This was a last-minute, spur-of-the-moment hike. We did a hike to Iron Peak on Friday, although none of us seemed to feel all that tired afterward. Sitting at home and debating whether or not to get some cardio in at the gym, I decided to take our cardio workout outside. The weather forecast was pretty sketchy for the entire Cascades region and westward, so once again I looked to the east for some hiking options. Going through dessert hikes in the Ellensburg area and saw that the Hardy Canyon had the most elevation gain and enough mileage to get us a good workout for the day.
Having spent four years living in Ellensburg and attending school, I had absolutely no idea there were canyons other than the famous Columbia River gorge in that part of the state. My idea of of a canyon has always been on a grander scale, so the tiny ones in the Oak Creek State Wildlife Area southwest of Ellensburg perked my curiosity and I needed to see them for myself. The drive to the trailhead took us a while, since we opted for less mileage by entering from the north and spent a good amount of time on the unpaved, bumpy portion of Umptanum Road. There was virtually no traffic on this road since most people would probably take the I-82 route and enter the trailhead from the southeast.
The directions on the WTA site were fairly accurate. The trailhead was easy to spot, just 500 feet past Black Canyon trailhead on the south side of Wenas Road. Although when we got there, there was a “Detour” sign posted on the locked gate so we couldn’t enter from there. We turned the car around, past Black Canyon trailhead by about half a mile before making a stop at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on the south side of the road. We entered through the gate and traversed east to reconnect with the Hardy Canyon trail.
It was warm when we got on the trail a little after 1. The dogs spent some time playing in the grass before we started to head up the canyon. The stream runs along side of the trail and the dogs would occasionally jump in to get a drink of water. No wildlife sighting or anything exciting in the canyon, we reached the first switchback and then went straight up the hill onto the ridge. Nice view all-around and with no end in sight, although the weather was getting a little gloomy by the time we were on the ridge. We continued to hike northwestward along the ridge for about a mile until we were able to see the Yakima Valley. We made that our stopping point.
On the way down, rather than going back through the canon again, we walked down the ridge line to take advantage of the awesome, expansive view of the other canyons in the area. We encountered three elk sightings along the way and I was able to get some pictures before they noticed the dogs and walked away. We got back to the car a little after 7 and then another two and a half hour drive back to Seattle.