It’s not every day that you get to explore a new hiking trail that just recently opened to the public! That, combined with the promise of great views and a sunny forecast, drew us to Cashmere Canyons Preserve on the last Saturday of October.
The hike is located in Cashmere, Washington, just 20 minutes east of downtown Leavenworth and approximately 2.5 hours northeast of Seattle. We enjoyed this hike on our way to a weekend getaway in Lake Chelan, but there’s also plenty to explore in nearby Wenatchee and Leavenworth.
Background on Cashmere Canyons Preserve
Part of what makes this area so special is the story of generosity behind it. The owners of Cashmere Canyons Preserve had conservation in mind when they began purchasing parcels of land in Hay, Olalla and Nahahum Canyons in the early 1990s. More than 25 years later, they partnered with the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust to place a conservation easement on the 2,100-acre property, permanently protecting it from any future development. And, in a rare and generous move, the landowners opened the private property to the public for hiking in late April 2021.
Things to Know Before You Go
Because wilderness conservation is the highest priority on this property, hiking, trail running and snowshoeing are the only activities allowed. Absolutely no dogs are permitted (including those on leash and service dogs). You can view a complete list of rules and regulations on the Cashmere Canyons Preserve website here.
Also note that the trail system could be closed at certain times of year for the protection of wildlife or during periods of extreme fire danger. Closures will be announced in the banner at the top of the previously mentioned webpage.
The majority of the trail is very exposed with no shade, so depending what time of year you visit, you should be prepared to protect yourself from the sun, wind, heat or cold. We were plenty warm for the first part of the hike, but as soon as we started the shady, windy ascent to the highest point, we were really glad we had plenty of layers in our bag. You’ll also want to wear sturdy shoes and consider bringing hiking poles if it’s wet or snowy. There was some frost on the ground in the early morning when we arrived, and we were surprised how slick the trail was! And finally, be sure to pack plenty of water as there are no sources to filter on the trail.
What to Expect for a Hike at Cashmere Canyons Preserve
The drive to the Cashmere Canyons Preserve trailhead is easy and on paved roads the entire way. No sketchy forest roads to deal with, so that’s definitely a plus! The parking area has space for approximately 20 cars, and there’s a restroom available. We arrived at 9 a.m. on a sunny fall Saturday, and we were the first car with a few others to follow shortly after. We got back to our car just before 1 p.m., and there were about 12 cars in the lot.
There is public access for hiking along 12 miles of trail system with sweeping views to the Enchantments, the Entiats, the Wenatchee Valley and down to the Columbia River. In the spring, hikers can also enjoy carpets of wildflowers. We’d love to return to see that! There is a great map and route explanations here, and once you’re out on the trail, you’ll find clear and frequent signage that makes it really easy to find your way.
The trail is very wide and open with a gradual, but nearly constant, incline and a few steeper sections. You will climb steadily uphill for about two miles and 1,200’ of elevation gain before reaching the “Crossroads.” Stay alert during this first section — we saw tons of Rocky Mountain Mule Deer all around!
From the Crossroads, we turned left and headed for the twin summits of Sunrise and Little Bear. Each has beautiful views into the heart of the Enchantments to the west and the Entiat Range to the north, while Sunrise also enjoys southerly views down the Wenatchee Valley to the Columbia River. If you’re short on time, you could just do Sunrise then head back to your car, but we found it to be pretty quick and worthwhile to visit both! Either would make a good lunch spot, and there are even wood rounds in both areas for you to take a seat and soak in the views. Doing both summits is a round trip from the Crossroads of 2.2 miles and 550’ of total elevation gain.
If you’re wanting a bit more distance and gradual elevation, you could complete the Spring Canyon Loop rather than retracing your steps back down from Little Bear summit. We took this route and didn’t find it to add much in terms of views. It was interesting, though, to see just how different the scenery felt, as this section meanders through a Douglas-fir and Ponderosa forest.
While hiking at Cashmere Canyons Preserve, we found ourselves — yet again — amazed and delighted by the diversity of Washington’s incredible landscapes. With few people, great wildlife viewing, and just the right amount of difficulty, this hike provided an enjoyable and peaceful morning outdoors. If you choose to visit, please do so respectfully and responsibly to ensure a healthy future for this beautiful place and to preserve visitation privileges for all.