5 Reasons to Visit Yakima Valley, Washington This Summer

After all the sipping and sampling, it’s time to stretch the legs – and burn some calories. And Yakima Valley delivers there too. Make like Lewis and Clark (members of that famous expedition that came through here in 1805) and head to the hills. Easy access into the rolling desertscape (and more wineries, if you must) is available via Cowiche Canyon Conservancy, where sage-covered slopes, gurgling streams, flowering meadows, rugged basalt cliffs and, yes, wildlife (hello, rattlers!) are found just beyond downtown Yakima.
There are 5,000 acres and some 30 miles of trails through this arid-yet-alive land. A short hike along Cowiche Creek takes you past wild clematis and a beaver dam (and you may see a wild minx bodysurfing over the dam, if not a beaver) and spawning steelhead and coho salmon. And butterflies. There’s a Project Butterfly initiative each spring, when volunteers help catch and tag big monarch-like migratory butterflies that spend summers in the mountains but came back each year to hatch eggs in Cowiche Canyon, just like the salmon.
If you’re feeling particularly hardcore, the Pacific Crest Trail (of Wild fame) passes near Yakima, or you can ascend Gilbert Peak. Back in 1918, Curtiss Richey Gilbert was an avid hiker of the Goat Rocks Wilderness in the Cascade Mountains that rise high above Yakima Valley. He climbed the highest peak there (2,494 m), and it’s now named after him. You can scale it too – or join the family’s now-annual hiking party. Gilbert’s descendants are the owners of Gilbert Cellars (must-try wine: the Allobroges Rhone-style red blend). Gaze upon storied Gilbert Peak from the 300-acre Hackett Ranch, a former cattle operation, where, besides vineyards, orchards and lavender, you’ll also find the Glacier Basin Distillery (so you can go back to that grappa).
Mountain or desert, the surrounding landscape is calling to be explored, so much so that there’s even a local legend of a chief’s daughter who ran away to settle here on the shores of the Yakima River, the name of which means “runaway.” Another Native American story says that Yakima translates to “beginning of life, big belly and bountiful.” Both versions make sense – a getaway in this laden valley offers plenty of indulgence. For most of us, the Cowiche Canyon Trail is enough of an escape and, even better, it connects to the Winery Trail that takes hikers between Wilridge Vineyard and Naches Heights Vineyard. It’s the best of both worlds – into the wild and into the wine. Time for another sample of what Yakima Valley has to offer…

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