Hiking | Nature | Sightseeing | Things To Do

Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway Road Trip Itinerary

May 18, 2023

The Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway highlights Central Washington’s scenic vistas, diverse recreational opportunities, and rich local heritage. It is a fairly efficient alternative to Interstate 82 if you find yourself traveling between Yakima and Ellensburg, but it also happens to be one of the most scenic routes you will ever drive, regardless of the time of year. This world-class drive follows the Yakima River, dividing the hills of sage covered desert. Keep an eye on the marvelous basalt cliffs, some rising more than 2,000 feet, as well as the many crevices and cliffs which make a perfect home for the densest concentration of nesting hawks, eagles, and falcons in the state. Experience this magnificent road trip on a two-day journey from the Yakima area to Ellensburg to take advantage of some of our region’s top attractions along the way.

Day 1, Location 1: Red’s Fly Shop

14706 WA-821, Ellensburg, WA 98926 | redsflyshop.com

Shortly after entering Ellensburg city limits via State Route 821, you’ll pass an epicenter of adventure: Canyon River Ranch, which encompasses The Lodge, Red’s Fly Shop, and the Canyon River Grill. We recommend hitting the road early to begin your day with a guided fly-fishing trip led by the knowledgeable staff at Red’s Fly Shop, which has been outfitting trips on the Yakima River for over 30 years. Their unique riverside location allows them to operate with a quality and efficiency that is unmatched in the industry. Embark on a thrilling guided fly-fishing trip through the Yakima Canyon or take advantage of their other services, including casting lessons, sporting clays, camping, guided hunting, and floating trips on the Yakima River.

Day 1, Location 2: Canyon River Grill

14706 WA-821, Ellensburg, WA 98926 | canyonrivergrill.com

Indulge in an unforgettable culinary experience with riverside dining at Canyon River Grill! Enjoy an incredible meal as you gaze out to the picturesque views of the Yakima River. Offering a delicious menu with emphasis on fire-grilled steaks, your dining experience is sure to be memorable at Canyon River Grill. Featuring local ingredients, including apples, cherries, poultry, fish, wild game, and herbs and vegetables straight from the garden, the talented chef brings remarkable cuisine to life on the banks of the Yakima.

Day 1, Location 3: The Lodge at Canyon River Ranch

14700 WA-821, Ellensburg, WA 98926 | canyonriver.net

Book a stay at Central Washington’s premier riverfront resort in the scenic Yakima Canyon. Located just 13 miles south of Ellensburg, Canyon River Ranch allows you to experience the wild and scenic Yakima Canyon with the comfort of being close to an urban area. Surrounded by state and federal lands, this unique private property provides over 1,000 feet of private waterfront and spectacular views of the Yakima River and basalt cliffs. Relax and unwind amidst the picturesque canyon views in cozy, fully-furnished suite and take advantage of the yearround outdoor heated pool and hot tub available to guests.

Day 2, Location 1: Umtanum Creek Recreation Area

16388 Canyon Rd, Ellensburg, WA 98926

Uncover Central Washington’s signature outdoor experiences with a quick morning hike. Venture across the scenic Yakima River via suspension bridge to find the Umtanum Creek Canyon trailhead. This adventurous hiking trail winds through canyon walls and towering basalt formations at a steady pace to highlight local flora and fauna and reveal Central Washington’s signature landscapes. The area is well-known as one of Washington State’s best viewing areas for Big Horn Sheep!

Day 2, Location 2: Ellensburg Canyon Winery

221 Canyon Vista Way, Ellensburg, WA 98926 | ellensburgcanyonwinery.com

Experience the best of Washington wine during a stop at Ellensburg Canyon Winery! The award-winning winery prides itself on its unique wine, taking advantage of the Columbia Valley AVA’s endless possibilities for producing very distinctive tastes. Ellensburg Canyon Winery is a sustainable farmed vineyard and has an 85 solar panel array to power their winery, tasting room, and home. Sip their best blends and watch the grapes grow from their scenic patio, featuring one of the most beautiful backdrops in Central Washington. The wines are all $25 or under and the views of the Yakima River Canyon, while priceless, are free to admire.

Day 2, Location 3: Kittitas County Barn Quilt Trail

Enhance your already scenic drive by seeking out Kittitas County’s famous barn quilts on your way into Ellensburg’s historic downtown! Our area is known for its beautiful rolling fields and agricultural history, and you can enjoy the two together in the breathtaking scenes that can be found touring the area in search of the barn quilts that can be spotted all over Kittitas County’s countryside. Together, the quilt blocks create the Kittitas County Barn Quilt Trail, Washington State’s first barn quilt trail, which can be explored via self-guided driving tour. Over the years, more than one hundred quilt blocks have been installed throughout the county as a way to honor the area’s agriculture industry and the families that run it. Download the map to locate and reference the known history of each barn and the significance of its quilt block.

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