Joe Schmitt writes a weekly blog called The Good Life, featuring information about the region’s history, culture, climate and economy. The blog also showcases new residents, clubs and organizations, outdoor recreational opportunities and local events.
Once known as the unofficial coffee house capital of the U.S., Ellensburg sits almost directly in the middle of Washington State. You might use it as a last minute pit stop on your way into the Valley, a coffee stop break before heading up to Leavenworth or to the west side, or for those a little more adventurous, a date night destination – close enough to home, but far enough away to feel exotic. Why not make the next time you go to Ellensburg your final stop by planning a day trip?
Getting there can be half of the fun of visiting. Be sure to take the scenic route by hitting up the Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway - 821. Depending on when you drive it, you could see marathon runners, a cattle drive, inner tubers floating the river, or fly fisherman, not to mention the beautiful Canyon River Ranch lodge, sage covered hills, towering basalt columns, and big horn sheep that dot the hillside.
Be sure to fuel up by making your first stop at one of the 33 coffee shops around town. How you’ll choose one is anyone’s guess but you could always make a coffee passport book and aim to collect a cup at every shop.
A stroll through Central Washington University’s campus will help you work up an appetite as you admire the many brick buildings, outdoor sculptures, and green spaces. Depending on when you visit, you might also be able to catch a symphony concert or sporting event.
The restaurant options are as abundant as the coffee shops, but I pooled the office and the staff picks include: Cornerstone Pie for wood fired pizza goodness, The Yellow Church Café for the best breakfast, The Red Horse Diner for the best milk shakes and burgers (bonus, best 50’s décor), Iron Horse Brewery for the best local brew, and no trip would be complete without Washington’s number one ice cream, Winegars for hand churned deliciousness.
After lunch, check out one of the many art galleries, or take in some history with the barn quilt tour of Kittitas County. Downtown Ellensburg also has an array of boutiques and whimsical shops that are easy to get lost in.
For the outdoor enthusiast, there are mountain biking trails, road biking maps, horseback riding opportunities, and hiking trails galore.
However you choose to spend your day, it is sure to be a good one in Ellensburg.
Distance: About a 30-45 minute drive depending on where you live in the Valley
What to bring: an appetite
Who should go: the whole family
Cost: free - $$$
When: Year round, but it doesn’t hurt to coincide your trip with one of the bigger events – dachshund races, rodeo, or Kittitas Fair
Other Day Trips: