by Gilbert Plascencia
One of the cool things about living in a desert area like Yakima is the opportunity to get a jump start on the summer hiking season without dealing with all the wet and muddy trails up in higher elevations.
Yakima has some of the best desert hikes around. One of my favorite hikes in this area is the Yakima Skyline Rim trail. Located in the L.T. Murray State Wildlife Recreation Area about half an hour away from town, this hike offers great views of the Yakima River Canyon and puts on a great desert wildflower show in early spring.
There's something about this trail that makes me feel so at home - the smell of sage brush as the wind picks up the higher you go up; the breathtaking views of Mount Adams and Mout Rainier in the background and the valley down below. Going up early in the morning and seeing the sunrise atop of the ridge is a special treat that leaves you with feelings of gratitude and excitement to have this beauty as your backyard.
Driving north from Yakima on I-82, take the Canyon Road exit #26. Turn left on Canyon Road, and left again onto Harrison Road. Drive west to the intersection with North Wenas Road. Turn right and drive north on the N. Wenas Road. After about 4 miles the road swings west, but you will drive straight north onto Gibson Road. Continue north 1/4 mile, then take a right onto Buffalo Road. This road gets rough and in poor weather may not be drivable unless you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Continue to the end of the road for the traditional trailhead.
Whichever trailhead you start at, the trail trends northward and is easy to follow. The first trail is actually an abandoned 4-wheel drive road. You can follow it north a couple miles, then find a footpath up a narrow canyon and join the main trail on the canyon rim. Or you can hike a mile eastward cross country and find the main trail. The second is a traditional foot and stock trail. Follow the trail north to the canyon rim, gaining 1200 feet in elevation. Turning back now will give you a good 4 mile hike. If you choose to continue you will follow the canyon rim far above the Yakima River, then drop to river level at Roza Creek., 6 miles from the trailhead. The trail climbs 1300 feet up North Umptanum Ridge, veers west and ends at the Old Durr Road, 16 miles from your starting point.