Wide Open Spaces, Forest Hikes and Sagebrush Rambles

Written by Beth Geiger

Ramble through fragrant sage and fantastic geology, along with a bit of history, wine tasting, and a bat count on this multi-day loop through eastern Washington.

Day One:

Start in a tunnel of trees on Highway 410 from Enumclaw to scenic Chinook Pass, where you can ramble flowery meadows around tiny Tipsoo Lake (tadpoles!) or hike three miles around Naches Peak. Then drive east into Ponderosa pine country.

Fifty miles from Chinook Pass, turn right on Highway 12 to the Oak Creek Wildlife Area Visitors Center on the Tieton River. The Conservancy purchased 10,000 acres to expand this area. Watch for wildlife and cliffs along the six-mile Tieton River Nature Trail. A suspension bridge 1.8 miles from the visitor’s center makes a good turnaround.

Stop by Tieton, where artisans have set up shop in old fruit warehouses, offering everything from colorful mosaics to artisanal cheese. Check for details and events.

Yakima offers hotels, wine tasting, Mexican food, and a pleasant river walk.

Option: half day side trip to see Murals at Toppenish and Fort Simcoe Historical State Park.

Day Two:

Head up the Yakima River Canyon along Route 821. The Conservancy helps protect Yakima River headwaters with our 2015 central Cascade lands purchase. Swing over a suspension footbridge to explore Umtanum Creek Canyon, watching for old orchards (and rattlesnakes).

Next: north via Ellensburg, Interstate 90, and Route 281 to Quincy for the Conservancy’s Beezley Hill Preserve. The 3-mile Monument Hill Trail (east on Route 28 from Quincy, left on PN-W Road 7 miles) features desert flowers and sweeping views of the Columbia Basin.

Heading north on Route 17, take an hour to explore Lenore Lake caves, carved by epic glacial floods that scoured Eastern Washington 12,000 to15,000 years ago, and later used by Native Americans. 

On Route 28 past Ephrata, don’t miss Dry Falls Interpretative Center at Sun Lakes State Park (camping available). You’ll see a Niagara-sized waterfall, minus the water. Imagine it raging during the massive ice age floods that scoured the region about 12,000 years ago.

Cool your feet in the Columbia River at Steamboat Rock State Park (camping available), and find lodging in Electric City.

Day Three:

Start your day with a free tour of imposing Grand Coulee Dam, which changed the face of the northwest when it was built in the 1930s.

Returning south to Route 2 west, take a right onto Jameson Lake Road into the Conservancy’s Moses Coulee Preserve, another landscape carved by the ice age floods. Explore wildlife, sagebrush and basalt pillars along the half-mile trail to Dutch Henry Falls.

Feeling batty? On July 16th and 30th stick around cliff-rimmed Jameson Lake to volunteer for the Conservancy’s night time spotted bat count. One of 14 bat species here, spotted bats are among the only bat species whose echolocation is audible to humans. The count is an unusual chance to experience the desert at night and help endangered animals. 

Continuing west, explore pioneer times in historic Waterville. Find accommodations and evening events around Wenatchee and Leavenworth.

Day Four:

Discover fairyland charm at lovely Ohme Gardens, perched on a shady butte in Wenatchee. Then follow Route 97 to the historic coal mining towns of Cle Elum and Roslyn (explore the Coal Mines Trail), around the Conservancy’s 2015 48,000-acre Central Cascades checkerboard land purchase. Explore these lands on a challenging hike to Margaret Lake/ Lake Lillian or an easy hike along Kachess Lake before heading west on Interstate 90 to complete your adventure.