Whatever your outdoor pleasure, do it in true Eastern Washington style—under the Yakima Valley’s sunny skies. You can hit the trails, paddle world-class rapids,ski snowy slopes, and fish in an angler’s paradise, all while enjoying dramatic scenery where mountains and desert meet.
Thanks to the work of recreational clubs and conservancy groups, the Yakima Valley area is a prime destination for outdoor adventure and wildlife viewing.
Their efforts have protected thousands of acres throughout the Valley and nearby mountain areas preserving the pristine, natural beauty of diverse landscapes, from dramatic sheer basalt cliffs and rugged hillsides, to peaceful grasslands and meadows.
To connect with other outdoor enthusiasts, check out The Cascadians in Yakima. Since 1920, the club has offered classes, organized outings for backpacking, climbing, skiing, bicycling, kayaking, and rafting, as well as providing trip reports, conservation news, opportunities for volunteer trail maintenance, and networking. A schedule of monthly meetings can be found on their website.
Find the thrill of adventure or seek peaceful solitude in the Valley’s stunning canyon landscapes and nearby scenic mountain destinations.
The Yakima Greenway Fondly known as "The Jewel of Yakima" the Greenway is a place to enjoy fishing, bird watching, biking, and other outdoor activities on 10 miles of paved pathway along the Yakima River.
Cowiche Canyon and Snow Mountain Ranch Running through dramatic canyon landscapes, four trailheads in two locations on more than 1,800 acres offer 14 miles of trails right in Yakima that are perfect for hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.
Tieton River Canyon Just 20 miles west of the city of Yakima, the Tieton River Canyon covers more than 20,000 acres of wilderness with well-traveled trails and world-class rapids.
Yakima River Canyon Visit this 27-mile canyon for fabulous fishing and spectacular scenery with rugged hillsides and towering, sheer basalt cliffs that rise as much as 2,000 feet above the river that carved it.
Nearby Mountain Destinations There’s something for everyone on nearby White Pass and Chinook Pass—mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, waterfalls, picnicking, boating, fishing on alpine lakes and rivers, and abundant winter recreation.
Yakima Greenway The Greenway, which runs through the arboretum, is another facet of Yakima County’s abundant outdoor experiences with convenient access for all. The privately funded Greenway stretches from Selah Gap to Union Gap and west along the Naches River. Thanks to the work of the Yakima Greenway Foundation and others throughout the community, the Greenway is preserved as a living resource for future generations, providing more than ten miles of paved pathways connecting parks, river access landings, nature trails, fishing lakes and protected natural areas. The Greenway is home to several annual events, including Case of the Blues and All That Jazz, the Gap2Gap relay, and Rock the Gap.
Cowiche Canyon and Snow Mountain Ranch You don’t have to go far for premier outdoor recreation that feels like a far-off wilderness escape. “Cowiche” is said to mean footbridge between the valley and the mountains, according to the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy (CCC). This fitting description captures the character of the canyon landscape, featuring high-point vistas with 360-degree views of the valley, as well as grassy hillsides that are home to native plants and wildflowers. The CCC has built and maintains more than 14 miles of trails, some accessed within the city of Yakima. Running through dramatic canyon landscapes, four trailheads in two locations on more than 1,800 acres are perfect for hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. You can find trails perfect for the beginner and routes to challenge experienced hikers, as well as what’s said to be the best mountain biking in Central Washington.
Yakima River Canyon Whether it’s the fishing or the extraordinary landscape, visits to the Yakima River Canyon are unforgettable. Along the 15-mile canyon, you’ll find rugged hillsides and towering, sheer basalt cliffs that rise as much as 2,000 feet above the river that carved it. Between Yakima and Ellensburg, the canyon is designated as a state scenic route and offers superior wildlife viewing, river rafting, camping and fishing.
Tieton River Canyon Just 20 miles west of the city of Yakima, the Tieton River Canyon covers more than 20,000 acres of wilderness running from the forested slopes of the East Cascades along dramatic basalt cliffs and through rugged hillsides and grasslands. Preserved by the Nature Conservancy, you’ll find several informal hiking opportunities along Forest Service roads, as well as developed, well-traveled trails. Of course, the Tieton River is home to world-class rapids during the yearly Flip-Flop. Whether hiking, paddling, fishing, or wildlife viewing, be sure to plan visits enjoying brilliant fall colors in October and early spring wildflower displays.
