I love a trail with a story behind it, and the story behind the Indian Race Track Trail is a gem! Plus, it's a fabulous ride.
For centuries, the Indian Race Track Meadows in SW Washington's present-day Indian Heaven Wilderness were a seasonal gathering place for local Native Americans. In late summer and early fall, the tribes camped in the meadows to pick huckleberries, fish in the lakes, hunt deer and elk, gather roots, and socialize. For fun in the evenings, the young men raced their ponies in the meadows.
As recently as the 1980’s, you could clearly see evidence of the racetrack for which the Meadows are named. Today the encroaching forest has largely obscured evidence of the old race track, but it’s still fun to imagine the excitement of those early contests.
Distance: 5 miles round trip (longer rides are possible)
Elevation: 3,500 to 4,900 feet
You’ll start your ride at Falls Creek Horse Camp. At the entrance to the horse camp, turn left on Road 65, and in 0.1 mile turn right on the Indian Race Track Trail. You’ll cross Falls Creek, and a little more than 2 miles later you’ll pass the shallow Race Track Lakes and reach the famous meadows.
From Indian Race Track Meadows, you can continue another mile to the top of Red Top Mountain, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding area.
Or you ride a 14.5-mile loop by following the Pacific Crest Trail north through the Indian Heaven Wilderness and past several pretty lakes. Turn left on the Thomas Lake Trail and follow it to Road 65, which will take you back to the horse camp.
Falls Creek Horse Camp has four sites with highline posts and cables, fire pits, and picnic tables. Stock water is available from Falls Creek, but it’s rather far from some of the campsites so you may want to bring your own stock water. The campground road has a tight turning radius that is not suitable for larger rigs. Don’t let that deter you, though. The campground road has relatively large aprons at the entrance, so you can fairly easily back into the campground and then into sites 1 or 2.
Getting to Falls Creek Horse Camp
From Stevenson, take Hwy. 14 east for 3.2 miles. Between mileposts 47 and 48, turn left on Wind River Hwy. toward Carson. In 5.8 miles, turn right on Old State Road, then almost immediately turn left on Panther Creek Road, which becomes Forest Road 65 in 0.9 mile. At milepost 10 you’ll reach the Four Corners junction with Road 60. Go straight, and at milepost 12 the pavement ends and Road 67 goes to the left. Stay right, and at milepost 15 you’ll reach the horse camp on the left.
You’ll find more information about the Indian Race Track Trail and other rides out of Falls Creek Horse Camp in Riding SW Washington Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2018), available at www.nwhorsetrails.com.