Five years after filing a plan to build a trailhead at the Dingford junction just past the Taylor River bridge the Forest Service began work on the new Garfield Ledges trailhead. It includes a two vault toilet, 4 parking pullouts, and eventually 14 picnic tables. This new trailhead also solves a problem that began in November 2015 when a series of floods washed out the 1/4 mile spur road to the Taylor trailhead leaving few parking spots for the popular hike to Lipsy Lake and Otter Falls. The washouts were too deep for most vehicles to drive through and eventually the road was blocked by barriers in November 2017 and continues to be. But at least there are plenty of parking spots now for all but the busiest weekends.
In the past this area just beyond the bridge was a very popular camping area with four dispersed camp sites along the Taylor river. Last summer a couple parties parked their RVs next to the sites and used them for at least the maximum 14 day stat. All of the sites have been converted to day use areas with picnic tables and it may come as a surprise when people drive up to use their traditional site and find out that camping is no longer allowed here.
Simultaneously with the trailhead going in work resumed on the Garfield Ledges trail which starts to climb right behind the bathroom. Last year the last third of the trail was built by hand and now an excavator is being used to slowly carve out the trail beginning at the bottom.
Early plans for the Garfield Ledges trailhead from the September 30, 2013 SOPA document for the Middle Fork Recreation Hub Project. It took 5 years for this to become a reality.
Dingford junction in December, 2017 before work began. The jersey barriers blocking the spur road to the Taylor River trailhead were installed in November, 2017.
The USFS published an alert on their website about travel delays on May 14, 2018. Work began and May 16 and as promised was completed within about a month except for installation of the picnic tables.
Work began in mid-May, 2018 with the first big change being the addition of a new two-stall bathroom.
View of new bathroom looking down valley toward the Taylor River bridge
New bathroom with big rocks blocking doors to prevent early access!
Creating a new parking pullout begins by digging a pit and filling it with gravel to ensure good drainage.
New parking pullout with new gravel drainage base
Big equipment used to haul gravel and debris up and down from the Hell Hill pit
Most of the larger gravel used for fill came from the pit at the top of Hell Hill
Hell Hill gravel pit usage is done for now and it was left somewhat cleaned up
New surfacing gravel being trucked in for the top layer of the parking pullouts and picnic areas
Lots of new gravel is spread around as the project progresses
Picnic areas and parking pullouts get a top layer of gravel
The Dingford junction area just beyond the Taylor River bridge has been a popular area for dispersed camping for many years. Camping is no longer allowed in this area.
Two RVs set up for extended stays at the Dingford junction in June, 2017
The completed project. The Taylor trailhead road to the left is still blocked. The road to the right climbs Hell Hill on the way to the Dingford trailhead.
The completed project with many more parking spots than before
The turn in the road for climb up Hell Hill and after 6 miles of potholes, the Dingford trailhead. A new culvert was installed on the left to avoid persistent muddy ground in this area.
Hikers begin using the new trailhead for trips up the Taylor River trail
In October 2013 the Forest Service completed a badly needed upgrade to the Dingford Creek trailhead. When the Middle Fork road was permanently gated here in June 2007 the Dingford trailhead absorbed the users that previously drove farther up the road to Goldmyer Hot Springs or the Dutch Miller Gap trailhead, in addition to those heading up the Dingford Creek trail or down to the bridge over the Middle Fork river to the Middle Fork trail. On sunny summer weekends the parking was often maxed out, and without any restroom facilities the surrounding forest was becoming a smelly mess. Besides a new prefab Cascadian Vault Restroom the parking lot received a thick layer of gravel and concrete parking bumpers. The bumpers increase the capacity encouraging diagonal parking on both sides of the trailhead area.
Panorama of upgraded Dingford trailhead
This change did not come out of the blue. It was part of the Access and Travel Management decision 8 years ago in 2005.
The Decision: Dingford Creek Trailhead
In conjunction with the conversion of Road 5600 past Dingford Creek to trail/private road, sanitation facilities will be provided at the Dingford Creek Trailhead. Additionally, the current capacity of 10-12 cars, parking will be expanded to up to a maximum of 30 cars. Cutting and grubbing alder and brush that have encroached into the parking area and into the south shoulder of Road 5600 just prior to the trailhead will accomplish this. Once cleaned, the area will be graded to provide the expanded parking.
Mossy Dingford Creek trail signboard in January 2011
Updated Dingford Creek trail signboard in November 2011
Dilapidated Dingford Bridge trail signboard as of January 2011
Updated Dingford Bridge trail signboard in November 2011
A busy Dingford trailhead with parking maxed out in September 2012
Dingford trailhead parking on a typical winter day before the upgrade
Temporary Dingford trailhead parking during trailhead upgrade
Temporary road closure for Dingford trailhead upgrade
Digging a pit for the badly needed Dingford trailhead restroom
The dirt from the toilet pit was trucked down the road and dumped by the gravel wash at the wash of Garfield’s Great Canyon
A new restroom in two pieces. The structure is constructed to look like wood, but is actually made of concrete
Many truckloads of gravel were brought in to resurface the parking area
Dingford trailhead upgrade with lots of new gravel
As of July 1, 2013 Mailbox Peak hikers can start using the new parking lot on weekends and holidays from 7am to dusk. Don’t know when dusk is? It will be posted on the gate so you will know ahead of time what time to be back to your car. The hours are limited to prevent late-night partying — city (North Bend), county (King) and state (DNR) budget crunches prevent frequent patrols of the parking lot.
As at many easily accessible trailheads, vandalism continues to be a problem. Cars parked along the road experience regular breakins, most often the less busy days (Monday through Thursday) when the perpetrators are likely to be alone long enough to avoid detection. Never leave valuables in the car while hiking.
This gallery captures a series of steps in the construction of the new parking lot. Enjoy the restrooms!
The Forest Service has proposed improved access to the Pratt river bar, including a new bridge across a creek and a toilet. Currently the trail to the river bar requires negotiating a few carefully balanced steps on logs spanning a small creek, then deciding which of several gravelly paths to follow to reach the river. In their words this project will “provide safe access to the Pratt Bar, by converting 1,100 ft. of closed non-system road to a USFS system trail. A 35-40 foot bridge would be constructed over a creek and a toilet and trailhead sign would be installed in the existing parking lot.” The comment period ends in March, 2013. Funding for this work is pending approval of a package of enhancements associated with the FHWA paving project.
photo by Mark Griffith
New toilet facilities along the Middle Fork road are always welcome. This old model near the bar follows the privacy-by-obscurity model — good luck finding it!
Pratt Valley view from the bar
Dispersed campsite by the river bar
Based on the number of fire pits, this is a popular area for dispersed camping and for good reason — the views on both sides of the river are outstanding. During low water periods, it’s also a short-cut to the Pratt River valley if you’re willing to ford the river.
Pratt River bar trail proposal map
Note: The Google satellite imagery has an offset error for most of the Pratt River valley and some outside of it. That’s why the annotations on this map are off. The line for the road and other items are correct, the satellite imagery is shifted north.
View Pratt River Bar trail in a larger map