A Hiking Tour of Central Washington
“To walk in nature is to witness a thousand miracles” – Marie Davis
Hiking is a popular activity greatly enjoyed here in Central Washington, and rightly so. Our area is arguably one of the best places in the United States to enjoy outdoor scenery and to embark on a multitude of adventures. With varying landscapes and a vast array of locations to choose from, it is to no surprise that so many people choose the Pacific Northwest as their preferred location for outdoor recreation such as hiking, camping, climbing, and so forth. Embark on a thrilling hiking tour with these trails located near each Central Washington community!
FRENCH CABIN CREEK - CLE ELUM
The French Cabin Creek hike is rated as moderate and is typically used for hiking and nature trips. It is best to use this trail from June to October. It is a 3.1-mile round trip hike with a 1,000-foot elevation gain, and dogs are permitted on this trail. This trail runs parallel to the West Fork of French Cabin Creek to its headwaters. The first few feet of this trail are part of an abandoned road that becomes a single track with old-growth trees. About half a mile from the start of the trail, there is an amazing view of the Cabin Creek valley that one can enjoy and where blueberries start to appear. At the end of this trail is where you will find the majority of the blueberries, and if you so desire, you can turn north and hike another three miles to Thorp Mountain, or you can head south half a mile to pass between stone towers and get wonderful views into the Silver Creek valley.
CATHEDRAL ROCK - SNOQUALMIE PASS
Cathedral Rock trail is a wonderful scenic day hike or even a short overnight hike as well. This trail boasts old-growth forest, lakes, subalpine meadows, and as the name suggests, there is an up-close view of Cathedral Rock. This trail serves a double purpose as it can be used as its own hike or as an access to Alpine Lakes backcountry. It is an 8.0-mile round trip hike with a 2,290-foot elevation. You do need a Northwest Forest Pass and also a Wilderness permit. Starting at Cathedral Trail No. 1345, follow a dirt road into the forest where there is a seasonal stream just past the meadow and across the bridge over the Cle Elum River. Here, the forest takes over, and one must be aware that the trail can be wet during spring and fall. At the half-mile mark, cross into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness where you will continue following the steady switchbacks up the hillside. During this section, you can find an abundance of ripe berries in the late summer. Two miles in, you will come to the junction with Trail Creek Trail 1332 where you will continue straight and the trail starts to become steeper and rockier. At mile 2.5, you will arrive at Squaw Lake where there are a few established campsites. If you continue to follow the trail to the right along the northeast shore of the lake, the trail will start to incline again until you reach the meadow at mile 3.25. Appreciate the beautiful scenery and vegetation in this area and be aware of where you walk. At four miles, the trail meets the Pacific Crest Trail. Here, you can enjoy the amazing views while resting before heading back down.
THORP MOUNTAIN LOOKOUT VIA THORP CREEK - THORP
This 7.4-mile round trip hike doesn’t require any parking passes or entry fees and gains an elevation of 2,484 feet. This is one of the four ways to reach Thorp Mountain, and the benefit of this route is that it detours to a small lake where you can stop, eat a snack and recharge before continuing on. To start off this hike, head down to a creek-crossing that is just several feet from the trailhead. Try to not disturb the salmon in the stream, and be aware that it runs deep. Try to rock-hop across, if possible. Continue on once you cross Thorp Creek, until you reach a junction and take a left there. From here, you will climb up a rough roadbed for just under a quarter of a mile before the roadbed becomes blocked by a log and you will take a left with the trail and pass through open forest. In the fall, there are plenty of juicy huckleberries that you can pick and gather! The gentle rolling of the trail will continue for about a mile and a half before you begin to climb, at times, going straight up. This is a hard part of the trail. Then 2.4 miles from the trailhead, you will arrive at a junction at which you can either go straight on and descend 0.2 miles to Thorp Lake and enjoy some campsites, or you can head right if you want to reach the summit. The climb is intense once again, and after 0.4 miles there is a junction you will reach; pay attention here to continue on the right path as it is a junction that is easy to miss. About 0.4 miles past this junction is where Knox Creek trail comes about. From here, the lookout is only half a mile and the views are magnificent. In this area, you can see Kachess Lake, and if you are hiking during the fall, the foliage colors are simply spectacular. Round the corner and the final lookout comes about.
EASTON RIDGE - EASTON
This lovely hike gives you many views and an abundant sight of wildflowers during the spring and early summer times while being full of ripe huckleberries during the late summer. It is 6.0 miles round trip, with an elevation gain of 2,270 feet. No parking passes are required and there are no entry fees. Though this hike may seem short and sweet, do not be fooled, it is one for more advanced hikers. At the start, there is a trailhead for two seperate trails, Easton Ridge and Kachess Ridge Trail. After you walk a short access trail to where these two split, take a right by the sign that indicates the Kachess Ridge Trail and head down to Silver Creek. From there, you will head upstream to a dam and footbridge, which you will take to cross the creek. Starting here, the trail steeply climbs uphill and there are many switchbacks in a forest. Along the way, you will have a view of Kachess Lake in this area. Turn right at the junction with Domerie Divide Trail and take the climb up the spine of the ridge. Here, you will be able to see the magnificent Mount Rainier. The trail starts to flatten about two miles from the trailhead and continues on ridgetop through open hillsides and forests. There is a narrow section of the trail with a steep slope that you must be careful on, and then after just over three miles, you arrive at the rocky summit. From here, you can see views of Mount Stuart and Cle Elum Lake. Typically, hikers will turn around at this point and head back, though the original trail goes on.
