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Snow Mountain Ranch

Central Washington

Location

Central Washington -- Yakima
View map below

Length

9.2 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 1140 ft.
Highest Point: 3376 ft.

Rating

3.17 out of 5

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WTA worked here: 2016
 

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
 
 

Cowiche Canyon Conservancy hopes to re-invigorate native shrub-steppe habitat to the once working cattle operation at Snow Mountain Ranch, a scant nine miles west of Yakima. As hikers, we get to see their efforts up close.

Snow Mountain Ranch offers a variety of summer and winter walks on 9.2 miles of trails. Relics of the old cattle ranch still remind hikers of the past on this 1,800-acre property. The ranch was home to Elon and Joan Gilbert, friends of Justice William O. Douglas, whom he would often stop to visit on his way into the Cascades from his home in Yakima.

History is just one of many attractions at Snow Mountain Ranch. Hike the riparian areas for a chance to glimpse great horned owls, or focus your binoculars on the local pond for sightings of a variety of ducks. The lowland fields provide excellent hunting grounds for red-tailed hawks, sharp shinned hawks and northern harriers.

There is also a resident population of elk that wander in and out of ranch area. Deer and coyote signs are apparent on all trails. Hike to the top of Cowich Mountain for views westward of Mount Adams and Mount Rainier, and a large elk feeding station managed by WDFW. To the east Yakima is visible.

In winter, snowshoes are not usually required, but traction devices can come in handy when trails are icy.

To hike the 7-mile roundtrip Cowiche Mountain Trail, depart from the Snow Mountain Ranch parking lot, and take the Entry Trail to the main kiosk, where you can 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 of the Cowiche Mountain Trail 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 balsamroot, 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 of the Cowiche Mountain Trail.

 

Snow Mountain Ranch

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 46.6593, -120.7556 Open map in new window

Trailhead

Central Washington -- Yakima

Cowiche Canyon Conservancy

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

Brochure available at trailhead

http://www.cowichecanyon.org

Getting There

From SR 12 on the north side of Yakima, exit at 40th Avenue and proceed 1.5 miles south to Summitview Avenue. Turn right and drive 8.8. miles, then veer left on Cowiche Mill Road. Proceed 2.5 miles to trailhead parking.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

None
 

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Snow Mountain Ranch

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