Black Canyon

It was going to be 84 degrees in Seattle. About the same east of Cascades. The warmest day of the year so far. No escaping the heat on the west side. Janet and I decided to head east for a wildflower hike. I had done this hike one time. Janet had hiked it a number of times. It does provide some great wildflowers in the spring. Starting at 2000' and going up to 4300' there are a number of zones with different flowers in bloom. We headed out early meeting in Bellevue at 6:30 am. A quick stop in Cle Elum then exiting I-90 near Ellensburg. We did a driving loop for the day. Going we went down Canyon Road to Selah and then on to Black Canyon. We returned via Umptanum Road to the same freeway cloverleaf. It was 9:30 when we parked and started hiking. The dirt road up the canyon goes 1.3 miles to the end. We drove .3 and walked the road for one mile. There is a gate at .5 miles with some parking. Higher clearance cars did make it to the end of the road. A determined driver could get many sedans there. By walking the road we did see a number of wildflowers that drivers missed.

It was already getting warm at 9:30 the road walk took us by lots of balsamroot, lupine, and phlox plus a number of other flowers. At the end of the road there is a berm and the old road continues up the canyon. Open meadows turn to canyon where driving ends. There is still some water in the creek. Prime snake terrain. My previous visit was three weeks earlier in 2008. The flowers were much farther along this time. Balsamroot, lupine, and phlox continued and now we saw bluebells, larkspur, and prairie star. At 2.4 miles, 1.4 miles from the road end, we reached the old cabin. It is still standing. A good time for a break. Some shade was appreciated too. There was a cool breeze blowing. It continued nearly all day. That made for a much more comfortable day.

Farther along Janet thought we were near a patch of shooting stars. We went just off road and found... a huge patch of them. Some grass widows, many spring beauty, and a lot of shooting stars. All those flowers were right at their peak. The road is open to vehicles a little way above the cabin. To my surprise two jeeps passed us going downhill.  We also passed two hikers coming down. The grade steepens as the ridge top nears. Lots more flowers near the ridge. The wind really picked up. I went from uncomfortably hot to a little cool. Very nice. At the ridge we could see out to the Stuart Range and down to Ellensburg on the other side of the ridge. Mt. Rainier came out too.

Last time we turned left and followed the ridge for some distance before going cross country down to another road that completed a loop back to our uphill road. This time we turned right. The road climbed steeply. We found a number of very large big headed clover. Some white and some reddish. An old spur turned right and headed to a high point. The road is signed for no motorized vehicles. The main road goes up and down and can be seen for a long distance. We had a strong tail wind pushing us uphill. The view was even better at the top. Three hundred sixty degrees with nothing to block our view. Add the top of Mt. Adams to the other peaks.

We managed to get out of most of the wind and enjoy our stay on top. The GPS logged 5 miles to our 4300' perch. Only a few small trees survive on the summit. There were a few blooming balsamroot. Time for the rest of our lunch as we hunkered down out of most of the wind. It was only about 1:15 when we headed down. I had my hat tightened trying to keep it from sailing away. We dropped back to where we first reached the ridge for a final look at the views. Rainier, Stuart, Ellensburg, Selah, and more. As we dropped off the ridge the wind died down and the temperature seemed to go up by about 20 degrees. Thankfully there was some cool breeze all the way down.

As usually happens, the trip down seemed a few miles longer than the hike up. Many fewer photos on the descent. We did take another break at the cabin. We did see a couple groups heading up as we came out. At the end of the drivable road we found two SUVs.  As we ambled down the road I heard a loud "hissss' and Janet moved quickly and then pointed out a rattlesnake right at the edge of the road. I have it a wide berth. It was in strike mode. Maybe it would not be such a good idea to wanter into the sagebrush for more photos... Only the second rattler sighting I've had in 31 years of hiking. It was plenty hot when we reached the car.

My second visit to Black Canyon was much different than my first. No snow and later season flowers this time. The wildflower show was better than I was expecting. The lack of other hikers was surprising. A sunny spring day and only a handful of other hikers with all those wildflowers in bloom. An easy 10 miles with 2300' of gain. Thanks to the breeze it was not too hot though it turned out to be a warm afternoon. It is a long drive from the Seattle area but well worth it when the wildflowers are putting on a show.

GPS Map Of Route

Hiking Up Road
Yellow Flower
Clump Of Phlox
Blooming Balsamroot
Sage & Lupine
White Lupine
Shady Lupine
Rocky Road/Trail
Another Balsamroot
Colorful Hillside
Desert Bluebells
Aspen Trees
Old Cabin
Big Head Clover
Colorful Clover
Field Of Shooting Stars
Close Up Shooting Star
Spring Beauty
More Shooting Stars
Grass Widows
Better Color
Stuart Range
Heading Higher
Big Clover Patch
Rainier & High Point
Heading Down
Nice Color
Balsamroot Up Close
Colorful Bouquet
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2013