Nearby Mountain Destinations There’s something for everyone in the nearby White Pass and Chinook Pass areas. Enjoy stunning views along with mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, waterfalls, picnicking, boating, fishing on alpine lakes and rivers, and abundant winter recreation. A 20-minute drive on Highway 12 through Naches takes you into the upper Yakima Valley where the two passes meet at a Y. Popular recreation areas include Little Naches Recreation area and Bumping Lake Marina. In less than two hours, you can find yourself at Mount Rainier enjoying breathtaking waterfalls, high-country meadows blanketed with wildflowers, moss-carpeted old-growth forest trails and glacier peaks. From hiking and mountaineering to biking and horseback riding, it’s a destination worth exploring.
From nearby canyons and mountain destinations, to wine country and local parks, you’ll find trails around the Yakima Valley to suit every purpose from hiking, backpacking and biking, to snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing.
Where to Go Right at home, you’ll find trails throughout the spectacular Cowiche Canyon, as well as The Yakima Greenway’s ten miles of paved pathway with three parks, two fishing lakes, and four river access landings. The Lower Yakima Valley Pathway through wine country runs between Sunnyside and Prosser and is part of the Rails to Trails Conservancy which preserves unused rail corridors by transforming them into trails. Trails meander through Lower Valley wilderness areas, providing unique opportunities for bird watching and wildlife viewing. Along our scenic mountain byways, the Boulder Cave Trail on Chinook Pass is perfect for family excursions to explore the 200-foot-long cave and view the stunning Boulder Cave Falls. Explore dozens of White Pass and Chinook Pass lakes and waterfalls along the eastern Washington portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, or enjoy the 66 trails throughout the William O. Douglas Wilderness. Try the Naches Loop Trail in the Mount Rainier National Park for postcard-perfect views of the mountain from Lake Tipsoo. Local conservancy groups are working to complete The William O. Douglas Trail connecting the city of Yakima to Mount Rainier.
Resources For hiking guides sorted by region, trip reports and articles, visit the Washington Trails Association (WTA) website. For an overview of hiking in the area’s shrub-steppe landscape read the WTA’s article, “Stepping into the Steppe”. Connect with The Cascadians for information and group trips along many of the Valley’s trail systems.
|The Yakima Greenway | Lower Yakima Valley Pathway | Boulder Cave Trail | Pacific Crest Trail | William O. Douglas Trail | Naches Loop Trail|
Whether you’re an adventure lover or like to take it easy, eastern Washington waterways provide perfect escapes from springtime through late fall.
Where to Go For thrill seekers, the Flip Flop on the Tieton River promises nonstop whitewater action on the fastest-moving, fastest-dropping river in Washington. Each September, water released from Rimrock Lake to serve irrigation needs in the Yakima Valley rushes down through the Tieton River and into the Naches River, creating one of the state’s best whitewater runs for kayakers and rafters, with class III to IV rapids. You can also try the Matthew Creek to Little Naches Campground section of Little Naches River for a 9½-mile stretch of class III to IV whitewater. Choose the Yakima River for a leisurely summertime float through the Yakima River Canyon. Perfect for group retreats and family outings, numerous access points allow you to choose floats ranging from TK to TK miles. Save your motorized water vehicles for the river’s Roza Recreational Site. A short drive takes you to Rimrock Lake on White Pass for boating, sailing, kayaking, waterskiing, or even windsurfing. Just a bit further away, you’ll find windsurfing and kiteboarding for the entire family in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. Sign up for windsurfing camps for kids and clinics for adults.
Resources The Cascadians and the Yakima Kayak Club are the go-to sources for information about paddling in and around Central Washington. The Yakima Valley Boat Club maintains property on Rimrock Lake with docks, tent sites, and other facilities available for member use. Several area guides and outfitters cater to water lovers, offering rentals and custom river excursions, from relaxing afternoon floats to adrenaline pumping whitewater experiences.
Winding waterways stretching from the dense forest slopes of the East Cascades past miles of rugged hillsides and 109 fishing lakes dotting Yakima County make this is a fishing paradise.
