Find adventure in every direction all around Yakima! With just a short drive, discover spring hikes with amazing Yakima Valley views, especially when the wildflowers bloom and the valley floor begins to sport its new, spring green growth.
With the weather reaching 60 degrees early this spring, we’re already spotting wildflowers on some of the local trails in our surrounding, diverse shrub-steppe landscapes around the Valley. They won’t be far behind on nearby, subalpine trails.
In less than five minutes from Downtown Yakima you can find yourself on one of the trails preserved and maintained by the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy. These three trails are part of more 5,000 acres of land the Conservancy preserves, protects and restores in the beautiful shrub-steppe and riparian terrain. The land is made up of sagebrush and grasslands, flowering meadows, oak woodlands and basalt cliffs. Choose your adventure under sunny skies, whether you hike, mountain bike or horseback ride. Hit these trails in the spring for a lovely wildflower display and in fall for beautiful colors along the canyon floor. In the summer, enjoy them best when it is cooler in the morning or evenings.
The Cowiche Canyon Upland Trails deliver great views of the city of Yakima spread out below to the south and east, with Mt Adams in the distance, the Cowiche area to the northwest, and across the canyon to Naches Heights. In the springtime you’ll wander through acres of beautiful wildflowers among the sagebrush on the top of this ridge. This year, the wildflowers are already beginning to bloom early! There are a few benches along the trail, but no shade in this area. Find convenient parking the lot located in a residential area at the top of the trail and nice trail maps and markers. Begin with a clean trail which starts as a jeep trail with other well-marked trails branching off, many of which are perfect for beginning mountain biking. Some of the trails take you to the rim of the canyon. Most are loop trails, such as East and West Uplands, Radio Flyer and Summitview Trail.
For a wonderful detour, choose to head down into the canyon and back up the other side for a walk through vineyards on the way to Wilridge Vineyard, Winery and Distillery. It’s the he perfect spot to rest or picnic and sip local wine. The Cowiche Canyon trail on the canyon floor is gravel with beautiful rock formations, bridges. The trail on the canyon floor follows the flowing Cowiche Creek for an easy, flat hike or horseback ride you can access via the Cowiche Canyon East and West Trailheads. You can find shade among the creek side trees and plants on the west portion.
Join members of the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy for the early spring guided Wildflower Walk on March 21, 2020 on the Uplands Trailhead! There are 245 acres of private land within the boundaries of this popular hiking/biking area the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy is endeavoring to purchase and preserve through community support. There will be informative, guided, hour-long tours of the property in March.
Trail Map Trailhead GPS: 46.6101481,-120.6243069,16
Rocky Top Trails, in a high desert, shrub-steppe landscape, features 17 tracks for mountain bikers. The trails are also used by hikers and horseback riders. This area is located just 10 miles from downtown Yakima and offers mild gradients designed by mountain bikers. Enjoy views to the north of the Cowiche area and across to Selah and the rim of the Yakima River Canyon. To the east, take in views of the Yakima Valley. The Walk and Roll Trail brings you along a ridge with exceptional views of the city. The trails connect to the William O. Douglass Trail. If you are looking for a place to relax after your hike or bike ride, make a stop at nearby Cowiche Creek Brewing Company, They frequently offer a selection of delicious foods from local food trucks on weekends. Check their Facebook page for what delicious creations are being served up. In warm weather, enjoy corn hole on the expansive lawn with great canyon views. The brewery is home to the Northwest Burger Jam in June, the region’s premier burger battle, complete with music, beer, celebrity chefs, and more!
Trails Map Trailhead GPS: 46.627868, -120.683790
Snow Mountain Ranch Trails is just a 10- to 15-minute drive from Yakima on 2,000 acres of lands with 1,000 feet of elevation gain. You can easily enjoy a two- to three-hour up and back hike. Choose from 10 trails, whether you’re looking for an easy hike with no elevation gain or those a bit more challenging. This is where you will find the aptly named Wildflower Trail, where Balsamroot wildflowers bloom in abundance at top of mountain hill mid- spring. Mountain biking is allowed only in the lowlands, prohibited above the ditch bank. Horseback riding is permitted, but you must enter the trails from Rocky Top due to a turnstile located at the Snow Mountain Ranch entry.
It’s a popular destination for bird watching as well. Join the Conservancy for a Birding Tour at Snow Mountain Ranch on April 11, 2020, led by longtime Audubon guide Andy Stepniewski. You can spot remarkably diverse birds in the riparian and meadow zones of Snow Mountain Ranch.
After your hike, stop at the Public House of Yakima, a neighborhood tap house and gathering place, to dine on a menu of flatbreads, pizzas, salads and extensive selection of craft beers, cider and wine. Bring the whole family and sit on the outside patio to bask in the sunshine as you try one of more than 40 brews or wine on tap.
Trails Map. Trailhead GPS: 46.6597651,-120.7593044,17
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”.
For Mountain Bikers, “10 Great Mountain Bike Rides Around the Yakima Valley”