Spring Hikes in Washington

Spring Hikes in Washington
Skiing is over, but the high snow stays. That's your cue to explore Central Washington, a high, volcanically fashioned desert, where flowers are blooming and deer are waxing photogenic in the eastern foothills of the Cascade Mountains and in crusty basalt canyons. Rattlesnakes wake up, and birds dart in and out of invisible condos in pockmarked cliff faces in gloriously long days. Dry Central Washington is bereft of much of the brush and dense forest which discourages off-trail exploits in damper climates, and traveler conveniences are often just minutes from trail heads.

Black Canyon

In 3 1/2 miles on the Black Canyon Trail, emerge from bizarre patterns of crumbling columnar basalt, through sagebrush and ponderosa pine, 1,500 vertical feet to the crest of Umptanum Ridge. Look for mourning doves, swallows, chukars, grouse and, high-flying raptors as well as brilliant flowers. Views from Umptanum Ridge are dramatic toward Mounts Rainier, Stuart and Adams. The trail head is 25 miles up the Umptanum and Wenas Valley roads from the city of Ellensburg (Exit 109 off I-90).

Dusty and Ancient Lakes, Quincy Wildlife Recreation Area

In an area carved and polished in lava rock by glaciers and floods, Dusty Lake is elegant, particularly at dusk, when cliff swallows hunt the evening insect surge, killdeer and blackbirds gossip, and trout pick stalled bugs off the lake surface. To similar surroundings, Ancient Lakes adds a longer hike (about 3 1/2 miles), three lakes, and twin water falls. Both destinations originate from the U-NW or White Trail Road which turns south from Highway 28 west of the town of Quincy.

Palouse Falls

Dropping 198 feet into a deep coulee, Palouse Falls appears to rise out of pure rock in the "channeled scablands" in Eastern Washington's high prairie, its Palouse River source completely hidden behind a maze of fractured basalt. In spring runoff and winter ice, the falls is dramatic. The only sanctioned trail is a short path to an overlook in Palouse Falls State Park. Other trails and routes approaching the falls are outside of state park responsibility.

From Lyons Ferry State Park at the confluence of the Snake and Palouse Rivers, drive north on Highway 261 about 5 miles, turn right on Highway 12 to road's end at the park.

Colockum Game Reserve

Colockum Game Reserve Headquarters provides a free map to sort out the disorienting folds in these ridges above the Columbia River. A profusion of flowers, songbirds and mule deer are waiting up the game trails of Lone Pine, Davies or Whitson Canyons en route to high-ridge views. Take Malaga Road, which becomes Colockum Pass Road, south from Wenatchee, and then turn left on Tarpiscan Road, for a total of about 15 miles. The area can be driven through on Colockum Pass Road.

Swakane Canyon

All within 15 minutes of the city of Wenatchee, lies a handsome, velvet green canyon bisecting two high ridges, a chance to see bighorn sheep on the canyon walls and deer in the meadows, raptors and a host of songbirds and flowers, and, after 1,500 feet and 3 1/2 miles, grand views. Starting from milepost 205 on Highway 97-A, Swakane Canyon Road climbs west 2.8 miles to a hay barn, where you park.

Article Written By Barry Truman

Barry Truman has published many outdoor activity articles in the past five years with International Real Travel Adventures, the Everett Herald and Seattle Post Intelligencer newspapers, Backpacking Light Magazine and Trails.com. He has a forestry degree from the University of Washington.

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