But if you’ve never been east of the Cascade mountains, you’re really missing out! I grew up with family in Eastern Washington, so I got to spend years exploring the sunshine and mighty Columbia River over there. However, I had never before done any ‘real’ hiking in Eastern Washington…until now.
When I heard about the First Annual Tri-Cities Craft Beer Festival, I was ecstatic! I have dear family friends in the Tri-Cities who, besides being awesome people, also love beer. Tying in a visit with the festival and some outdoors seemed a perfect idea. I could write a whole post just on the drive east and can’t-miss stops (Miner Burger in Union Gap and Bale Breaker a few miles away in Yakima, for starters), but for those who have never been through Snoqualmie Pass, I’ll give you a quick run-down: Eastern Washington is totally different from Western Washington in many ways. My favorite is climate–it was so nice to feel dry heat and sunshine, I even managed to get sunburned in the few places I missed with sunscreen! Also, the geography is different. The biggest difference you see as the miles continue are the dwindling green trees and the increasing rolling hills. I get a wave of nostalgia whenever I see these hills, but now I can say I’ve climbed one!
As far as hiking goes, Badger Mountain definitely is for all-ages. It’s right in town, and probably is similar to walking around Green Lake in Seattle–joggers and people walking pups everywhere. While it looms above Richland, you have to drive up the hill quite a bit to reach the trailhead, so total elevation hiked is not as extreme as it looks. It has varying degrees of difficulty depending on what route you take, but nothing looked too steep or dangerous (hence why I skipped wearing hiking boots and went for tennis shoes). It is similar to the Anacortes Community Forest Lands, where there are multiple trails you can take to change elevation or distance. Also similar to ACFL is that some trails allow horses and bikes as well as hikers, while others are for hikers only. Signage is clear and easy to interpret who belongs on what trail. They have recently expanded both the parking area and added a new route as well, and it seemed incredibly well-maintained by the local Friends of Badger Mountain group.
Signs at the parking area and trailhead (where there are real bathrooms) talked about the geographical formations of this area as well as notes on flora and fauna. As we set off on the Sagebrush trail (the easiest one to the summit), we saw a rather small snake (possibly a bull snake?). Later on the hike we saw a beautiful hawk, and other birds from the trail, but no badgers or rattlesnakes (which I admittedly was hoping to see or hear, albeit from a safe distance!). The potential for rattlers is a wonderful reason to keep your dogs on leash and to stay on the trail at all times (if erosion or consideration for others wasn’t reason enough).
I typically am in the Tri-Cities in the summer, when the hills are brown, so it was a pleasant surprise to see them green. I even got to see some wild flowers! Eastern Washington is a very agricultural area, and you could see evidence of that all around you as you climbed upward. I’ve said before Washington’s got the best tap water and the best hops, but if you’ve never had an apple or a ripe Rainier Cheery purchased fresh-as-can-be from Eastern Washington, you haven’t experienced Washington yet.
Admittedly, the power stations and cell towers at the top aren’t exactly the prettiest of sights, but it makes sense for the city to keep them there. Sit at the top for awhile and enjoy the view, with or without a brew. You can see all of the Tri-Cities from the top, as well as the Columbia River. On a clear day the eye can see the Hanford nuclear site (which, as of now is a National Park Service site I have regrettably never visited). To your left is Candy Mountain (not the kind that takes your kidney) which is slated to open for public use of trails later in 2017.
After a break at the top, we descended the steeper Canyon trail. This one was much more narrow than the Sagebrush trail, so our group had to spend nearly the whole time single file to allow joggers by us. The trail was barely wide enough for two people with dogs going opposite directions to pass (especially if a dog was more rambunctious and needed to be on a short leash), but it still was too gorgeous to mind.
While Badger Mountain is on the outskirts of town and can be done easily in tennis shoes rather than hiking boots, I still greatly enjoyed the trek, and will do it again happily. I can’t wait to explore Candy Mountain as well!
Distance (using Sagebrush trail up, Canyon trail down): Just about 3 miles
Elevation Gained (according to Runkeeper): Around 800 feet
Parking: Ample free parking at trailhead
Bathrooms: Flush toilets at trailhead (and water, too).