Where to Go Fish rivers and streams throughout the Valley for Coho salmon, steelhead, brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout, and whitefish. Whether you prefer to float or wade, the Naches River on the east slope of Chinook Pass and the Yakima River offer outstanding fly fishing. Designated as the state’s only “blue ribbon” trout stream, the Yakima River delivers more than 65 miles of the state’s best fly fishing and unbeatable scenery. Plan a family fishing trip choosing from one of the many campgrounds along the White Pass and Chinook Pass scenic byways. Alpine lakes along nearby White Pass and Chinook Pass, in addition to lakes tucked among sage-dotted hillsides and Lower Valley ponds are home to steelhead, brook, brown and rainbow trout, perch, kokanee, bass, and catfish. You don’t have to go far for fishing. Try the Interstate-82 ponds, The Yakima Greenway’s two fishing lakes, and Wenas Lake in Selah. Nearby Bumping Lake Marina is a picturesque fishing destination offering a boat launch, campgrounds, boat rentals, picnicking, and hiking. Rimrock lake is one of the best kokanee destinations in the county. Try Leech Lake, Dog Lake, and Clear Lake in the White Pass area for brown and rainbow trout. For dedicated anglers, many area destinations offer year-round fishing.
Resources Whether you’re a novice fisherman or an experienced angler, area guides are ready to share their passion for the sport. They offer a range of classes and trips, from morning outings to overnight adventures. The Yakima Valley has an active fly fishing community. The Yakima Fly Fishers Association is a nonprofit group of fly fishermen and women dedicated to promoting the sport of fly fishing, building camaraderie among fellow fly fishers, as well as education, conservation, and habitat rehabilitation. They host fly tying classes, monthly meetings, and group outings.
|Yakima Fly Fishers Association | Fishing Blogs from Red's Fly Shop | Bumping Lake Marina | WashingtonLakes.com County Index | FishingWorks.com Yakima County Fishing Lakes|
Yakima County is a mecca for outdoorsmen (and women!) interested in pursuing wild game. Elk and deer hunting are very popular and the region boasts one of the more significant herds of Rocky Mountain Elk in Washington State. Every fall, elk and deer hunters congregate to take their best shot at elusive prey. Hunters can also go after bear, cougar or bighorn sheep in the mountains west of Yakima.
Bird hunting is also extremely popular in the Yakima Valley. Hunters can find Chukar, quail, pheasant, duck, geese, waterfowl and even Merriam’s Turkey within the region. Each year folks prowl the woods, prairies and waterways to scare up birds whose habitat includes Yakima County.
|Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife | HuntWashingtonState.com | Yakima Herald-Republic Outdoors Section | Yakima County Sportsman Association - (509) 453-1872|
You don’t have to travel far for climbing adventures to challenge even the most experienced mountaineers.
Where to Go The dramatic scenery and challenging volcanic geology make the Tieton River one of the state’s best rock climbing destinations. Climbers travel from throughout the region to challenge themselves on nearly 400 routes, most of which are near vertical to vertical, with some overhang climbing. Other climbing destinations include Vantage, Frenchman Coulee, and Banks Lake in nearby Grant County. Make the excursion to Mount Rainier or Mount Adams for advanced mountaineering among glacier peaks, as well as routes for less-experienced climbers.
Resources The Yakima Climbing Club hosts informal monthly meetings. Call 509-965-9262 for details. Find climbing partners, locate classes or find information about the best area climbs.
|The Cascadians | Washington Climbers Coalition | Climbing Mt. Rainier | Climbing Mt. Adams|
Washington State was named the nation’s number one “Bicycle Friendly State” for two years in a row and the Yakima Valley’s stunning scenery and rugged landscape makes it an ideal destination.
Where to Go Whether you prefer the road or the trail, biking in the Yakima Valley takes you through orchards in bloom and vineyards and hop fields in harvest, over scenic ridges and through rugged canyons. Cowiche Canyon’s Uplands Trail is considered some of Central Washington’s best mountain biking. Bike through wine country, along Yakima’s Konowac Pass, on the Wine and Fruit Challenge route, or try the Lower Yakima Valley Pathway for a 14-mile trip from Sunnyside to Prosser. This trip is part of the Rails to Trails conservancy, creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines. Consider day trips for rides on Chinook Pass and White Pass and in Mount Rainier National Park.
