Looking for a Eastern Washington hike ending in a wine tasting experience; you couldn’t do better than the Cowiche Canyon hike.
Walk beneath stunning basalt and andesite cliffs along a beautiful creek with wildflowers in the spring, stunning color in the fall and a side trip for a glass of wine and snacks.
The Cowiche Canyon Trail may be short, 6 mile round trip, but it sure is sweet. From the trailhead just off Weikel Road, you’ll wind beneath steep sagebrush slopes and cliffs of basalt and andesite splotched with colorful lichens, crossing Cowiche Creek numerous times along the way. The creek is always close at hand, and the lush riparian vegetation and sagebrush hillsides are home to numerous species of songbirds, while raptors and vultures circle above the cliffs. If you’re lucky, you’ll hear a canyon wren or spot a yellow-bellied marmot or a lucia azure butterfly. In the spring, a wide array of wildflowers dot the hillsides. In the morning and evening hours big-horned sheep and deer may be spotted on the hillsides.
As you make your way down the canyon, just past bridge 5 you’ll come upon some reddish basalt columns reminiscent of the statues on Easter Island. A little farther along, soaring above the trail between bridges 7 and 8, is an andesite formation known as the Mayan Sunrise. Just prior to bridge 8 is a junction with the Winery Trail, .8 miles, which climbs the north side of the canyon to the Wilridge Vineyard and the Tasting Room where wine samples await you check the website for the hours. There are multiple picnic tables set on a beautiful lawn overlooking the vineyards. While just beyond bridge 8 is a junction with the Uplands Trail that climbs the south side of the canyon to the uplands with broad vistas of Mount Cleman, Cowiche Mountain, and the surrounding countryside.
Beyond here the main trail leaves the railroad bed and follows an old county road to bypass two trestles that were illegally removed when the rails and ties were salvaged. Here the vegetation crowds the trail, at times almost forming a tunnel as the trail follows a bend in the creek back to the railroad bed below some impressive basalt cliffs. After crossing the creek for a final time, the trail passes a grove of aspen, then a house and small orchard. Beyond this is the hop yard that is the source of Fremont Brewing’s Cowiche Canyon Fresh Hop Ale, and finally the trailhead at the end of Cowiche Canyon Road.