 4W307 as the road becomes more difficult. Following 4W307 and staying to the right at the several forks you'll encounter in the next three miles, you'll reach Tripod Flat. Soon after that you'll come to the junction with 4W308, on the left. This trail, 4W308, is the beginning of the Shoestring Trail.
Camping opportunities abound at Tripod Flat, but the Shoestring Trail becomes progressively more muddy, the forest becomes increasingly dense, and camping opportunities are fewer as the trail goes west. At about 0.3 miles in, the trail passes an interesting cattle camp at Region 4 Meadow, and after another 2.2 miles the trail climbs to a ridge and Shoestring Lake can be seen in a valley to the left. All access roads to the lake are closed because excessive use damaged the land.
From here, the trail enters a densely forested area with lots of opportunities for mud-bogging. Keep to the right at the trail junctions, and at about 1.5 miles past Shoestring Lake, Trail 4W308 climbs to the crest of Manastash Ridge, leaving the dense forest and mud behind.
Although the Shoestring Trail can be driven in one day, we chose to camp along the way and explore the many side roads. Some of these were so tight that even a CJ-7 would be substantially challenged in some turns. In our CJ-5 we had to make many 3- and 5-point turns to wind through the trees. Mud is abundant here, and roots, rocks, and logs become so slippery that steering is unpredictable.
The return to civilization commonly is made on Kane Flat Trail 676. The steep downgrades in the upper part of the trail between Manastash Ridge and Lily Pond merit the trail's "most difficult" rating. Keep right at Lily Pond to remain on this trail, or to access a network of graded logging roads that eventually will take you to Kane Flat. Or just stay straight to get to Kane Flat via Trail 617 and FR 1708.
The Naches Basin contains great trails that are not so tough as to be nerve-racking, yet are tough enough to be fun. They contain steep, rocky hill climbs, a lot of mud, and areas with solid rock outcrops.
The area is, with other local OHV areas, included on the map in Yakima County Off Road Vehicle Guide, which provides locations, names, and ratings for most of these trails. Copies of this map can be obtained from the U.S. Forest Service office in Naches, Washington. Travelers are required to stay on the roads in this area, and some of the roads are subject to seasonal closures. Contact the USFS Naches Ranger district (509/653-2205) for additional information and as always, remember to Tread Lightly!
Where To Write
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The facts presented in this column are, to the best of our knowledge, correct and accurate at the time of publication. However, because of our lengthy lead time, we recommend calling the proper authorities or local experts for confirmation before visiting. Please remember to Tread Lightly!