100 Classic Hikes Washington
by Craig Romano (The Mountaineers Books)
© 2016 Craig Romano/The Mountaineers Books. All Rights Reserved.
I got my info about his hike from the Mountaineers "Desert Hikes" book, so the trail length is different, but I'm assuming its the same trail. Either way, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone but masochists. Granted, it was not the smartest timing, heading there in the middle of June, but I had thought there would be some wildflowers left. There really were not. One or two bedraggled looking mariposa lilies, and all the balsamroots dried up and dead. It was abysmally hot, with only little puffs of air every once in a while. The hike advertises lots of birds and animals as well as the flowers, but the only animals we saw were a dad out there with his two tiny kids, shooting off his rifle. Not what I was looking for. The only other animal we saw was on the way out. It was a horse and had apparently been dead for a long time. It didn't look like it simply died of old age, either. Creepy. All in all, this hike is one to avoid.
The road to the north trailhead is slow going. Allow 45 minutes from Ellensburg for the 13 miles (7 unpaved).
Recent rains made wildflowers spectacular. Views views views. We got caught in some hail, so had to turn back early, but by the time we got back to the car, we were dry and warm again. The canyon looked tempting as well.
Jacob Durr Road needs some *serious* repair--it is basically inaccessible to those without a 4WD unless you are very stupid (like me, who made it all the way past the Umtanum creek trailhead in a Chevy Malibu 4-door sedan with ~8 inch clearance, including fording the creek after dropping large stones to gauge the depth of the water, and then hoping it wasn't going to rain anytime soon). I would not recommend the lengthy drive from the highway to this particular trailhead, even though it does put you in the thick of things with an expansive view. For someone more in love with the greenery of Western Washington, I have to say that I wasn't sustainably impressed with the brown, sage-brush landscape around Yakima. The hiking was fairly easy, but the wind was non-stop. Without the cloud-cover, I can only imagine how unbearably hot the high-hills portion of the trail would get. The campsites around Umtanum Creek were nicely green with a few big trees, but people had obviously allowed their horses to defecate indiscriminately all over the campsite instead of keeping them at the further tie-ups and there was nowhere to put a tent down without the threat of poo beneath your face. The final straw was the copious sound of gunfire from the road above the creek where locals were shooting their rifles across the valley. This seemed to be the primary use for the back-country along "historic" Jacob Durr Road as there were many improvised pull-outs littered with shell-casings and beer bottles/cans on the way in. Hmmm... come to think of it, this was a pretty lousy "hiking/camping" experience, but memorable, I suppose. I was very desperate to escape the protracted rain of Western Washington and begin the hiking season but wouldn't recommend this trail, particularly this late in the season with no wildflowers. For a good time, BYOB & Kevlar helmet. Go see a movie.
Jacob Durr road Past Umtanum creek was very muddy and had deep ruts. Mudd was very sticky and I had never seen so much stick to my wheels ( about 2 inches)
Felt safer to stop a mile before actual trailhead.
The views were spectacular, and the camp sites were beautiful. And the flowers! It was our first trip into the backcountry in a year, and the wait was worth it. Be prepared for steep inclines (nothing better than multiple false summits), inclement weather interspersed with beautiful sunsets, and ticks. The rocky trail can be rough on dogs' paws.
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