Best Desert Hikes Washington  by Alan L. Bauer & Dan A. Nelson

Best Desert Hikes Washington Guide Book

by Alan L. Bauer & Dan A. Nelson (The Mountaineers Books)
Best Desert Hikes Washington  by Alan L. Bauer & Dan A. Nelson
·Prime hiking for fall, winter, and spring ·Organized by quick access from Spokane, the TriCities, Yakima-Ellensburg, and Wenatchee-Chelan ·100 hikes, from short half-day trips (1-5 miles) to overnighters It's desert, yes- but not the Lawrence of Arabia kind. This landscape of sagebrush and rimrock canyons in central and eastern Washington is uniquely beautiful and rich in plant and animal life. It offers mild temperatures in fall, prime wildlife viewing in winter, and an explosion of wildflowers in spring. Some of these hikes follow designated trails; others guide you along the contours of the land fro a more individual experience.

© 2004 Alan L Bauer and Dan A Nelson/The Mountaineers Books. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Desert Hikes Washington" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 100.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 100.

This route through part of the Quincy Wildlife Recreation Area offers something you seldom find in the desert: a waterfall. But not just any waterfall; here you’ll find a waterfall plunging into a lake. Did I mention this watery world is in the desert? Well it is—a quick glance at the areas around the lake reveals that. Prickly hedgehog cactus dot the slopes around the trail as does an array of desert wildflowers. In the heart of this 15,266-acre wildlife area, you’ll find sparkling potholes surrounded by massive basalt cliffs. The geological wonders are a product of the erosion of lava flows by ancient glacial floodwaters.
Vantage, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
This really is a transition zone where pines and even some fir trees cover the more protected north slopes. South slopes are a different story, however, and here you will find bare rocky talus slopes of basalt beneath towering basalt cliffs. Only a few aspens and cottonwoods grow near wet areas. This mix makes the area prime wildlife habitat. Cover and water are abundant, and so are the birds. Many avid bird watchers know about this place, but few other special-interest users do. White-headed, hairy, downy, and acorn woodpeckers call this area home. Nesting cavities are seen all along the way, and flicker boxes are located along Bear Creek every 1?8 mile or so. Elk can be expected along with the mule deer. All in all, this is a wildlife haven.
Naches, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
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The Beezley Hills Preserve is an area of 4788 acres north of Quincy that is protected by The Nature Conservancy, which started buying up the land in 1998. From this high vantage point, hikers can peer out at the expanse of eastern Washington. The views to the south sweep in the broad lands of the middle Columbia Basin and the greater Quincy area, while to the east you can see all the way to Moses Lake on clear days. The preserve protects a diversity of wildlife and a huge array of wild plants. Indeed, this area is home to one of the largest populations of hedgehog cactus we’ve ever seen—thousands of the squat little spiny plants are tucked into the sandy loam of the preserve. Watch your step, and keep the kids close at hand if you don’t want to be picking spines out of ankles.
Wenatchee, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
The sprawling public land preserve of the Oak Creek State Wildlife Area offers some of Washington’s best extended desert hiking. This route allows you to enjoy a mild day hike or a gentle backpacking trip. You’ll find an array of wildlife, and bighorn sheep prowl the upper slopes of Cleman Mountain. Since being reintroduced in 1967, the large curly-horned beasts have thrived on the rich desert mountain.
Ellensburg, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 16
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This area was trammeled after the construction of the Ice Harbor Dam, but since 1997 the heart of this remote wildlife area has been restored to native health. The Corps of Engineers has hosted revegetation plantings to restore the native steppe plants to improve the wildlife habitat (and therefore wildlife populations). The route through the area takes advantage of the restoration efforts, exploring the rich foliage and wildlife habitat of the area along the pretty stretch of the Snake River—a section of Lake Male and female Goldeneyes in the slack waters of the Snake River Sacajawea, the impoundment behind the Ice Harbor Dam.
