Outdoors

Want to see spectacular spring wildflowers? These trails and hikes can take you there

How to identify Mid-Columbia wildflowers

Warmer weather is fueling spectacular blossoms of springtime wildflowers around Mid-Columbia Basin.
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Warmer weather is fueling spectacular blossoms of springtime wildflowers around Mid-Columbia Basin.

The cool and wet spring may have delayed the flowers a few weeks, but the warmer weather has fueled spectacular carpets of color at lower to mid-elevations all over the Pacific Northwest.

You can start low near the rivers and work your way up in elevation. The dazzling displays of wildflowers will follow the disappearing melting snow till it peaks in the high country in summer and then back down with the late fall blooms.

Here are just some of the many places to go to see the wildflowers in central and southeast Washington:

Tri-Cities flower hikes

Badger and Candy Mountain — Arrow leaf balsamroot, desert parsley and a several species of daisy create a sea of yellow all over the lower elevation hillsides.

Rattlesnake Slope — This delightful trail north of Richland slowly works up the southern portion of Rattlesnake Mountain and offers a spectacular view of the Columbia River Valley and the Tri-Cities.

White Bluffs north slope trail — This amazing trail outside of Othello wanders along the sand dunes on the east side of the Columbia River on the Hanford National Monument. If you are lucky you might see Umtanem desert buckwheat and the White Bluffs Bladderpod, which are listed as a threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

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Arrow leaf balsamroot, lupine and other wildflowers carpet the hillsides of Candy Mountain looking toward Red Mountain, Rattlesnake Mountain and the Yakima Valley. Laurie Williams Tri-City Herald

Yakima-area hikes

Cowiche Canyon Conservancy and Snow Mountain Ranch — These two adjacent properties offer protection for over 5,000 acres and 30 miles of trails that get you access to shrub-steppe habitat — the dominant special landscape with the unique combinations of sagebrush and grasslands, flowering meadows and oak woodlands.

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Spring wildflowers are coming out in full force throughout the Mid-Columbia. File Tri-City Herald

Umtanem Ridge and Yakima Skyline Trail — These trails offer bird’s eye views of the Yakima Canyon with many miles of trails with stunning colorful arrays of wildflowers. On the ridgelines you can find the pink bitterroot, purple larkspur, white and pink buckwheat, even the showy big-headed clover. Keep an eye out for wildlife — you may see coyote, deer and bighorn sheep, which live in the canyon.

Columbia River Gorge Lyle Cherry Orchard — This wonderful day hike is on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge near Lyle, Wash. It offers spectacular views of the Columbia River, spring wildflowers and an old Garry oak forest of gnarled trees. This amazing nature preserve is owned by the Friends of the Columbia Gorge.

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Close up of the showy phlox showing notched petals and pink veins. Courtesy Paul Krupin

The Dalles Mountain Ranch — This part of the Columbia Hills State Park has a noted springtime balsamroot-lupine bloom along with historic old ranch buildings, sweeping vistas, steep rocky cliffs, creeks and a waterfall, wildlife and dozens of other species of flowers. Coyote Wall, Catherine Creek and Crawford Oaks present other opportunities for you to escape the crowds and experience the wonders of springtime.

Vantage

Ginko Petrified Forest — Offers amazing Columbia River views and outdoor exhibits of petrified wood and information on Ice Age floods features carved into the walls of the Columbia River Gorge. The interpretive center features more than 30 varieties of petrified wood, including a shiny black slice of an ancient gum tree.

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Showy phlox comes in pink, purple and white is plentiful alongside the yellow balsamroot. Courtesy Paul Krupin

Walla Walla

Kendall Skyline trail — The trail starts at lower elevations and offers spectacular scenic views as it rises into the forests of the Blue Mountains for more than 40 miles. There are numerous side trails of varying difficulty and plenty of adventurous options.

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The beautiful pink bitterroot is the Montana state flower and can be found on the rocky basalt ridgelines. Courtesy Paul Krupin

Guided wildflower hikes

If you’d prefer to learn about the wildflowers under the knowing eye of an experienced botanist, consider tagging along on one of wildflower walks offered by the Columbia Basin Chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society.

They are offering a series of flower walks that focus on the diverse and noteworthy places to see the wildflowers. For information http://www.cbwnps.org/

Paul Krupin is an avid local hiking enthusiast, retired environmental specialist, and a member of the Intermountain Alpine Club (www.imacnw.org). He can be reached at pjkrupin@gmail.com.
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