Beginner, Intermediate and Challenger Adventures
by Shannon Mahre, Outdoor Adventure Guide – photos by Shannon Mahre
Fall could be the very best time for a mountain biking adventure in just about any direction around the Yakima Valley. From wide open, sage-covered landscapes and river-side, forested trails to mountain top views, the mountain bike trails in and near the Yakima Valley are truly one of a kind. No matter your skill level or age, there’s someplace special for you on your next two-wheeled adventure.
The Yakima Greenway is a paved path that boasts more than 20 miles of scenic riding from the small town of Naches all of the way through Gleed and Yakima, ending in Union Gap (or the other way around!). With only a slight grade, scenic lakes, picnic areas and treed green space, this beginner friendly trail is a perfect choice to bust out some miles or get comfortable on your mountain bike before you take the next step to riding on uneven, technical terrain. For a great weekend ride, park at the Gleed/Suntides parking area and pedal to Naches — grab a coffee and a massive homemade cinnamon roll at Sticky Fingers Bakery. Then pedal on back to your car. The way back is slightly downhill, so you’ll be cruising with a full tummy and full heart. Or, start at the access point in Union Gap and make the trek along the river with side stops at the Yakima Area Arboretum or the new Rotary Playground.
Cowiche Canyon Conservancy Uplands/Scenic Trail Head
Historic Jeep Trail, Summitview South, Coyote Way, South Uplands Loop
One of the best trails to dip your toes into mountain biking on is the Historic Jeep Trail at the Uplands/Scenic trailhead of Cowiche Canyon Conservancy (CCC). This double track has only a few slight hills and gives you the space to learn how to navigate rocks as well as practice speed control without a high level of risk. You can go out and back on the Jeep Trail (a total of approximately 4.4 miles roundtrip) or take a few little lollipop loops off of the Jeep Trail (I recommend Summitview South, Coyote Way and South Uplands Loop) to take a slightly larger step into some more technical terrain. The wide open skies and unique shrub-steppe landscape make this trail system a local favorite for beginners and families to adventure and ride on trails that are fun for the entire crew.
Tieton River Nature Trail
This trail will always have a special place in the hearts of locals because of the beauty that it holds, but also because it’s one of the most fun and flowy trails that we have for mountain biking near Yakima proper. Located off of Highway 12 just a few miles west of Naches, this eight-mile out and back trail truly is a gem no matter the season. It follows the Tieton river upstream, so your pedal out will be slightly uphill (there are a few steep hills to pedal up but they are short and out of the way in no time), weaving close to the river and then into woods and wide open meadows filled with Oak Trees and Aspens. In the fall, everywhere you look will be the brightest shades of orange, yellow and red that you can find in nature. Couple that with perfect, riverside picnic spots and a fun ride back to your car, and you’ll soon be calling this one of your favorite all-time biking trails.
Intermediate Cowiche Canyon Conservancy Uplands/Scenic Trail Head
South Uplands Loop, Cliff Path, Brake B4U Break, Colonel Barnhill, Radio Flyer, Trailbreaker
The CCC trail system truly has something for all levels. If you want a good pedal workout with fun, keep-your-mind-busy trails, then the above trails all linked together with short stints on the Historic Jeep Trail in between will most definitely fill your cup. Between short sections of flow and technical ups, downs and turns past sage brush, and mini rock gardens, these trails will keep you on your toes while delivering some serious fun for any intermediate-advanced rider.
Konnowac Pass Loop Trail
Located just outside of Moxee and Yakima in Wapato, this loop has everything from climbs to flow to technical sections to some all-out pedal miles. With just under 1,300 feet of elevation gain, this ride has some pretty epic views of the valley, but be aware that there isn’t any shade so if you’re going on a summer day, I would recommend going early enough that you won’t get too hot during your adventure. A few technical climbs and descents and over 10 miles of riding make this a more challenging but very rewarding ride.
Cowiche Canyon Conservancy Uplands/Scenic Trail Head
South Rim Trail
If you’ve ridden in Moab, Utah, then you may have some mini flashbacks while riding our South Rim Trail in the Uplands/Scenic trail system of CCC. Sharp switchbacks and technical rocky ascents and descents, as well as a few challenging rock gardens will await you as well as keep your mind and body on task while navigating this trail. One of our favorite parts is the unbelievable views — so we recommend stopping at least once to fully take them all in. This trail is a full-on crowd pleaser for riders that want a technical adventure in an absolutely breathtaking landscape.
Little Bald Mountain Trail #961
There’s no way to leave this one off the list. This multi-use trail (open to mountain bikes, dirt bikes, hiking and more) begins at Halfway Flats Campground off of Highway 410, which is also a favorite place to stay for the night. You can make this ride as long or as short as you’d like, but if you want to make the trek to the top of Little Bald Mountain, it’s about 22 miles total (out and back) with about 3,600 ft. of elevation gain. The views from the top are stunning but the basalt cliffs and the forested areas that you’ll travel through and past to get there are beautiful as well.
THANK YOU TO OUR GUEST CONTRIBUTOR FOR HER GUIDE TO FABULOUS rides for all levels. SHANNON MAHRE IS A LOCAL OUTDOOR GUIDE EXTRAORDINAIRE AND PASSIONATE ADVENTURER. CHECK OUT HER YEAR-ROUND OUTDOOR ADVENTURE CLINICS, CLASSES AND RETREATS WITH MAHRE MADE AND GIRLS WITH GRIT.