Pasco, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 7
Billy Clapp Lake, more than 3 miles long, is a stunning body of water behind a shallow earthen dam. The lake is fed by waters coming down the main canal from Banks Lake, which gets its water from the Columbia River backed up by the Grand Coulee Dam. The main canal from Banks dumps its water into Billy Clapp Lake in a thundering waterfall known as Summer Falls (water is released to the falls only in spring and summer to serve irrigation needs throughout the Columbia Basin). Though the lake is manmade, its beauty is entirely natural. A host of animals makes use of the wealth of water here, and native plants thrive in the irrigated basin. Begin climbing the trail and almost immediately enjoy stunning views across the basalt cliff-lined lake.
Coulee City, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
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This canyon is stunning! It offers black basalt talus slopes below steep cliffs, hillsides of brilliant wildflowers, and an array of birds. That’s right: Bird lovers, take note. This is an avian paradise. In addition to the everpresent raptors that soar above virtually all desert country, Black Canyon boasts stunning populations of mourning doves and western kingbirds. You’ll also find grouse, Hungarian partridge, and chukar. The road continues from the parking area, though the huge berm of dirt prevents further vehicle access. Follow the road as it climbs the canyon.
Ellensburg, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 7
Winter, while frequently bitterly cold here, offers unique hiking opportunities. Dress warmly and you’ll enjoy exploring the snow-dappled sagelands. This area serves as a winter stopping area for trumpeter swans, cranes, geese, mergansers, goldeneyes, canvasbacks, and other migrating waterfowl. Deer fill the coulee here, and during winter, when the lake levels are low, the many species of wildlife that roam through the area leave their tracks for you to enjoy—giving you the chance to experience the animals even if you never see them. Don’t know how to find and read tracks? No worries! The soft mud of the low-water lake basins captures perfect imprints of passing animals, including birds.
Odessa, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
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Boyer Park, nestled along the banks of the Snake River, offers great hiking in the transition zone between the river and the sageland country above. The established trail provides a great outing in and of itself, but adventurous hikers can cross the road and ramble cross-country onto the slopes above the river, heading up to rimrock bluffs at the top of the canyon wall. It’s excellent rattlesnake country up there, but it’s also great habitat for mule deer and rocket-fast chukar—the upland game bird with a unique defense against predators (including human hunters): They like to run up steep slopes until they feel the predator is too close, then they take wing and zoom downslope at amazing speeds. They’re beautiful birds if you can get close enough to see them.
Pullman, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
With a collection of lakes, lots of vegetation, and a location nestled in the desert smack dab in the middle of the great Pacific Flyway (the route use by migratory waterfowl), it’s not hard to guess where the ducks and geese are going to stop. This area draws waterfowl like a magnet, with the first reat flocks arriving in mid-October and continuing through January. This hike follows the far northern boundary of this BLM land. As you hike, you’ll slowly drop over the first mile to a stunning “meadow” area bounded by scraggly trees.
Ritzville, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 10
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Catherine Creek is an area of unique natural beauty and is of great botanical significance. Over ninety species of wildflowers can be found in the area, from grass widow, which blankets the ground as early as February, to western ladies’ tresses, which may bloom into July. The Catherine Creek Universal Access Trail offers dramatic views of the Columbia River and Mount Hood. Weather on this south-facing drainage is much sunnier and drier than the western Gorge and can be quite windy. Dress appropriately, and be aware that you will encounter no restrooms, water, or garbage facilities. The paved, universal access trail offers two levels of difficulty for wheelchairs.
Goldendale, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.5
The Chamna Natural Preserve is a new parkland near the confluence of the Yakima and Columbia Rivers and offers hiking through a multitude of habitats ranging from grasslands to riparian wooded areas. It is tucked away on the north side of about 2 miles of the Yakima River at the Yakima Delta, with the river on one side and freeways on the other. Still, the wildlife will tell you it’s all okay and they love it here—they appreciate the work being done to preserve the area!