Resources Look to local cycling clubs organizations for group rides, find trail information on several online guides.
|Mount Adams Cycling Club | Chinook Cycling Club | Single Track Alliance of Yakima l Bicycling in Washington | Rails to Trails Conservancy|
You'll find equestrian horse events, rodeos with cowboys, and much more right here in the valley. With trails meandering along rugged hillsides and through high country pine groves, the Yakima Valley and nearby mountain destinations offer idyllic escapes for horse enthusiasts.
Where to Go Several outfitters offer rentals and guided rides, whether you’re looking for a serene journey around area lakes and through scenic meadows, more challenging excursions to explore alpine ridges or overnight pack trips. You can even find guided horseback tours of wine country with stops along the way to visit favorite wineries. If you prefer the solitude of riding on your own, you’ll find that several area trails cater to horseback riders, offering riding camps and facilities. The William O. Douglas Wilderness Area and the Pacific Crest Trail offer ideal destinations for breathtaking scenery and wildlife viewing. The Cowiche Canyon is a favorite nearby destination. The Lower Valley Yakima Pathway offers a 14-mile ride through wine country from Sunnyside to Prosser.
Resources You'll find opportunities to share your passion for horses through organizations that serve children with special needs to equestrian clubs that offer resources, rides, and shows for all styles of riding.
|Pegasus Project Provides children with special needs therapy while horseback riding | Central Washington Dressage Society | Yakima Valley Fair & Rodeo|
|Backcountry Horsemen of WA - Yakima Valley Chapter in Cowiche: 509-678-5013|
|Backcountry Horsemen of WA - Wenas Valley Chapter in Selah: 509-965-4052|
|Backcountry Horsemen of WA - Wine Country Riders Chapter in Prosser: 509-973-2304|
As soon as Eastern Washington evenings grow crisp and cold, the anticipation for snow begins. Through winter months, area trails are transformed for snowshoeing and skiers head for mountain passes.
Where to Go A 1,500-foot vertical drop and more than 350 inches of annual snowfall make White Pass Ski Resort a haven for Nordic and alpine skiers and snowboarders. With more than 30 downhill trails, a terrain park, and an 18-kilometer network of marked, groomed trails for cross-country skiing, White Pass serves hard-core skiers and snowboarders, racers and families. An expansion set for completion in fall of 2010 will add two additional quad lifts and a mid-mountain lodge. You’ll find 11 more ski resorts within a few hours’ drive, all offering excellent downhill and cross-country skiing From Cowiche Canyon to alpine lakes, numerous trails are open for Nordic skiing and snowshoeing, some groomed and some for backcountry outings. Clear Lake, the Boulder Cave Sno-Park, and areas of the Pacific Crest Trail are popular destinations.
Resources Check area sno-parks for information about snow levels, parking, and the availability of groomed trails for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and other snow play. The Yakima Valley Ski Club located at White Pass provides a place to avoid crowds and to share friendship with other avid skiers.
|Yakima Area Sno-Parks | Winter Recreation Guide | Yakima Valley Ski Club | Yakima Ski Benders (snomobile club)
Rocky ridges, grassy hillsides, meadows, rivers and streams, lakes, Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir forests, and woodlands of oak, cottonwood, and aspen create ideal habitats for an array of wildlife.
Where to Go Nearby wilderness areas host Rocky Mountain elk, bighorn sheep, deer, small mammals, birds of prey, songbirds, blue herons, osprey, wood ducks, grouse, reptiles, and amphibians. During the winter months, two feeding stations in the Naches area offer spectacular viewing of elk and bighorn sheep interacting in their natural habitat. Dramatic basalt cliffs in the Yakima River Canyon shelter the densest concentration of nesting hawks, eagles, and falcons in Washington State, reports the Nature Conservancy.
Resources Connect with other wildlife enthusiasts, find the best birding areas or plan an outing with guides and resources from local groups.
|Yakima County Wildlife Viewing Areas Includes Oak Creek, Sunnyside-Snake River, and Wenas viewing areas | Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge | Yakima Audubon Wildlife Viewing Guide | Eastern Washington Birding Locations|