Umtanum Creek Trail

Kittitas County, Washington

Distance3.4mi
Elevation Gain710ft
Trailhead Elevation1,339ft
Top1,751ft
Elevation Min/Max1339/1751ft
Elevation Start/End1339/1340ft

Umtanum Creek Trail

Umtanum Creek Trail is a hiking trail in Kittitas County, Washington. It is 3.4 miles long and begins at 1,339 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 6.7 miles with a total elevation gain of 710 feet. Near the end of the trail is a viewpoint. This trail connects with the following: Vista Trail.

Umtanum Creek Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"Bighorn sheep roam the canyon walls and browse the grass-rich slopes between sections of rimrock. Deer bound throughout the area. Coyotes hunt the heavy populations of rabbits, red-diggers (large ground squirrels), and upland birds (quail, pheasant, chukar, grouse, Hungarian partridge, and more).

Rattlesnakes are frequently seen in the summer (another reason to visit in winter months!) as they congregate to take
advantage of the mice, voles, and ground squirrels that thrive in the creek-fed grasses and tree stands. And all around, underfoot and on the canyon walls, desert wild?owers color the canyon."

"May is the best time to see flowers on the east side of the Cascades. The L. T. Murray Wildlife Recreation Area is nestled in the Yakima River Canyon, a geologic blend of basalt cliffs and desert hills that rise above the river between Yakima and Ellensburg. The L. T. Murray Wildlife Area is on the west side of the river. It is administered by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

In addition to prolific wildflower displays that change week by week in spring, this region is also a good place to observe wildlife. Several trails are suitable for hikers, some easier than others. Most trails here are unsigned but obvious and easy to follow. Experienced hikers can also hike cross-country to one or several high points along Umtanum Ridge."

"This isn’t your typical desert canyon. Though the hills around it are dry and covered with sage and cactus, a pretty creek pierces the heart of the canyon, providing a unique riparian ecosystem in the midst of the desert ecology zone. In addition to all the critters you’d expect to see in the high desert— deer, coyotes, rabbits, rattlesnakes, and raptors—you’ll find other unexpected species, too.

Beavers have claimed large sections of the creek, creating vast pools behind tall dams. Aspen stands quiver and rustle along the beaver pools. Badgers burrow in the banks of the creek. And a sizable herd of bighorn sheep roams the canyon bottom and the steep valley walls."

"Begin with a walk over a bouncy suspension bridge above the trout-rich waters of the Yakima River. This trail meanders up an ever-narrowing canyon, but it also seems to be a path to the past. The trail leaves behind the highway and clusters of anglers and rolls up past an old homestead (complete with an overgrown, brambly apple orchard) and leads into pristine desert wildlife habitat. The year-round waters of Umtanum Creek draw a vast collection of critters to this canyon. Bighorn sheep roam the canyon walls and browse the grass-rich bottoms. Deer abound throughout the area.

Coyotes hunt the heavy populations of rabbits, rock chucks (marmots), and upland birds (quail, pheasant, chukar, grouse, Hungarian partridge, and others). Rattlesnakes are frequently seen in the summer (another reason to visit in winter months) when they congregate to take advantage of the mice, voles, and ground squirrels that thrive in the creek-fed grasses and tree stands. Beavers and muskrats build homes in the creek, creating an endless series of pools and ponds throughout the length of the valley. All around, underfoot and on the canyon walls, desert wildflowers color the canyon."

"Starting with a spring stride over a bouncy suspension bridge above the trout-rich waters of the Yakima River, this trail meanders up an ever-narrowing canyon. But it also seems to be a path to the past, as the trail leaves the highway and the car-camping anglers behind and rolls up a rugged desert canyon.

Along the route, you’ll step into the past as the trail cuts through an old homestead (complete with overgrown, brambly apple orchard) and into pristine desert wildlife habitat. The year-round waters of Umtanum Creek draw a vast collection of critters to this canyon, including a thriving population of
beavers. We’ve even encountered badgers in the canyon."

"Umtanum Creek Canyon is a great place to visit, especially in the springtime when the canyon wildflowers are in bloom or in the fall when the desert displays a wide spectrum of earth tones.

Kids and adults alike will enjoy exploring the canyon’s nearly flat trail and challenging themselves to find wildlife, like the bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain elk, coyote, and deer that live on these hillsides. You may even be lucky enough to see a beaver, or at least evidence of them in the form of a dam on the creek as it heads up the canyon."

