Eastern Washington’s Inner Passage

Note: This isn’t any particular road, but rather a serious of loosely-connected roads that allow one to thread their way through some surprisingly empty country laying between Interstate 90 and WA SR26.

The Inner Passage holds a marked allure for me. Usually, when I am trying to get an event or a function, I’m in a hurry. I want to meet my friends, have supper, and enjoy myself before turning in for a good night’s rest. On the way home, I’m feeling mellow and reminiscent, and that where roads like this one come in.

As I mentioned in the disclaimer, this isn’t really a single road like most of the listings here. This road wends its way hither and yon along creeks going between and occasionally through hillsides. The pavement is decent, and the roads are generally fairly empty. This year is the first time I’ve ridden the route in its entirely, and I saw no more than a half-dozen cars in the the eastern half 60 miles of that route on that sleepy Sunday morning. Two of them were while I was taking pictures, both of them slowing down to make sure I was okay. (Yes, it’s that kind of country out there.)

One truly remarkable thing about this area. The vistas are sweeping and the towns are small and fairly far apart by Western Washington standards. This is dry country, a lot of irrigation farming and the occasional farmhouses scattered throughout the valleys. In between the farming areas are the well-known coulee land formations of this region: wide flood-carved valleys with picturesque canyon walls. It’s actually rather tough to describe this road, as it’s long enough that the road itself represents the gradual change from the very arid Columbia River valley through the coulees to the Palouse at the extreme eastern end at Mockonema.

About the more technical aspects of this road, most of it is rural chip-seal. It’s not terribly smooth, but it’s not a Forest Service Road either. You should be fine as long as it’s not raining cats & dogs or been recently chip-sealed.

There’s not a lot of sharp curves on this road, leaning more toward the direction of gentle sweepers. The hills aren’t terribly close to the road in most places, but the road itself can still be technically challenging since it does occasionally drop into the floor of a coulee with sharp left & right corners to go around rocky outcroppings. Frankly, it provides the sport-touring rider something to keep him or her awake on what’s otherwise a very long ride.

Which brings me to my last point. If you’re on a bike with a peanut tank, I also suggest that you take a container of emergency fuel. It’s a very long ways between gas stations on this road, and unlike the locals, we don’t know the exact locations of the nearest gas stops. Case in point, I don’t think there’s a gas stop between Colfax (6 miles east of the end of the route) and Lind, which is a good 70-75 miles. Some of the towns along this route even qualify for near-ghost town status on various ghost town websites.

This road is very long, and quite boring in spots, but if you’re going between Eastern and Central/Western Washington, it’s much more interesting than the neighboring SR26 a few miles to the south.

  • Counties: Adams, Grant, Whitman
  • Length: 139 miles
  • Towns: Potholes, Warden, Lind, Vassar, Ralston, Benge, Endicott, Mockonema

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