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Cowiche Canyon

Central Washington


Central Washington -- Yakima
View map below


6.0 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 100 ft.
Highest Point: 1500 ft.


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Walk beneath stunning basalt and andesite cliffs along a beautiful creek with wildflowers in the spring, stunning color in the fall and a side trip for a glass of wine and snacks.

The Cowiche Canyon Trail may be short, but it sure is sweet. From the trailhead just off Weikel Road, you’ll wind beneath steep sagebrush slopes and cliffs of basalt and andesite splotched with colorful lichens, crossing Cowiche Creek numerous times along the way. The creek is always close at hand, and the lush riparian vegetation and sagebrush hillsides are home to numerous species of songbirds, while raptors and vultures circle above the cliffs. If you’re lucky, you’ll hear a canyon wren or spot a yellow-bellied marmot or a lucia azure butterfly. In the spring, a wide array of wildflowers dot the hillsides.

As you make your way down the canyon, just past bridge 5 you’ll come upon some reddish basalt columns reminiscent of the statues on Easter Island. A little farther along, soaring above the trail between bridges 7 and 8, is an andesite formation known as the Mayan Sunrise. Just prior to bridge 8 is a junction with the Winery Trail, which climbs the north side of the canyon to the Wilridge Vineyard and the Tasting Room of Yakima, while just beyond bridge 8 is a junction with the Uplands Trail that climbs the south side of the canyon to the uplands with broad vistas of Mount Cleman, Cowiche Mountain, and the surrounding countryside.

Beyond here the main trail leaves the railroad bed and follows an old county road to bypass two trestles that were illegally removed when the rails and ties were salvaged. Here the vegetation crowds the trail, at times almost forming a tunnel as the trail follows a bend in the creek back to the railroad bed below some impressive basalt cliffs. After crossing the creek for a final time, the trail passes a grove of aspen, then a house and small orchard. Beyond this is the hop yard that is the source of Fremont Brewing’s Cowiche Canyon Fresh Hop Ale, and finally the trailhead at the end of Cowiche Canyon Road.


Cowiche Canyon

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 46.6299, -120.6629 Open map in new window


Central Washington -- Yakima

Bureau of Land Management Spokane and Cowiche Canyon Conservancy

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Guidebooks & Maps

Best Desert Hikes: Washington (Bauer & Nelson - Mountaineers Books)

Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Yakima

Getting There

From I-82 take exit 31A to get on westbound US-12. Take the second exit, signed “N 40th Ave. and Fruitvale Blvd.” Drive under the freeway, across
Fruitvale, and in 1.5 miles turn right onto Summitview Ave. Continue 7.1 miles and turn right on Weikel Rd., signed for the Cowiche Canyon Trail.From Ellensburg, drive east on Interstate 82 to exit 31A to get on westbound US 12. Take the second exit off US 12 --the exit is signed "N. 40th Ave. and Fruitvale Blvd." Drive under the freeway, across Fruitvale, and in 1.5 miles from US 12 turn right onto Summitview. Continue for 7.1 miles and turn right on Weikel Road (signs on Summitview indicate Cowiche Canyon turnoff). Drive 0.4 mile on Weikel Road, and turn right at the sign for Cowiche Canyon.

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Cowiche Canyon

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