IRENE RINEHART RIVERFRONT TRAIL - ELLENSBURG
If you are looking for a mild, family-friendly hike this one’s just right for you! There are 2.2 miles of trails here, and you do not need a parking pass and there is no entry free. Dogs are also welcome here. Just outside of Ellensburg, this park is situated along the Yakima River. There is a parking area on both ends of the park, which is situated between I-90 and the river. At the southern end of the park, there is a restroom and a start of a trail that runs along the forested riverbank. The trail is parallel to the river all the way to the other end of the park. If you come here during the autumn, you will be amazed at the beautiful foliage colors. The northern end of the park has an off-leash dog park and an access to a boat launch if you’re looking to get out on the water. In addition to this, from this end of the park, you can connect to a paved section that goes under I-90 and into Ellensburg. This is perfect for those who want to just go on a stroll with access from the city to the river, and vice versa.
DAVIS PEAK TRAIL - ROSLYN
This is a very challenging hike with a multitude of tight switchbacks, but it offers an astounding 360-degree view of over ten Cascade peaks! The hike is 10.0 miles round trip, has an elevation gain of 4,000 feet and requires a Northwest Forest Pass. This hike starts with crossing a bridge across the span of the Cle Elum River and then ascending steadily up the mountain. This trail is well maintained and offers a great diversity of landscapes from meadows to open ridgelines to old-growth to zones recovering from burns. The two-mile mark is where the burn zone ends, and you will continue upward to the first ridgeline through rocky terrain. Keep your eye on the trail as there is a false summit here that lures hikers off the main trail, so if you encounter a rocky scramble, then know that you need to backtrack to the main trail. From here, the trail goes across the bowl and then it switchbacks into the next ridgeline. In the last half-mile of the hike, be on the lookout of an old, grassy lookout on a meadow before continuing up to reach the final destination where there are views of Goat Mountain, Hawkins Mountain, Red Mountain, Lemah Mountain, Mount Adams, Mount Hinman, Terrance and Opal Lakes, and several more peaks.
UMTANUM CREEK FALLS - ELLENSBURG
This is an easy hike that anyone of any age can enjoy. The trail is 3.0 miles round trip and only has an elevation of 700 feet. You will, however, need a Discover Pass. The trail was temporarily closed for maintenance and construction work on the historic suspension bridge. In addition to this, there were improvements made to the lower parking lot and access road. As you travel this trail, you will follow along a bubbly creek, find shade from ponderosa pine and Douglas-firs, see lovely wildflowers and different birds that you can be on the lookout for. There is also a punchbowl at the bottom of a 40-foot waterfall, surrounded by basalt walls. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for bighorn sheep that roam on the nearby canyon walls. You can choose to stay at the top and enjoy the view, or take a rough trail to the bottom of the walls.
MOUNT BALDY - TEANAWAY
This 8.0-mile round trip hike has an elevation gain of 3,000 feet and has an array of difficulties mixed in throughout the hike’s length. There are no parking passes required and no entry fees. The first section of this hike, which begins after you have made it past a mile and a half of moderately steep switchbacks to get into the Domerie Divide Trail No. 1308.2, is fairly flat and it is a great place to admire the layered landscape views before the trail gets more intense. After this, you will gain 1,500 feet in the span of a mile, and you will top out at Para Point. There is a junction there on which you will take a right. The trail then declines 200 feet in a mile-long ridge transverse and then inclines back up the 200 feet in a short yet steep section that leads to the summit of Mount Baldy. Along the ridge, there is an abundance of wildflowers. Once you reach this point, take the time to admire the gorgeous views. A multitude of peaks of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness are in view and Cle Elum Lake is down below.
GINKGO PETRIFIED FOREST INTERPRETIVE TRAIL - VANTAGE
This is a great, easy hike near Vantage, Washington. This three-mile round trip trail has moderate traffic and offers incredible views with merely a 200-foot elevation gain. You do need to have a Discover Pass and to be on the lookout for wildlife. This trail is accessible year-round, and you can take a walk here with your dog so long as it is on a leash. People use this trail for hiking, walking and nature trips. This trail is just off of I-90 where it crosses the Columbia River, and offers a unique experience for one to see the fascinating specimens of mineralized Ginkgos, Elm, Spruce, Fir, and Walnut trees. There is a quarter-mile long loop trail that is paved and accessible to everyone while giving a great look at all of the specimens. If you are one that wants to keep exploring, you can go onto a longer gravel and dirt loop where there are not only tree specimens, but also enormous sagebrushes. Be respectful to nature though, and do not take anything home, as we need to leave this park intact so that everyone can appreciate these marvels.