"A diversity of landscape and ecosystems are found along this canyon trek. Starting high and hiking downhill, the route begins in open Douglas-?r forest and ends in sagebrush-and-scrub-grass desert canyons. Elk roam the upper woods while bighorn sheep prowl the steep canyon walls around the pounding waterfall.

Visit in early spring to enjoy the best wildlife viewing (beasts of all sizes stick to this canyon while the snows still ?ll the high country). Spring also means that the waterfall is running full with snowmelt water."

"Before you even set foot on the trail you are immersed in history, as the road to the trailhead is actually part of an old stagecoach route across the mountains. Be grateful you don’t have wooden wheels!

Once on the trail, follow Umtanum Creek to a lovely and somewhat unexpected waterfall coming off of basalt cliffs above. The grade is gentle, but the steep and somewhat precarious descent to the falls below can be tricky for those who aren’t surefooted."

"A diversity of landscape and ecosystems are found along this canyon trek. Starting high and hiking downhill, the route begins in open, Douglas fir forest and ends in sagebrush and scrub grass desert canyons. Elk roam the upper woods, and bighorn sheep prowl the steep canyon walls around the pounding waterfall.

Visit in early spring to enjoy the best wildlife viewing (beasts of all sizes stick to this canyon while the snows still fill the high country). Spring also means the waterfall is running full with snowmelt water. The area in and around the falls is very icy in winter."

Umtanum Creek Trail Reviews

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7/16/2018
A nice, easy hike, fun for kids and dogs. The Doug firs and pines are lovely to walk through. It gets super muddy when it rains, but the waterfall is very pretty.
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1/20/2014
25 degrees! Didn't make it to the falls but we will next time!
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8/8/2008
follows creek but has areas were creek has washed out trail, also can reach the falls after 10 miles of walking through thick brush. trail is only mantained for the first few miles
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4/27/2008
I went down the main trail, following the creek to the old homestead site two weeks ago, and came back to see if more flowers were out. Rather than take the same trail, I took the fork to the left, heading up a small side canyon on a trail that climbed steadily, with a little trickle in the canyon on my right side. Very little water flow, but beautiful little moss-covered rocky pools only a few feet across. There were a few more flowers, but only one bright yellow balsam root flower on the whole hike. That side trail leads out onto the high rounded, sage-covered hills with a good view heading towards the 90. Thought I saw some big horn sheep on the very distant hills but without binocs, its hard to be sure. The weather in Seattle had been chilly and cold so it was very nice to sit and soak up the sun and the 75 degree temps. No sign of either rattlers or ticks, not yet anyway. I think I went maybe two miles up the trail that direction before heading back for lunch. It's a nice little trail, lots of diverse plant life and the potential for wildlife sightings. Lots of birds out, and not many people. All in all, a very nice spring hike!
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10/24/2006
Did an overnighter staying at an excellent camp at second stream crossing. Great diversity of scenery. Quaking aspen were a beautiful bright fall yellow. Trail is easy then pretty much peters out in scree slope about 4 miles in. There's a side trip we also took that takes off to the left a couple hundred meters into Canyon Trail. At branch of this trail, left fork goes over to old road and overview of Yakima River. Right fork heads up to Umtanum ridge.
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6/3/2006
This was mainly a bird-watching trip; we wanted to see the Prairie Falcons and their possible nesting sites. We were able to observe two sites on the south canyon wall. Although, we couldn't see the nestlings with a scope, we certainly heard them when a parent landed with lunch. We also, saw a Kestrel on its apparent nest at the top of the north face of canyon cliff. William Thacker.
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3/7/2006
Umtanum Canyon is a unique environment to hike in. I enjoyed all the rock formations (basalt). I went both ways up the river and up the first canyon to the left as you begin walking down the creek. Basically this is a place to day hike, and if you are going down the creek sometimes you can lose the trail, but stay along the creek and you will hit the trail eventually. About 3 miles down the creek the canyon gets narrow and could be tough to navigate through the brairs and such (if you lose the trail). I had a good time, definitely worth the stop.
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7/7/2000
Been here many times since I was a kid. Lots of cool stuff, from apple trees to beaver dams and lots of scenery.
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Umtanum Creek Trail Photos

Trail Information

Kittitas County
Nearby City
Dog-friendly, Kid-friendly
Accessibility
Moderate
Skill Level
Birding
Additional Use
Wildflowers, Waterfalls
Features
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Local Contacts
Department of Natural Resources Yakima
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Oct 2018