Situated close to Yakima, Cowiche Canyon is one of the best areas near Yakima to enjoy beautiful wildlands, charming fall colors, and diverse wildflowers in the summer. The canyon sits in a shrub-steppe landscape, with a unique array of flora and fauna that call the area home.
This makes it one of the most exciting places for hiking near Yakima, and its accessibility and array of trails make it popular with locals and visitors alike.
There are 20 miles of Cowiche Canyon Trails for hikers, runners, mountain bikers, and horse riders. When winter comes, you could even enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing!
Here are the best Cowiche Canyon Trails to try out while you’re here.
Exploring the Cowiche Canyon Trails in Yakima
Cowiche Canyon Trail
Distance: 5.2 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 285 feet
This 5.2-mile trail is an out-and-back route that takes like the canyon and is the most popular hiking route in the area. As it’s out-and-back, you can hike the whole distance or walk for a shorter time before returning. It’s mostly flat but does have a couple of uphill sections, some of which are rocky.
Depending on the season, you’ll walk alongside the stream and may see an array of birdlife, changing foliage colors, and beautiful flowers.
Thirsty after your hike? There’s a winery en route (Wilridge Vineyard), so you can combine your adventure with trying some of Yakima’s favorite beverages.
Cowiche Canyon Uplands
Distance: 3.3 miles
Type of Trail: Loop
Elevation Gain: 288 feet
This reasonably flat walk is a 3-mile loop trail that takes in some of the gorgeous views over the canyon. It’s a figure eight loop, so you can opt to do one part or do them both to take in all the natural surroundings have to offer!
It’s suitable for hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers, although it’s usually never overrun with tourists. While the trail is well-marked, there are a few intersecting trails on this route, so make sure you’re following the right one—or not!
You’ll get wonderfully lost here and will always find your way back. Just make sure you bring enough water.
Cowiche Canyon Uplands to Wilridge Winery
Distance: 3.9 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 731.6 feet
This four-mile out and the back trail leads where some would argue any good trail should lead – to a winery! This is a different trail than mentioned above, but they both lead here. So you can choose which path will work up the most thirst!
It starts flat but descends into the valley quickly, offering immense views along the way. Plenty of wildflowers line the walk, and while there are some steep sections, it’ll be manageable for most people. Some cyclists mountain bike here, but it’s more suitable as a hiking trail.
Terminating at Wilridge Winery, where you can taste some of their local products or take an amble around the vineyard, this is the ideal trail for somebody who wants to mix the great outdoors with Yakima’s food and wine scene.
It takes most people about two hours to complete—but that depends on how long you spend at the winery! Just make sure they are open before you head over.
Other Cowiche Canyon Trails
As mentioned above, there’s no real way to get lost here, all of them intersect and lead back to one another one way or the other. So have a bit of a wander, just make sure you have a map downloaded.
You’ll wander across trails like the Historic Jeep Trail, which can lead from the Uplands Trail to the main Cowich Canyon Trail in the north. Or take the South Rim Trail to get a bit of a better view of the canyon from above.
The Summit View Trail makes it seem like you’ll be summiting a hill or a mountain, but really it just brings you slightly higher on a hill with vistas across the plains. On a clear day, you will be treated to views of Mount Adams and maybe even Mount Rainier if you’re lucky!
Tips For Hiking Here
- There is no shade you are exposed to the entire time. A few moments here and there, you might get lucky with a bit of shady from the canyon if it’s late or early enough, but overall, you will be baking in the sun most of the time.
- Snakes on this trail are seen a bit later in the day but always keep your eyes peeled and watch your step.
- There are marmots, magpies, beavers, and other critters sharing this trail with you!
- There is no fresh water. Bring all the water you’ll need and some extra.
- The trails are a mix of dirt and sand and lots of rocks sprinkled around, depending on which area you’re in. Were proper footwear.
- There is some brush, so make sure to do a tick check afterward, especially if you’re wearing hiking shorts instead of pants.
- It should also be noted that you will be trailing along a mix of BLM land, Conservancy Land, and even Private Property. No matter where you are, treat the land with respect!
These Cowiche Canyon Trails aren’t too long or taxing, but they provide excellent ways to see the glorious Cowiche Canyon, one of the best things to do in Yakima. Whether you fancy walking down in the canyon, mountain biking in the uplands, or just a casual walk to a winery, these trails have you sorted!
I’ve been perpetually traveling and living around the world for years but it’s hard to beat Washington and the PNW. After years of road-tripping the area, I guess you can say I know it pretty well! When I’m not writing guides for you, you can catch me somewhere petting a dog, attempting to surf, hiking a volcano, or stuffing my face with bread and cheese.