The Tri-Cities is blessed with 300 days of glorious sunshine and an average of less than eight inches of precipitation each year. Located in the southeastern heart of Washington State, the Tri-Cities landscape is vast and open, mottled with curved hillsides, dramatic cliff-fronts, endless miles of rippling rivers and sweeping vineyards and farmlands. Amongst the beauty of the area, there are miles upon miles of trails that loop through and around the area and there’s plenty of unbroken, natural space for all to enjoy.
Hiking Badger Mountain
The Friends of Badger Mountain group was formed in 2003 with the goal to preserve the area’s scenic views and open spaces. Ultimately, thanks to their efforts, the group was able to purchase 574 acres of land that is now enjoyed year-round by thousands. Perched proudly in south Richland, it’s impossible to miss Badger Mountain, a grand and stunning bluff dotted in sagebrush, wildflowers and wildlife which is home to over nine miles of well-maintained trails for hikers, bikers and equestrians.
At over 1,500 feet, Badger Mountain is the best place for a panoramic view of the Tri-Cities, where the 360-degree views are unbeatable and breathtaking. On a clear day, it is not unlikely that the Blue Mountains to the south are visible, along with the Cascade range to the west that includes Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.
There are a few different trail options to take in order to reach the grand summit of Badger, with the Canyon Trail being the most popular. The Canyon Trail, for hikers only, is a swift, moderately difficult 1.3-mile climb with around 60 steps to get past and a 15% grade to quell before reaching the top. The trail is wide and easy to maneuver in most spots, with crushed rock throughout and resting benches positioned throughout the climb, each with their own enjoyable and refreshing view.
A slightly less arduous option to the summit of Badger Mountain is the Sagebrush Trail that veers off to the left at the top of the trailhead stairs. The slope averages less than a 10% grade and the route is smooth and wide. Eventually, the trail converges with other routes upon the mountain and can easily be looped with other trails to make a longer day out of the adventure.
The backside of Badger Mountain is home to the Tri-Cities’ newest member of the recreation family, the Candy Mountain Trails. With the same sweeping views offered as a reward upon summiting, the Candy Mountain hike is slightly less rigorous than the Badger Mountain side. One landmark upon the main trail is a large boulder, which marks the elevation of Lake Lewis during the Ice Age Floods and is a perfect and peaceful resting spot for reflection and wonderment.
No matter what time of year, the trails are typically open and welcoming. Coyote dens, chukar, quail and squirrel are just as common as fellow hikers, along with beetles, snakes and magpies. The numerous wildflowers in the spring turn the mountain into a rainbow of bright and vivid color. The Friends of Badger Mountain offer popular Wildflower Walks with local experts that fill up quickly.
Another popular event is the annual Badger Mountain Challenge, which hosts a 9.3-mile race, a 50-miler and the ultimate feat, a 100-miler. The Challenge, which is typically held in the spring, brings in hundreds of entrants from around the globe and has grown to become an internationally recognized competition.
With perfectly maintained trails and picturesque scenes around every corner, the Badger and Candy Mountain Trails are flawless examples of the uniqueness and greatness that is southeastern Washington. A late summer hike into one of the Tri-Cities’ famous sunsets is guaranteed to amaze with the sky a brilliant flash of burning amber and a thousand different shades of color and light.
A day in the area cannot be considered complete without a deep breath of fresh air from atop the mountain, the views stretching onward forever.
Columbia Plateau State Park Trail
Beginning at Fish Lake near Cheney, the Columbia Plateau State Park Trail is a 130-mile long trail that is maintained by the Washington State Park system. The trail was once a part of the Spokane, Portland, Seattle Railway that was abandoned in 1987. The trail itself curves gracefully through five counties throughout Washington State and wraps up near the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers just outside of the Tri-Cities. There is a 15-mile section before the river confluence that is perfect for an afternoon or an entire day of exploring. This section is wide and open with crushed gravel trails and looping curves adjacent to the Snake River. The views are expansive and often rewarded with migratory birds (depending on the time of year), leaping herds of mule deer or a lone coyote amongst the sage.
The Columbia Plateau Trail is a welcome refuge for walkers, hikers, bikers and equestrian explorers and is considered one of southeastern Washington’s most hidden treasures. The trail is sidelined with steep basalt cliffs that are dotted in long, sweeping grasses and huge, ancient boulders, which is another clear remnant of the colossal impact that the Ice Age Floods had on eastern Washington.
Mostly flat, the hike is enjoyable and accessible to most. Across the river, a train may cry into the canyon and the sun shines bright and warm, beaming brightly like a welcoming beacon to the end of the trail and the merging point of the two great rivers. Pack a lunch, a camera and a journal for an unforgettable afternoon spent in the solitude and beauty of an untouched, all-natural corner of the state.
Chamna Natural Preserve
Hidden in the middle of the Tri-Cities sits the 276-acre park that is the Chamna Natural Preserve. With 11 miles of trails for hiking, walking, jogging, mountain biking or horseback riding, Chamna is truly a natural Tri-Cities gem.
Settled alongside the Yakima River, the Chamna Natural Preserve is home to coyote, porcupine, jackrabbits, river otter, raccoons and mule deer along with a large variety of dignified winged residents. It is not uncommon to see eagles, pelicans, hawks, ducks, geese and many other feathered friends while enjoying the beauty of Chamna.
The Mountaineers Club of Seattle rated Chamna hikes as one of the top 50 desert hikes in Washington, thanks to its expansive offering of trails available on the preserve. The Tapteal Greenway organization maintains and builds trails and provides amenities for preserve visitors. The group works tirelessly to ensure that each experience in Chamna is positive and memorable.
Although centered in the heart of the Tri-Cities, an afternoon spent at Chamna is just as good as a getaway into the untamed wild. With an abundance of trails for all levels and the running water of the nearby river, Chamna is one of the Tri-Cities’ most special features that is a must-see, must-do local experience.
The Tri-Cities is situated ideally in the center of world-class winemaking (and tasting), orchards of bountiful fruits and thousands of acres of vegetables and wheat. With three rivers and a unique, rolling terrain, the Tri-Cities is limitless in its recreational offerings. Similar to the Tri-Cities’ endless blue skies, the trails weave on perpetually, offering endless amounts of adventure to those with the insatiable desire to get lost within the stunning Tri-Cities surroundings.