This moderate climb through wide-open country under usually sunny skies showcases lots of wildflowers and panoramic views of the surrounding shrub-steppe from an airy 2,970-foot summit.
If spring weather has you down and you’re pining for brighter colors and a little sunshine,
then set your sights on Washington’s central high-desert area and a stroll in the sunny shrub-steppe. And for that, you can’t do much better than a hike up Cowiche Mountain.
From the Snow Mountain Ranch parking lot, take the Entry Trail to the main kiosk and pick up a brochure with a trail map. From here, cross the bottomlands to the mouth of a ravine and another trail junction. Turn left and climb a short hill to the beginning of the aptly named Wildflower Trail. This trail climbs 1 mile south along the benchlands above the ravine to a junction with the Bench Loop Trail and a connection with the west leg of the Cowiche Mountain Loop Trail. Continue heading upward, south, then east, on a fairly direct line
with the 2,970 summit and a junction with the East Leg and Rocky Top Trails.
Along the way, the views expand with every step, and much of the trail is lined with wildflowers: grass widows and desert-parsleys early in the season followed by balsam root, lupine, phlox and fields of big-headed clover.
You’ll also pass two old bathtubs used as stock watering troughs when this was a working ranch. Once on the summit, kick back, bask in the sun and enjoy the panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. When it’s time to return, descend the way you came or make it a loop by descending on the East Leg Trail.
From SR 12 on the north side of Yakima, exit at 40th Ave. and proceed 1.5 miles south to Summit view Ave. Turn right and drive 8.8 miles, then veer left on Cowiche Mill Rd.Proceed 2.5 miles to trailhead parking.