Trail of the Week: Manley-Moore to Fairfax

Hikers visit the remains of abandoned structures from the Carbon River Valley’s coal mining era.
Hikers visit the remains of abandoned structures from the Carbon River Valley’s coal mining era. chill@thenewstribune.com

Foothills Trail: Manley-Moore to Fairfax Bridge

Hike description: A century ago, coal mining towns such as Melmont and Fairfax thrived in the Carbon River valley. But these towns have been abandoned for more than 70 years, unless you count the curious hikers.

Foundations and walls of old buildings remain in the area. There are several areas to explore, but one that offers a look into the future as well as the past stretches from Kolisch Road to the Fairfax Bridge.

The trail starts by crossing under Kolisch Road and welcomes hikers with a mural depicting icons of the area: salmon, wildlife, the river, Mount Rainier and bigfoot. In a graffiti font, the words Manley-Moore, an old logging camp, stretch across the top of the mural.

From here, the lightly traveled path follows the river, sometimes turning away from the banks, passing moss-covered trees and visiting an occasional small opening in the forest. Hikers should be cautious on some sections near the river banks. The trail could be unstable.

Approaching the Fairfax Bridge, hikers will see remains of old structures. A short uphill trail about a mile before the bridge visits another structure.

The trail is part of the Foothills Trail route that advocates hope will someday link Mount Rainier to Tacoma.

Directions: From state Route 410 in Buckley follow state Route 165 through Burnett, Wilkeson and Carbonado to the Fairfax Bridge. Some hikers park in this area and make the steep descent to the trail on the east side of the bridge.

For easier trail access, continue over the bridge and veer left on the Carbon River Road and continue about 3 miles to Manley-Moore Road. Turn left here and continue on Kolisch Road. After crossing the river, you’ll find parking, but be careful not to block gates or the road. The trail starts on the far side of the bridge.

Difficulty rating: 2 (5 is most difficult, 1 is easiest).

Miles round trip: 8.

Elevation gain: 400 feet.

Best time of the year: Year-round.

Map: Detailed maps of the trail in this area are hard to find. The section of trail described above is not shown on online maps such as Google and Mapquest, but it is shown on the maps uses by some fitness tracking apps including Strava.

Pass: None.

Also: The hike can be extended toward Carbonado. The Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition, a trail advocacy group, has worked on this section of trail and uses this trail for its annual Rainier to Ruston Relay. Dogs on leashes are permitted. There are several geocaches in the area. Visit geocaching.com for more information.

More info: bit.ly/2azJGiG.

Craig Hill: 253-597-8497