Spending a Weekend in Yakima

From the winding Yakima River Canyon to hilltop hop fields, vineyards and hiking trails, the Yakima Valley is a sweet escape for Washington sun-seekers. My family enjoyed a weekend exploring the shrub-steppe trails and eating (and drinking) up the valley’s abundant agricultural goods. With outdoor dining in full swing, we spent nearly the entire trip outside. Here’s how to spend a weekend soaking up the sun in Yakima.  

canyon river ranch

Where To Stay

Staying in downtown Yakima is the most convenient basecamp for access to restaurants and the greater Yakima Valley. We crashed at the Hilton Garden Inn Yakima Downtown, a centrally-located and comfortable hotel right next to Single Hill Brewing. There are plenty of shops, eateries and bars within walking distance.

For a quiet, upscale experience, stay 30 minutes north of downtown at Canyon River Ranch. A riverfront fly fishing resort, the ranch is nestled next to the serene Yakima River — a destination for recreation and relaxation. Also check out their Canyon River Grill and Red’s Fly Shop (more on that below)!

tamales in yakima

Eat and Drink

Need coffee? With reviews like “best coffee in Yakima and truly world-class”, Collaboration Coffee should be your first stop in the morning. Featuring locally-roasted Basalt Roasters coffee, Collaboration is all about building community — one locally-roasted cup at a time. They also partner with local bakeries and businesses to offer pastries, along with healthy vegan and Keto options.  

No trip to Yakima is complete without a stop at Los Hernandez Tamales. Operating out of two locations (Union Gap and Yakima), this James Beard award-winning restaurant was started by the Hernandez family in 1990. Their made-from-scratch tamales are the perfect quick lunch. We tried the seasonal asparagus tamales, available each year in the spring. Simply delicious.

Yakima’s street food scene has come a long way in recent years with the addition of several tasty food trucks. Many of these can be found parked at the valley’s abundant breweries and wineries. As the “hop capital of the US” and home to some 120 wineries, the Yakima Valley offers more than its fair share of locally crafted beverages. Check out our can’t-miss Yakima brewery and Yakima winery stories for all the info! 

5 salsas tacos
food and beer
canyon river grill breakfast

If you’re looking for destination dining, make a dinner reservation at Canyon River Ranch’s Canyon River Grill. Breakfast and lunch are available daily (we loved the breakfast sandwich and Chef Kevin’s River Cookie) or you can make a dinner reservation on weekends. Chef Kevin Davis uses locally sourced ingredients, including greens from the onsite garden. You don’t need to be a guest of the lodge to dine here and it’s absolutely worth a stop when driving the scenic Yakima Canyon road. 

yakima river

Outdoor Recreation

Outdoor recreation is a lifestyle in the Yakima Valley, and summer recreation revolves around the river. From fishing to stand-up paddleboarding, there are many ways to experience the water. Rent rafts at Red’s Fly Shop (also located at Canyon River Ranch) for a leisurely river float excursion. Or bring your own equipment.

If you’re interested in learning from a pro, local outdoors enthusiast Shannon Mahre offers clinics and lessons on everything from river adventures to mountain biking, trail running, and skiing. We met with Shannon and her husband Andy over pizza at Bron Yr Aur brewing. Both sponsored athletes, they offer a wealth of knowledge and passion for all things outdoors in the Yakima Valley. 

cowiche canyon trail

Hiking

Spring and fall are particularly rewarding for Yakima Valley hikers. Sunshine and seasonal colors (wildflowers in the spring, foliage in the fall) are a big draw for Western Washington hikers — Yakima’s drier climate means far less rain than the Seattle area. Check out the trails at Snow Mountain Ranch and Cowiche Canyon for an easy introduction to Yakima trails. Managed by the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy — a non-profit land trust — there are over 30 miles of shrub-steppe trails to explore.