Kennewick, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
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This area was one of the most recent additions to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s inventory of protected wildlife habitat lands. It is also one of the most important pieces of protected wildlife habitat in the state. Chester Butte Wildlife Area contains some of the last habitat in Washington for the desert sage grouse. This bird, a native of the area, is now rare in the Northwest, and the smallish population in the Chester Butte area might be the largest, most vital population in the entire state. What’s more, the Chester Butte addition to the state wildlife area inventory helps protect the last wild population of northern pygmy rabbits in the state (perhaps as few as ten to fourteen individuals).
Chelan, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
The wildlife viewing throughout the Grande Ronde country is stunning. At times, wild turkeys can be seen flying (a rarity!) from one side of the canyon to the other, and they always seem to be roaming the highlands. Hungarian partridge, ruffed and blue grouse, partridge, and quail all can be found scurrying through the brush on quiet spring days. Bighorn sheep can be viewed on the canyon cliffs above the river, too, if you are fortunate.
Anatone, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
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This corner of the state is a very wild land and makes you feel very small in God’s creation. This is one of the most remote parts of Washington, with a small human population in the immediate area but a huge population of wildlife and birds. What’s more, as you hike through Washington’s desert, you’ll be just 3 or 4 miles from Oregon and 8 to 10 miles from Idaho—but as the saying goes, you can’t get there from here. The other states are isolated by rushing rivers that lack bridges. You must make long detours around this area to get to the other states. That increases the isolation of this stunning natural area.
Anatone, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6
The channeled scablands region west of the lakes fills the scenic views here, creating a wonderful mosaic, especially in the twilight hours. The low angle of light casts the textured landscape into stark relief, creating complex patterns of shade and light. This glorious scenic landscape is made richer yet thanks to the plethora of wildlife thriving in the area. On any given day, you might see one or more of the following: coyotes, rabbits, hawks, deer, reptiles (rattlesnakes, bull snakes), and birds! birds! birds! (sandhill cranes, owls, cliff swallows, violet green swallows, American kestrels, northern harriers, and red-tailed hawks).
Moses Lake, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
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Cleman Mountain stretches west to east above the Naches River Valley to the south and the Wenas Valley to the north. The mountain offers an endless array of hiking opportunities, and hikers can create their own adventures by heading off on the network of game trails that weave around the upper slopes of the mountain. These trails are carved into the desert soils by browsing herds of bighorn sheep, mule deer, and elk. Keep your eyes open and active: You might see some of the big beasts during your wandering.
Naches, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 8
This natural preserve managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is a huge 6000-acre area along the top portion of the long rolling hills and ridges known as the Columbia Hills, extending from The Dalles Mountain area westward. Lupine and balsamroot form a solid carpet of color underfoot in springtime, and squadrons of songbirds flit and flutter around you, while majestic raptors—hawks, eagles, falcons, and vultures—soar overhead.
Goldendale, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6
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This 23-mile scenic corridor currently passes through the heart of the wildlife-rich Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge. The route offers opportunities to see interpretive panels, numerous wildlife species, and associated scenic landscapes. Trail signage indicates key features along the trail, as well as mile markers with numbers referencing the distance from Portland, Oregon, as established by the Spokane–Portland–Seattle Railroad in the early 1900s. The old railroad right-of-way slices through the heart of one of the richest wildlife areas in Washington. From the trailhead, amble to the south and enjoy the desert scenery on both sides of the trail.
Cheney, WA - Backpacking,Hiking - Trail Length: 23
A group of dedicated volunteers with the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy worked for years to develop this trail—or, rather, to un-develop this trail—because this old railroad right-of-way is now a path through a wild wonderland. In short, this trail could be the crown jewel in Washington’s collection of rails-to-trails. The old train line path weaves through an astounding set of deep road cuts and over a double handful of trestle bridges spanning Cowiche Creek as it climbs through this stunning canyon. The path in the canyon bottom follows a portion of the old 1880s railroad route that stretched from Yakima to the Tieton area in the Cascade foothills.
Yakima, WA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6
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