Frenchman Coulee

Vantage, Washington 98950

Frenchman Coulee

Frenchman Coulee Professional Review and Guide

"Starting on a shelf at the edge of the Columbia River, head east on an old jeep track. Closed to motorized travel, it’s obvious from the tire tracks that scofflaws can’t read or don’t care about this regulation meant to protect this fragile environment. Managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Frenchman Coulee is part of the multiunit 192,000-acre Columbia Basin Wildlife Area, consisting of outstanding sagebrush-steppe ecosystems, including the nearby Ancient and Dusty Lakes. A popular hunting area, be sure to don orange when hiking here in the fall."

More Frenchman Coulee Professional Reviews and Guides

"On summer weekends, rock climbers flock to the nearby Frenchman Coulee climbing area, drawn to the tall vertical columns of basalt that line the coulee walls. Hikers, who prefer their lands more horizontal than vertical, will also find great enjoyment here.

From the trailhead, the path leads straight up the bottom of the coulee. As you hike, watch the coulee walls for agile rock climbers doing their Spiderman impersonations on the black rock. If no climbers are in evidence, just enjoy the natural spectacle of the coulee. The towering columnar walls frame a valley filled with sage and wildflowers."

"Frenchman Coulee can be overwhelming to climbers going there for the first time. Multiple bands of exposed basalt cliffs are located throughout this expansive desert climbing area along the Old Vantage Highway. (In recent years Frenchman Coulee has been called Vantage, owing to the area’s proximity to that town.) Many of these cliffs hold climbable faces on decent rock, with an acceptable quantity of loose material.

So many good routes have been put up on various steep basalt walls at this sprawling, richly endowed area that it can be hard for the newcomer to figure out where exactly to go at Frenchman Coulee to find truly rewarding climbing. The sheer number of routes here is surprising to some, because the rock in Frenchman Coulee is probably a grade below that at the Tieton River area near Yakima. Although there’s a lot of rock here, much is not suitable for safe climbing. But some of it is. The rock in Frenchman Coulee is best where it’s steepest, and that means the rock is often at its worst near the top, where the routes lean back a little."

Frenchman Coulee Reviews

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The trailhead is at a white locked gate. Be sure to watch for the small parking lot or you'll drive right past it. You enter a canyon that is filled with sagebrush. The trail is extremely flat. Toward the end you hike through what is like beach sand. The waterfall at the end was low in July. Overall I wouldn't do this hike again. It runs along the road most of the time and the area has been used as a dumping ground. It is a desert hike for sure, no trees, lots of basalt and sagebrush.

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