10 Great Day Hikes Around the Yakima Area

Cowiche Canyon Trail - Yakima, WA

10 Great Day Hikes Around the Yakima Area

July 17, 2019

You don’t have to go far to experience the beauty of the Yakima Valley’s rugged shrub steppe landscape and surrounding mountain passes. Just a short drive takes you to any one of dozens of hikes on more than 200 miles of trails in the vicinity of the Valley, from near the city of Yakima and the Yakima River Canyon to the White Pass Scenic Byway and Chinook Pass.

Plan a day trip to one of these great hikes.

1. Cowiche Canyon Trail

  • Location: West Yakima
  • Length: 6 miles round-trip
  • Duration: 1 to 3 hours
  • Best Season: Year-round depending on snowfall

Along the lower canyon trail, hike along an old railroad spur with canyon walls of andesite and basalt rock columns and shrub steppe habitat. The trail run alongside the lush wetland of the Cowiche Creek and cross the creek on railroad bridges and one concrete structure. The trail itself is a flat with loose gravel. There are 8 connecting trails totaling more than 12 miles,one of which leads up to the vineyards and  tasting room of the  Wilridge Winery, Vineyard, and Distillery, marked by a winery trail sign. You can also hike the uplands trails and take the moderately steep path down into the canyon from the trailhead on Scenic Drive. The peak bloom time for native wildflowers is from April through early June. 

GPS: 46.6299, -120.6629

2. Snow Mountain Ranch Trails

  • Cowiche Mountain Trail West & Cowiche Mountain Trail East
  • Location: West of Yakima, WA
  • Length: 5.38 miles round trip
  • Duration: 4 to 6 hours
  • Best Season: Year-round depending on snowfall

Snow Mountain Ranch, part of the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy, consists of 10 connecting marked trails from .24 miles to 3.24 miles in length.The trails vary from easy, mostly flat terrain to moderate and steep uphill grades, all lined with wildflowers in spring. The top of Cowiche Mountain is at an elevation 2970 feet, with spectacular views to the west of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier, Oak Creek Wildlife Area and east to the city of Yakima. Start with the west leg of the Cowiche Mountain Trail, a 3.14-mile trail that goes from floodplain and a ravine to a challenging uphill grade. This trail meets both the Balanced Rock Trail (.35-mile, moderate to steep uphill) and the Riparian Trail West (.72-mile, mostly flat terrain), the Wildflower Trail (.94-mile steady uphill grade) and crosses near the top of the ridge for elevation gain of 1,140 feet at the summit. Descend north on Cowiche Mountain Trail East, a 2.14-mile, steady, sometime steep, trail that connects with the Bench Loop Trail (.9-mile, mostly level terrain) and  intersects with the east end of the Ditch Bank Trail (.72-mile flat terrain).

GPS: 46.6593, -120.7556

Suggested Stops: Hike at Snow Mountain Ranch or Cowiche Canyon Trail and stop at The Cowiche Creek Brewing Company and relax over a Yakima Valley craft brew.

3. Ahtanum Ridge

  • Location: Union Gap, WA
  • Length: 3 mile loop
  • Duration: 2 to 3 hours
  • Best Season: Year-round depending on snowfall

This is a high desert trail on sagebrush- and grass-covered hill where you are rewarded with spectacular views of the lower valley, Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainer in the distance, and overlook the Central WA Agricultural Museum, Union Gap and Yakima below. The trail starts near the museum entrance at Fulbright Park, left of the tank display. This is a very steep climb until ¾ of the way to the top of the ridge, total elevation gain 885 feet. Coming down the trail there are more switchbacks ending on the museum grounds.

GPS: 46.53796,-120.481

Suggested Stops: Take time to walk through the Central Washington Agriculture Museum and view the acres of artifacts from the history of farming in the Valley. Stop at Los Hernandez Tamales in Union Gap, WA  for their James Beard award winning tamales.

4. Cleman Mountain

  • Location: West of Naches, WA
  • Length: 4 miles round trip
  • Duration: 4 to 5 hours
  • Best Season: March through May and September through November; Discover Pass Required

Mt. Cleman towers 4,500 feet over Naches, WA, northwest of the Yakima Valley. The elevation gain of 2,300 feet on this hike, offers 360-degree views of Mt. Adams, Goat Rocks, Mt Rainer, the Cascade Range and the valley below, making this worthwhile hike. There are a number of trails for summiting the mountain, with some steeper and more challenging than others. The Waterworks Canyon and the ridges on either side of the canyon are popular. This is a great spring hike for the wildflowers or fall for mountain sheep. Summer is quite hot. Access from highway 410 is closed; access the trails from Waterworks Canyon.

