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Swakane Canyon

Central Washington

Location

Central Washington -- Wenatchee
View map below

Length

6.0 miles, roundtrip

Elevation

Gain: 1470 ft.
Highest Point: 2980 ft.

Rating

3.36 out of 5

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Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Discover Pass
 
 

This is a nice two season hike on an old road with views of the Columbia River valley from Badger Mountain to Wenatchee. Enroute you may see spring flowers, unique rock formations, and animals like deer, coyotes, snakes and hawks.

In low snow winters, the trailhead is accessible by car, providing a launch point for a cold winter hike or even a snowshoe trip. Spring is the prime season as the flowers provide a glorious show and rockhounds can also have their geologic fun. While the trip can be done in the other seasons, there are drawbacks. Summer is very hot and dry without much shade, and the flowers and grasses have gone to brown dormancy. Fall pretty much has three colors - brown foliage and rocks sprinkled with pine green and hunter orange.

The hike starts at the gate, found at 1510 feet of elevation with a bullet-hole ridden Road Closed sign nearby. It follows the abandoned road as it climbs in earnest, switchbacking up the hillside before it levels off slightly after the 4th switchback at 1.9 miles  and 2630 feet of elevation. Along the way, there are flower patches in spring, a few rock outcroppings, and only a few pine trees for shade.

Burch Mountain is visible across the valley and the silvery ribbon of the Columbia River can be seen in a few places. After rains or in humid condition, there may be a faint aroma of burnt pine in the air from the 2010 and 2013 fires.  Visual evidence of the fires becomes more obvious as one climbs up the trail and can be seen near the ridge crests.

Between 1.9 miles and 2.6 miles, the hillside above the trail is covered in spring flowers, all the way up to the rock formations on the rib crest. This makes a good turnaround point, but there is the option of continuing on. Consider though, that the views are about the same for the next 1.3 miles.

After 1.3 miles, however, the trail swings around to the north-facing slope and enters a sparse pine forest, most of which survived the fires. After a couple of switchbacks, a pass is reached 5.4 miles from the trailhead and at 3850 feet of elevation. To the north is Swakane Peak (summit at 4297 feet), which requires a cross country climb and scramble to the top. 

In 0.4 miles to the northwest, the road reaches a gate to keep motorized traffic from the trail. The jeep track to the southeast leads to the top of a 3923 foot point, and beyond that is a cross-country descent through open country to the switchback 1.9 miles from the trailhead.

Be prepared to share the trail with all forms of non-motorized travel plus snowmobiles when there is more than 6 inches of snow.

WTA Pro Tip: Those with an interest in cartography should review the sections in the township for this hike.  None are square and many are five sided!

 

Swakane Canyon

Map & Directions

Trailhead
Co-ordinates: 47.5650, -120.3206 Open map in new window

Trailhead

Central Washington -- Wenatchee

Swakane Canyon (#USFS Rd 5215)

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Chelan Wildlife Area

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

Best Desert Hikes: Washington (Bauer & Nelson - Mountaineers Books)

Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Chelan

Green Trails - Cashmere

WA No. 179

USGS Topographic - Rocky reach Dam (7.5 min

2003

2017)

Getting There

Starting from the off-ramp from Highway 2 to Highway 97A in Wenatchee, follow 97A for 6.0 miles. Turn left onto Swakane Road and follow it through the large gate and past the home to a large information sign at 1.2 miles from 97A. At this point, turn right and follow the low quality road.

High clearance vehicles will have an easier time finding a route through the maze of potholes in the road for the next 1.7 miles as it winds along the northeast side of the valley. At 2.8 miles from 97A, turn right and park below the trees or above the switchback before the gate.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Discover Pass
 

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Swakane Canyon

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