Yakima Skyline to Gracie Point (Mar 18, 2018)

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ytakima_skyline_coverConditions: Day hike
Gear: nothing special
Map: USGS Pomona
Area: Selah, WA
Reference: Desert Hikes Washington
Stats: 7.2mi, 1927' gain (round trip)

A friend put the flower bug in my brain...teasing me with photos from previous years of warmer times and colorful hillsides. This had me hankering to get out for an early flower hike, especially when I saw him post a photo of a lone buttercup.

I checked with JimK. He was free on Sunday and interested. We decided to head over to Yakima Skyline. Yeah...a longer drive but the weather forecast looked sunnier and warmer than just about anywhere else in the state within a reasonable driving distance. We met at the SE 8th P&R at 7am, piled into my car, then started the long drive to Selah. Outside of Ellensburg we decided to take Canyon Road through Yakima Canyon. It's only about 10 minutes longer than taking I82 but it is much more scenic. Last minute I asked JimK if he was interested in trying a different trailhead...one that starts a bit higher up. I was driving my 4Runner so I knew it could make the rough road up there. He was up for it so after making the sharp right on Buffalo Rd where it turns to gravel, we made a left into the first parking area on the left, opened the gate and drove through and closed the gate behind us. Then it was a level easy drive at first on a dry dirt road. Eventually the rough road showed up...deep ruts and big rocks. Nothing the 4Runner couldn't handle. We arrived at the TH (elev 1837') a bit after 9:30am. We were the first car. The TH isn't really marked and it has been a while since I've been there so we weren't sure at first it was the right spot but there is a trail that heads up the drainage so I knew we'd found it.

The trail up to Yakima Skyline isn't ever really steep. It was a nice hike up, shaded and a bit breezy. Lots of green sprouts out. One could tell Spring was really trying to sprout. I wondered if we'd see any flowers. It wasn't too long before I spotted a buttercup, then another, then we found they were all over the place. I would have been happy to see one but they were out in vast numbers. Slightly higher up I spotted yellow bells. Now I wasn't expecting these so to see them...that was a treat. Lots of desert parsley was out too. We continued up the trail (an old road) to the ridge...Yakima Skyline. We hit the ridge at 1.04mi (2506') and then went left towards Gracie Point. There is a trail the whole way up to the point (rounds Gracie Point low and to the right) but we wanted to explore so at about 1.54mi (2639') we veered left up a rib to the ridge which was a pleasant walk up to the Gracie Point highpoint (2.55mi, 3206'). Lots of open space around so it was fun to just pick a route...just about anything goes. We reached the top and had a nice lunch soaking in all the views.

After lunch we decided to wander a bit more. First we headed northwest downhill following the trail that leads down to Birdsong Camp (we stopped before the descent gets steep). Then we headed partway back up to Gracie Point and then headed out the northwest ridge. Still not done wandering, we headed down the so ridge of Gracie (the one we came up) but continued further down it before cutting back over to meet up with the main Yakima Skyline trail (5.37mi) and back to the point on the Skyline were it was time to drop back down the drainage back to the car. Lots of good roaming around today. Surprisingly...lots of flowers out (saw some early woodland star and vetch). We were back to the car (7.2mi) around 2:30pm. Only two other cars there, one a Subaru. Low clearance cars can't make it to the upper trailhead...the ruts are just too deep and the rocks too big. Didn't think a Subie could make it but looks like it didn't have too much trouble.

Spring is definitely here!
Yakima Skyline Slideshow

(click on map to view a larger version)

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Copyright Janet M. Putz
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