GPS: 46.74874,-120.79773

5. Naches Peak Loop

  • Location: Highway 410, Chinook Pass
  • Length 3.5 miles
  • Duration: 2 to 3 hours
  • Best Season: July through November; Northwest Forest Pass Required

Find spectacular views of Mt. Rainier on the western side, wildflower meadows and cascading streams on this hike. The hike begins with crossing the log bridge at the top of Chinook Pass SR 410.This east side of the peak is gentle climb with views back down across a canyon toward the Chinook Pass Highway. There is a small pond with nearby large rocks for a picnic stop. As you near the highest point of the trail, there are a few switchbacks. At the top, at a fork in the trail, take the trail on the right, the left fork is the Pacific Crest Trail, descending a mile to Dewey Lake 600 feet below. The hike on this side of the peak has the views of Mt. Rainier and is more forested. When you reach SR 410, hike along the highway back to your vehicle, or cross the road to Tipsoo Lake, a rest area with restrooms, picnic tables and a path that leads back to the log footbridge.

GPS: 46.52026, -121.31034

6. Tieton Nature Trail

  • Location:  Highway 12, White Pass
  • Length: 8 miles, round trip
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Best Season: March through December

The Tieton River Nature Trail is an easy hike, good for kids and dogs, with an elevation gain of 300 feet. Impressive sheer Tieton River Canyon walls are on one side of the trail and the Tieton River on the other. There are three bridges over the river, providing three options for beginning the hike. The parking area is atmilepost 183.5 on highway 12 across from the Oak Creek Wildlife Area. The trail is reached by walking across the bridge turning right and passing through the gate in the elk fence. After less than 2 miles, there is a suspension bridge, leading to a second parking option near an old Quonset hut.  Continuing on the trail you will reach the third “crooked” bridge. Hike in spring for wildflowers and in the fall for spectacular fall color.

GPS: 46.7192, -120.8344

7. Round Mountain

  • Location:  Highway 12 White Pass.
  • Length: 5.2 miles round trip
  • Duration: 3 to 4 hours
  • Best Season: July through September; Northwest Forest Pass Required.

Enjoy amazing views from an old forest service lookout location of Mt Adams, Bear Creek Mountain, Tieton Peak to the south and Rimrock Lake and Clear Lake below. This is a moderate to strenuous steep climb consisting of switchbacks through the forest with an elevation gain of 1,700 feet in the Goat Rocks wilderness.  When you reach the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail near the top continue straight on a short trail to the top at 5,970 feet

GPS: 46.6344, -121.3033

8. Boulder Cave

  • Location: Highway 410 Chinook Pass
  • Length: 2 miles, round trip      
  • Duration: 1 to 2 hours
  • Best Season: Open May through October; Northwest Forest Pass or day use fee

This is an easy trail hike, great for kids, with only a 300-foot elevation gain. There is a lookout platform with a canyon view, interpretive signs about the local ecology and history, and viewpoints along the way. Flash lights are necessary for the 400-foot cave. A small stream runs through the cave and continues down the gorge toward the parking area. This area is a habitat for the Pacific western big-eared bat. To reduce disturbance to this sensitive species, please whisper and do not touch or shine lights on the cave walls.  Important Notice: Boulder Cave is closed until 9/7/2019 for trail maintenance.                                                                                  

GPS: 46.9610103,-121.0867845

Suggested Stops: Hikes #4 through #8 above are on highway 12 White Pass or highway 410 Chinook Pass. Pick up some farm fresh fruit at McIlrath Family Farm fruit stand or Thompsons Farm Market to take along. On the way back be sure to stop at BronYrAur Brewing for a cold beverage and gourmet pizza.

9. Selah Cliffs Natural Area Preserve

  • Location:  Yakima River Canyon
  • Length: 2.5 miles, roundtrip                                                                                   
  • Duration: 1 to 2 hours
  • Best Season: May through October

The Selah Cliffs Natural Area Preserve trail features a half mile interpretive loop plus two-mile out-and-back trail toward the Fred G.Redmon Bridge. Established in 1993, this preserve protects the basalt daisy, a state-listed threatened species, along a 10-mile section of the Yakima River Canyon. The basalt daisy roots in cracks and fissures on the rock faces of basalt cliffs and blooms May through October, peaking in June. The cliffs are also a nesting habitat for prairie falcons, red-tailed hawks and kestrels. Selah Creek runs along the foot of the cliffs, and areas of shrub-steppe habitat. Dogs are not allowed on this preserve.

GPS: 46.7084693,-120.4638704

10. Umtanum Canyon  

  • Location:  Yakima River Canyon
  • Length: 6.5 miles round trip
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Best Season: February through May; $5 Public Parking Fee

This hike starts with a suspension bridge over the Yakima River, crosses active Railroad tracks and follows the Umtanum Creek up through the canyon and past remnants of a homestead with heirloom apple trees. In the spring bighorn sheep, deer and elk visit the canyon. At the west end of the canyon at about 3 miles and after a rocky section, the canyon narrows and trails are less defined, becoming difficult. The Umtanum Creek Recreation Area is a BLM managed campground with access to the Yakima River.

GPS: 46.8554, -120.4833

Suggested Stops: Hikes #9 and #10 above are along the beautiful Yakima River Canyon. Planning on a picnic?  Stop for items to take along at Precisions Fruit on Exit 26, I -82, at the end of the off ramp with easy access to continue your drive. After your hike visit the only restaurant in the Yakima Canyon, just feet from the Yakima River, the delicious Canyon River Grill.

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