Cowiche Canyon (it’s pronounced Cow-itchy) is a popular desert canyon trail with easy access for all ages. Towering andesite and basalt walls guard a bustling ecosystem of plants and animals that make the banks of the swift Cowiche Creek their home. Families, trail runners, mountain bikers and even equestrians visit this vibrant landscape for a dose of nature. The flat trail is 6 miles round trip, with optional offshoot trails leading to the canyon rim and Uplands.

uplands hiking trail
yakima valley hiking

Hike from the canyon floor to the Uplands, or drive to the trailhead off Scenic Drive for panoramic views overlooking the valley. The Uplands trail network is well-signed, but it’s helpful to bring a map if you’re unfamiliar with the area. We hiked the East Uplands Trail to the canyon rim, peering down to Cowiche Creek and Canyon below. 

At Snow Mountain Ranch, there are ten trails to choose from. We were looking for something short, so the easy trek out to Balanced Rock was perfect. Along the way, we passed a grove of Garry Oak trees, crossed Cowiche Creek and wandered through wildflowers. Near the Balanced Rock (you’ll know it when you see it) we spotted a great horned owl high up in a snag. This is another area where a trail map comes in handy!

japanese garden

More Things To Do 

If you’re just looking to get outside but not necessarily hike, take a walk in the park at Yakima Area Arboretum. With manicured green lawns and multiple species of trees, this oasis sits right beside the river and along the Yakima Greenway path. Pack a picnic lunch and explore the seasonal collections. Don’t miss the gorgeous Japanese-inspired gardens near the center of the park. 

For even more ideas, check out our stories on visiting museums in Yakima and a taste of Yakima Valley

If visiting Yakima County while Washington State is under COVID-19 restrictions, please follow all health and safety regulations. 

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Brandon Fralic

Brandon Fralic is the author of Urban Hikes Washington and Beer Hiking Pacific Northwest. Based in Bellingham, he writes about trails, beer, and travel for numerous regional publications. Follow Brandon at @beersatb on Instagram and at his website: beersatthebottom.com

3 Comments

  1. Stephanie on May 17, 2021 at 6:11 pm

    Thanks for your post and helping us become familiarize ourselves with Yakima. Our son and wife just moved there from Fort Collins, Colorado. City does not feel safe to them and fresh food (ie seafood) is not available. Not happy, yet, that they moved there. Recommendations? They are in their 30’s and athletic, with a 1-yr old golden retriever.

    • Bill on May 18, 2021 at 11:59 am

      Depending on where they live I wouldn’t feel to safe either. Downtown Yakima at night is a bit scary because of some violent homeless people but also the druggies that hang out looking for easy pickings. West Valley is nice so is Terrace Height’s but in the middle it’s pretty scary. The Tri-Cities is a growing place I recommend Richland and Kennewick to live. Several dog parks, golf courses, and plenty of gyms. If they don’t feel that safe in Yakima that’s where I would move to. There are some seafood trucks that do come to the restaurants from Seattle. The Restaurants are pretty good and the Columbia river is a lot of fun to play on.

  2. Pat Murray on May 30, 2021 at 7:59 am

    I’ve lived in Yakima for over 30 years and raised 3 daughters there. We have never been victims of any violent crimes or of any crime worth mentioning for that matter. I daresay that is what you will likely hear from the majority of Yakima area residents. Most victims of crimes in this area are those who are involved in criminal lifestyles or are highly associated (especially family) with those persons. We have a very visible homeless population who tend to gather around the Union Gospel Mission on 1st St. Again, the violence among the homeless is largely contained in their own community and we have a better support system here for them than many, many other cities & towns. I live in Selah, a bedroom community about 5 miles northwest of Yakima. It’s as safe, or safer, as any place in the nation. The Tri-Cities, especially Pasco, has it’s own problems with crime just as every town in the U.S. Don’t be afraid to live here. Just like anywhere in the world you must practice reasonable caution to prevent being the victim of a crime.

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