One of the best things about the Yakima Valley is seeing the seasons shift throughout the year. In the fall, the Valley’s rolling hills and rugged slopes come to life with a blanket of changing colors. All along the rivers and throughout the hillsides and mountains, you’re sure to find brilliant reds, yellows and oranges of fall foliage. So, where’s the best place to experience the changing fall colors around the Yakima Valley? Right now, you can expect snow on the higher mountain trails, but most of the lower trails will be bursting with fall color. For easier hikes, consider a walk through manicured grounds, join an educational tour, hike through a vineyard, explore a canyon, or hike shrub steppe landscapes.
The Conservancyis a non-profit land trust established to protect over 5,000 acres of shrub steppe landscape made up of sagebrush and grasslands, flowering meadows, oak woodlands, and basalt cliffs. This conservation effort provides more than 30 miles of trails for outdoor recreation. The Cowiche Canyon Trails are open dawn to dusk for all to enjoy. The canyon provides surprisingly colorful walks in the fall, bursting with reds, yellows, and greens of sumac, birch, and lichen. Find lovely fall colors all along Cowiche Creek on the lower trail. In addition there are seasonal educational walks and activities.
The Annual Fall Colors Walk at Cowiche Canyon consists of a series of 4 diverse and colorful guided walks for the whole family on Saturday, October 26, from 10 am to 12:30 pm. The starting points for these walks are at the western Weikle Road entrance to the canyon. Leaf photography and identification and the family-friendly walk with Sagebrush Kids are both easy two- to three-mile walks. The Paseo Walk in Spanish is three to four miles and is considered medium difficulty. The Canyon to Cliffs Walk is the most difficult at four to five miles
Take a walk through the vineyards atWilridge Vineyard, Winery, and Distillery, adjacent to the canyon and reached by a well-marked trail from the canyon below. Taking this side path up the canyon rim you will come to the vineyards of Wilridge Winery. Of course, you could start at the winery and walk through the vineyards to the canyon below and then back to enjoy the wine with vineyards views. Either way you choose, enjoy a scenic walk through fall vineyards to the floor of the canyon.
Snow Mountain Ranch, part of the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy is a short drive from Downtown Yakima. Discover the natural beauty of the shrub steppe habitat – the grass and sage brush covered golden hills surrounding the lush Yakima Valley. Previously a 1,800 acre cattle ranch, Snow Mountain Ranch now features 9.2 miles divided into 13 designated trails. There are shorter, easy walks that are family friendly, as well as a longer 6.5-mile hike with significant elevation gain, to the top of Cowiche Mountain, at 3,376 feet. This hike offers spectacular views of Mt Adams and Mt Rainier. On your fall hike you may see signs of elk, deer, coyote, `and great horned owls, variety of ducks, hawks, and northern harriers.
This paved 20-mile pathway begins just off I-82 near Union Gap, skirting the City of Yakima along the Yakima and Naches Rivers, and running west to the little town of Naches. Along the way there are parks, river access landings, nature trails, fishing lakes, protected natural areas and maple, cottonwood, sumac, vine maple tree lined paths. This time of year, the trees are vibrant with color. Adjacent to the Yakima Greenway Path, at Sherman Park is the Yakima Area Arboretum consisting of46 acres of land with roughly 30 acres of lawn filled with trees, display gardens, and 15 acres of natural area. There are plants and trees indicative of the Yakima River Watershed ranging from the shrub steppe to the sub-alpine to the riparian. The beautiful landscapes are bursting with color from oak, maple, fruit trees, Hawthorne, beech and many more trees and shrubs. Map
Tieton River Nature Trail
Entering the Yakima Valleyfrom the White Pass Scenic Byway on Hwy 12, theTieton River Nature Trailruns alongside the Tieton River. This a 3.3-mile, lightly trafficked, out-and-back trail where you will see the brilliant yellows of cottonwoods, reds sumacs and vine maple sporting red, yellow and orange, as well as a variety of other colorful, riverside vegetation. Hike along impressive, sheer canyon walls and three bridges over the river. Located less than 30 minutes from Downtown Yakima this hike is easy for the whole family and is just 3 miles west of the junction of Highway 12 and Hwy 410.
You’ll find a parking area across the highway from the Oak Creek Feeding Station at milepost 183.5. The trail is reached by walking across the bridge, turning right and passing through the gate in the elk fence. The suspension bridge is less than two miles on, after traversing through small groves of trees. There is an old Quonset hut on the Hwy 12 side of the river; this is the second parking area. Continuing on the trail you will eventually come to the third “crooked” bridge. There is a wide spot on the highway near the slow vehicle turnout where one can park well off the road near this bridge. The bridge cannot be seen from the highway.
For other hikes in the area and more information on the hikes mentioned above visit the Yakima Valley Tourism Blog “10 Great Day Hikes Around Yakima”.