Take a hike
The Yakima Valley offers dozens of trailheads within a short drive of your front door, but if you’re looking for a few iconic treks, you can’t go wrong with these.
EASY PEASY: If your knees, your waistline or your schedule demand you stay away from hills, The Greenway is tailor-made. Accessible at various places — off Valley Mall Boulevard, at Sarg Hubbard Park and at the end of 16th Avenue, to name a few — it’s the classic family stroll. If it were any flatter, you could rollerblade on it. Oh, wait …
EARLY ESCAPES: Any list of the Valley’s early-season jewels has to start with the Umtanum Creek Trail and the Tieton River Nature Trail. The Umtanum Creek Trail starts at the DNR’s Umtanum Recreation Site in the Yakima River Canyon; just cross the walking bridge and follow the trail until you’re, oh, about halfway to tired, turn around and come back. Likewise, the Tieton River Nature Trail, which starts directly across the Tieton River from the Oak Creek Wildlife Area headquarters, is another out-and-back. Both are tremendous early-season hikes, beautiful in April and early May when the wildflowers are coming out, but occasionally unnerving in summer, when the rattlesnakes are coming out.
SEEING FROM ABOVE: Yeah, anybody can hike through a canyon and look up at the basalt columns. But for a different perspective, try the Yakima Rim Skyline Trail. It’s kind of a hassle to get to — out North Wenas Road to Gibson Road to Buffalo Road, which you’ll follow for roughly three, occasionally winding, miles to a parking area at the road’s end. Then you have to hike uphill — some 1,300 feet of elevation gain — before you get to enjoy the view you came to see. Once there, though … wow. Just don’t go expecting any shady spots, because there aren’t any.
THE CROWN JEWELS: As far as Yakima hikes go, it’s hard to beat Cowiche Canyon. It’s easy to access (Summitview to Weikel Road, hang a right, look for the sign), and it’s got the canyon views, the interesting geology, occasional wildlife and the peaceful creekside hike. If you continue further out Summitview to Cowiche Mill Road, you can hit the trail circuit for Cowiche Canyon Conservancy’s newest acquisition, Snow Mountain Ranch, for a different, “shrub-steppey” kind of experience.
360 DEGREES OF PARADISE: This is a hefty drive from Yakima — 13 miles beyond Whistlin’ Jacks in Cliffdell. And it’s an even more hefty hike, requiring more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain from the trailhead, which is across State Route 410 from the Hells Crossing Campground. But Goat Peak is great for “peak-bagger” types who know they’re not up to getting an ice ax and challenging one of the region’s big volcanoes. And once you get to the top, the spectacular 360-degree view makes it all worthwhile.
— Scott Sandsberry