Outdoors

Black Canyon hiking trail offers incredible views, wildflowers and isolation

Nancy Krupin, president of the Inter-Mountain Alpine Club, holds open the entrance gate to Black Canyon Trail on Umtanum Ridge north of Yakima.
Nancy Krupin, president of the Inter-Mountain Alpine Club, holds open the entrance gate to Black Canyon Trail on Umtanum Ridge north of Yakima. Courtesy Paul Krupin

The spring rains are turning the lower- to mid-elevations in the central areas of Eastern Washington into colorful, flower-studded carpets filled with natural splendor. It’s time to go hiking.

It takes about two hours to drive from the Tri-Cities to Black Canyon, an 8.2 mile out-and-back hiking trail on the east side of the Wenas River, along part of Umtanum Ridge 13 miles north of Selah.

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Spectacular views of the Cascades from Umtanum Ridge. Courtesy Paul Krupin

The scenery is amazing. This is a beautiful hike that gets its name from the black lava cliffs and rocky stone stripe formations that envelope both sides as you head up the valley.

The slopes are covered with a beautiful array of yellow, white, blue and pink wildflowers that change as you pass through different ecosystems with the slow, steady increase in elevation.

There is evidence of wildlife all along the trail. It is easy to follow and gains elevation at a steady rate. There is a total 1,800-foot gain over the 4.1-mile hike to the ridgeline, which has an elevation of just over 4,000 feet.

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Horned toads can be found on the rocky ridgelines of Umtanum Ridge. Courtesy Paul Krupin

At the top you get excellent views of Mt. Rainier and the Tatoosh Range to the west and Mt. Stuart and the Enchantments to the north.

It is a great place to relax and soak up the views or crawl on your belly and take pictures of the flowers, and maybe if you are lucky you can get a snapshot of a horned toad.

You can either head down the way you came or choose to do a short loop along the ridge and come down an adjacent draw to get some different views and variety.

You will need to take a few vital necessities on this trail, including at least two liters of water, sunscreen, good hiking shoes, appropriate clothes, snacks or lunch, bug repellant — and don’t forget a good trail map and your camera.

Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on a leash.

To get there: Take Interstate 82 north past Yakima to the Selah exit. Then take Highway 823 north to the North Wenas Road, and then go 13 miles. The trailhead sign and parking will be on your right. If you have a suitable high-clearance vehicle, you can drive the gravel road 1.3 miles farther and start hiking.

Paul Krupin is an avid local outdoor enthusiast and a member of the Intermountain Alpine Club (IMAC). He can be reached at pjkrupin@gmail.com.
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