8 Amazing Hiking Trails and Locations near Ellensburg, WA

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Ellensburg offers a selection of ridge climbs, canyon hikes, and the 2nd longest rail-trail in America. The desert landscape may seem boring at first glance, but there are hikes with fantastic views of the Cascades, waterfalls, and aspen groves here. You have to see it to believe it!

Trails near Ellensburg:

  1. Umtanum Creek Falls
  2. Westberg Trail to Manastash Ridge
  3. Frenchman Coulee
  4. Rattlesnake Dance Ridge Trail
  5. Baldy Mountain
  6. John Wayne Pioneer Trail
  7. Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park
  8. Robinson Canyon

1. Umtanum Creek Falls

  • Type: Out and Back
  • Trail Length: 2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 155 ft
  • Time to Complete: 1h
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Trailhead Lot: Google Maps
  • Distance from Ellensburg: 11 miles (25 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Description: Umtanum Creek Falls is a popular landmark accessed by a short, flat trail. The falls require a brief scramble at the end in order to see them in full glory. Also, the access road to the trailhead is ‘primitive,’ and it’s better to tackle in 4WD. Still, the waterfall is worth the effort, and the trail is fun.

2. Westberg Trail to Manastash Ridge

  • Type: Out and Back
  • Trail Length: 3.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,618 ft
  • Time to Complete: 2h
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: Trailhead Lot: Google Maps
  • Distance from Ellensburg: 7 miles (15 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Description: Westberg Trail is a very steep climb to Manastash Ridge with its stunning vistas of Mount Stuart and the valley below. The route is sun-exposed, challenging, and many people suggest that the views are not worth the effort. 

However, it’s a fantastic workout for people who thrive on physical challenges. And also, there are trail options to loopback instead of coming down the same way.

3. Frenchman Coulee

  • Type: Out and Back
  • Trail Length: 5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 261 ft
  • Time to Complete: 2h 30min
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: Trailhead Lot: Google Maps
  • Distance from Ellensburg: 40 miles (40 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Description: Frenchman Coulee is an excellent canyon hike through the exposed desert terrain. You will see a fantastic waterfall and rugged basalt walls towering above you. 

The area is a popular recreation spot with plenty of campsites and climbing spots. And if you have time, check out Sunshine Wall and Echo Basin across the road.

4. Rattlesnake Dance Ridge Trail

  • Type: Out and Back
  • Trail Length: 2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,378 ft
  • Time to Complete: 1h 30min
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Parking: Trailhead Lot: Google Maps
  • Distance from Ellensburg: 8 miles (15 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Description: Rattlesnake Dance Ridge Trail is a steep ridge climb that offers breathtaking views of the valley and the Cascades. 

The surface is graveled and slippy on the way down. Yet, the vistas are magnificent, and the trail extends for miles after reaching the top. Also, there is Bighorn Campground a mile from the trailhead if you want to make a weekend out of it.

5. Baldy Mountain

  • Type: Out and Back
  • Trail Length: 4.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,018 ft
  • Time to Complete: 2h 30min
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Parking: Trailhead Lot: Google Maps
  • Distance from Ellensburg: 20 miles (30 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Description: Baldy Mountain is a tremendous challenge that will test your lungs and calves. The brutal climb leads to the 3,212-foot peak with a 360-degree panorama where on a clear day, you will see as far as the Cascades. 

It is definitely worth the sweat, but be careful on the way down; this is where many people slip on loose rocks. Hiking sticks are recommended!

6. John Wayne Pioneer Trail

  • Type: Out and Back
  • Trail Length: Varied
  • Elevation Gain: Relatively Flat
  • Time to Complete: Varied
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Trailhead Lot Westbound: Google Maps
  • Parking: Trailhead Lot Eastbound: Google Maps
  • Distance from Ellensburg: 0 miles (0 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Description: John Wayne Pioneer Trail, also known as Palouse to Cascade State Park Trail, is the 2nd longest rail-trail in America, and it passes through the heart of Ellensburg. It is also a part of the 4,000-mile Great American Rail-Trail that will eventually connect DC and Washington State.

From Ellensburg, you can go towards Easton or Yakima River. Both routes are flat and well-maintained with a packed gravel surface. Although sun-exposed, these are perfect for hikers, runners, and of course cyclists, who love the trail for its flat grade.

And when it comes to the distance, you can make it as short or as long as you like, as these are out and back routes.

Related: Best Rail-Trails in Washington

7. Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park

Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park
Photo: snordqCC BY 2.0
  • Type: Out and Back
  • Trail Length: 3 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 35 ft
  • Time to Complete: 1h 30min
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Parking: Trailhead Lot: Google Maps
  • Distance from Ellensburg: 2 miles (5 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Description: Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park stretches along the Yakima River, providing well-maintained and flat hiking options. 

The area is very developed, with picnic and bbq areas, access to the river, and information stands with Coyote story for kids. Also, the park has plenty of wildlife and especially birds.

The only downside is the noise from I-90 that runs nearby, but most people overlook that.

8. Robinson Canyon

  • Type: Loop
  • Trail Length: 4.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 812 ft
  • Time to Complete: 2h 30min
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Parking: Trailhead Lot: Google Maps
  • Distance from Ellensburg: 9 miles (20 min)
  • Dog Friendly: Yes

Description: Robinson Canyon has lots of routes, and you can follow Ainsley Creek and Robinson Creek trails for miles if you want. Yet, most people choose to make a loop around the canyon which is 4.5 miles long.

The disadvantage of this location is that trails are poorly marked. You won’t get far without a GPS app, so make sure to bring one.

However, the area has many positives, too. For example, there are shaded areas (rare for Ellensburg), and the terrain is neither flat nor steep, providing ideal hiking.

Final Thoughts

Ellensburg offers many more hiking destinations, especially if you are willing to extend your driving range. 

Yet, the trails on this list are near the town and can be completed as a day-hike. Hopefully, you found a few of the them interesting and itching to go!

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