Yakima Skyline & Umtanum Falls



Walking near the “summit” of the Yakima Skyline

2 people, 4 knees, 3 MCLs. This trek was deemed Operation DUSTAFUBK, short for Drive Until Sunny and Try to Avoid Fucking Up Brad’s Knee. The B is silent. Brad tore his MCL skiing a few weeks ago, but was going too stir crazy to care, so we found ourselves at the Eastgate Park n Ride at 6am on Saturday. Originally Surafel was joining us, but we received a 3am message that he was in the ER, and no, this would not be like last time where he got an IV and joined us a few hours later, good as ever.

  • Distance: ~9 miles for Yakima Skyline to Gracie’s point and back, 3 miles for Umtanum Falls
  • Elevation gain: ~2700 between the two hikes
  • Weather: 60’s and sunny
  • Commute from Seattle: 2:45 with no traffic
  • Did I Trip: On Yakima Skyline, no. But Umtanum Falls made up for my graceful past few months with 1.67*10^198 trips, slips, skateboard slides, wipeouts, and assplants.

Another hiking party ahead of us

We started driving. I made Brad drive because I’m an asshole my car either has a gas leak, or is a liar and the broken gas gauge is making the check engine light turn on.* The car was packed for just about every mountain activity, we pulled up a few options and figured we’d drive until the weather was acceptable. The pass was 48 and rainy. Ew. Keep driving. Cle Elum was fake sunny where the weather says sunny but actually it’s overcast and hazy. Keep driving. Wait, stop at the only gas station with no snacks in the entirety of Cle Elum first and use the slowest gas pump known to man. Okay, now stop at a gas station with snacks and a faster gas pump. Okay now keep driving. No snow left? Okay, so I guess we’ll just hike. To Yakima!


Brad with Yakima in the background

The last time I hiked out by Yakima I was amazed at the sun and the air smelling like sage and the rolling yellow hills. Well, the sage is all dead, so that sucks, but the sky was still blue and the hills were still rolling and yellow and it was around 60 degrees, so it basically felt like May. We chose Yakima Ridge, a mellow hike that is host to a 50k race in early spring, and wow I can see why.

The trail gains elevation slowly but steadily up to the “summit” about two miles in, where you can drop down behind the ridge to continue on to Gracie’s Point. The trail splits around 3 miles in and you can either follow it to a 4×4 road (supposedly, didn’t look like much of a road to us) that wraps a bit west and tours the grassy knolls, or you can stay right which keeps you closer to the ridge. Instead of heading straight up Gracie’s Point the trail wraps around to the north side before following a series of fence poles to the top, where we took a long break to destroy some Wisconsin cheese curds and summer sausage and (in my case) excessive amounts of peanut butter.

Looking behind us

We had taken the 4×4 road up, so we took the ridge trail back. Rainier and Adams looked incredible when we started hiking, but Adams was slowly swallowed by low clouds rising to meet a growing lenticular, and Rainier was gradually engulfed in dark mist and an angry wall of weather. Sweet, keep reaffirming that we made the right choice. We took a short break at the car to enjoy the sun, and decided what the hell, we’d keep driving to check out one of our other hike ideas.


Dead sage

Our other hike idea appeared to be on private property. The gate was covered in maps and a sign for Discover passes and a sign reminding everyone to close the gate behind them, but it also had a sign that said “no public access.” So we kept driving. We found a dirt road that I realized would bring us all the way around Umtanum Ridge and back to the north end of Yakima Canyon road, so we took it! And halfway down that road, we found a perfect 2 mile round trip hike to Umtanum Falls. Great idea!!


Wildlife!! (Photo credit Brad)

Well, the hike was completely iced over, and yours truly had only brought sneakers and mountaineering boots. And I left the boots in the car. So I was in my 2012 running shoes, which it turns out are mediocre at best on ice. So we slipped and slided all along the trail, finding game trails and social trails higher on the slopes to avoid the icy ground next to the river. Longest. Mile. Ever. Luckily everyone else was a dumbass like me and only had sneakers, so I fit right in. We made it to the falls, Brad went around to face the waterfall and I waited at the top. I had expected it to be a hike where you walk up to the bottom of the falls and are staring right at it, but you’re actually at the top looking down on it, with the option of scrambling down to the base. I stood, wiped out while standing, and waited for disasters to happen while Brad and two other hikers checked out the view facing the falls. I think SAR has ruined my invincibility.


My view of Umtanum Falls

We made it back to the car well before dark without any further wipeouts (I think, if I remember correctly) and finished our rogue lap around Umtanum Ridge. The drive back over the pass was still a gross 48 degrees and pouring rain. I saw I think two people on the Snoqualmie slopes. Props to you guys. I cannot imagine this has been a good year for the ski resorts.


Brad’s view of the falls (photo credit Brad)

So I have slowly been expanding my list of sunny places, and Yakima Skyline is an easy hike even for wobbly knees if you need an escape. I hear the wildflowers in spring are fantastic too, though we aren’t quite there yet. I’ll have to check our Selah Butte when those flowers finally spring up, though – it’s across the canyon from Yakima Skyline, so instead of staring at those freaking cell towers the whole time you’re under the cell towers and can pretend they don’t exist.

*Check engine light has since turned off so… problem solved? If you ignore your problems they go away right?

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