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