We may not have much snow this winter, but that means it’s easy to get outdoors and enjoy the crisp fresh air! Take a brisk winter walk on one of these trails and enjoy the nature of the Yakima Valley, from shrub step to wetlands. If it ends up snowing, you can always bring the snowshoes or cross country skis.
This preserve was created in 1993 to protect the basalt daisy habitat. There are large basalt cliffs along the southern edge of the area which provide a habitat for songbirds, raptor and small mammals. The trail is 2.5 miles roundtrip and starts with a ½ mile improved interpretative loop near the parking lot. Then there is a 2 mile out and back trail with closer views of the Fred G. Redmon Bridge. The bridge was built in 1971 and was once the longest concrete twin arch bridge in the United States. The fence on the other side of the bridge marks the US Army Yakima Training Center property; do not go past this fence. Dogs are not allowed on the preserve. No restrooms available at trailhead.
Snow Mountain Ranch is one of the protected areas of the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy, which is a land trust founded in 1985 that preserves 5,000 acres and offers close to 30 miles of trails through sage and grasslands, flowering meadows, oak woodlands and basalt cliffs. There are two trails on Snow Mountain Ranch that are easy with little elevation gain. The Riparian Trail is a .73 mile trail that starts at the kiosk and heads east along old pasture lands, follows the creek, through a tunnel of shrubs, passes ponds, and continues along the edge of the trees where it curves southeast and connects with the east end of the Ditch Bank Trail. The Ditch Bank Trail is .72 miles, starting just to the left (east) of the kiosk and following the ditch rider’s road along the old Tieton Irrigation Canal. The trail then curves east under the row of basalt columns to the west boundary where it connects with The Riparian Trail-East. There are many other trails at the Snow Mountain Ranch that involve much more elevation gain. Directions: Head west on Summitview Avenue. In 8.8 miles, turn left on Cowiche Mill Rd. Go 2.6 miles.
The Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge has two miles of trails with a variety of habitat, from native grasses to shrub steppe, to riparian areas and ponds supporting many types of wildlife. From the parking area there is a short trail to the viewing platform where signs describe the area and show pictures of the wildlife in the area. From here you can return to the loop trail, beginning near the parking area. This section has views of Toppenish Creek and travels on a mowed path. When reaching a junction turn left for the refuge headquarters. Return to the junction, which takes you on a loop trail to the wetlands and ponds. Directions: From Yakima, take Highway 97 south toward Toppenish, take the Goldendale exit. The refuge entrance is on the west side of Highway 97. The refuge is open for day use only for all activities, except hunting, sunrise to sunset; no overnight parking or camping is allowed. Dog are allowed on leashes.
In addition to these trails, there are other plenty of other places to walk, such as the Cowiche Canyon and Rocky Top Trails. There are also the 20 mile paved trail of the Yakima Greenway, The Powerhouse Pathway and the 14 mile Lower Valley Paved Pathway from Sunnyside to Prosser.