Driving South Hill's Historic Corridor
by Carl Vest
Now that the summer driving season is approaching the South Hill Historical Society would like everyone to know about a fine touring experience through our community. It’s the South Hill Heritage Corridor which can be easily traversed and it follows the path taken by the Longmire-Biles wagon train in October 1853.
The Heritage Corridor was established by Pierce County Council Resolution 143 in 2001. The path was ordered marked and subsequently six interpretative signs were installed at various places along the route. A driving tour will take you past all these signs and will be close to the old trail in most places. Due to development and road changes there have been some alterations.
To follow the path of the old wagon train start at the intersection of the Orting Highway (Route 162) and Military Road (122nd Street). This location is approximately where the old trail came across the Puyallup River from Naches Pass. Take 122nd Street up the hill to the west. At the top turn left on Military Road.
Where Military and Shaw Roads intersect (about a mile) there is a heritage signboard on the left (by the school yard fence). Continue straight ahead to the next stop light which is Reservoir Road. Turn right and continue. Reservoir Road eventually becomes 128th Street. There are several stop signs and stop lights, but keep straight. Eventually Meridian Avenue will be reached. At this point the trail is a little to the north (to the right). But this is as close as you can get by driving.
Continue on 128th Street until 94th Avenue. Here the trail is just to the right. There is a heritage marker on 94th Street between this intersection and the new County Public Works facility. The trail then shifts back and crosses 128th Street between the 94th Avenue intersection and Rogers High School. About a half mile from the intersection there is another heritage marker on the right side of the road.
The old trail actually crosses through the campus of Rogers High School. There is an indicator on the school grounds. It’s located at the entrance to the athletic complex and resembles a man-hole cover. It’s flush with the ground but can be easily accessed by automobile.
At the intersection of 128th Street and 86th Avenue turn left (south). About a half-mile on the left is another sign showing where the trail exited what is now the Rogers school property. The trail crosses 86th Avenue at this point.
Beyond this location the original trail has been destroyed by development. It’s impossible to drive on the ridge line on the right, or through Starvation Valley. However, the route is marked as it exits this area. Continue south on 86th Avenue until you reach 160th Street then turn right (west) to Woodland Avenue.
At the intersection of Woodland Avenue and 160th Street there is a final heritage sign (on Woodland Avenue). Beyond that point the trail leaves South Hill and goes south toward the Tacoma Sportsman multiplex.
Carl Vest, PhD, is a founding member and Research Director for the South Hill Historical Society.