The John Wayne Pioneer Trail follows the former railway roadbed of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad (Milwaukee Road ) for 300 miles (480 km) across two-thirds of Washington from the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains to the Idaho border. The trail is named in honor of the John Wayne Pioneer Wagons and Riders Association for their assistance in creating the trail.
The former Milwaukee Road roadbed was acquired by the state of Washington via a quitclaim deed, and is used as a non-motorized recreational trail managed by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. State legislation "railbanked" the corridor with provisions that allow for the reversion to railroad usage in the future.
The 100-mile (160 km) portion from Cedar Falls (near North Bend) to the Columbia River south of Vantage has been developed and is managed as the Iron Horse State Park. A state parks concessionaire operates a commercial hike-bike shuttle bus between Cedar Falls and Hyak during summer months. This section lies in King County and Kittitas County.
Access points to the developed portion of the trail, managed by Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, are at:
Rattlesnake Lake, Cedar Falls – western terminus and connection to the Snoqualmie Valley Regional Trail Twin Falls Hyak – provides access to the 2.3-mile long Snoqualmie Tunnel through the crest of the Cascade Mountains. Easton – descending the eastern slope of the Cascades Cle Elum – provides access to the Upper Yakima River Canyon Thorp – near the historic Thorp Mill Kittitas, Washington – in the open farm valley of the Yakima River drainage east of Ellensburg, Washington Army West – at the western edge of the stretch passing through the shrub-steppe country of the U.S. Army's Yakima Training Center Army East – at the eastern edge of the stretch passing through the shrub-steppe country of the U.S. Army's Yakima Training Center as it reaches the Columbia River
Undeveloped The trail runs along the east side of Rock Lake in the Rock Creek drainage; the former railroad grade climbing the basalt walls of the lake can be seen
Access points to the undeveloped portion of the trail, managed by Washington State Department of Natural Resources, have not been formally opened to the public. However the trail provides access to the unique geological erosion features of the Channeled Scablands regions of the state of Washington, and several stretches have been recognized as providing access to this area created by the cataclysmic Missoula Floods that swept periodically across eastern Washington and down the Columbia River Plateau during the Pleistocene epoch. At Malden Washington, once home to the largest railroad turntable in the world, the Parks Department is planning a trailhead in the former rail yard.