Wallula Gap

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drm
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Wallula Gap

Post by drm » February 18th, 2013, 7:47 am

I took a longish daytrip to hike the Wallula Gap area on Sunday. This is near the TriCities and is named for a spot where the Columbia River passes through a relatively narrow spot. It's essentially another shorter Columbia River Gorge.

There are basically two main attractions. First is to drive the south and east side of the Columbia on US730. This passes a small recreation area called Sand [something - unfortunately I did not get a picture of the name. Sand Stage Recreation is what I'm remembering, but I'm not finding it online.] In any case, it has campsites, picnic spots, and view.

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The Columbia turns north in this area and is no longer the state border. US 730 follows the east side but there is no road on the west side. A couple of miles before the junction with US 12, there is a small pullout for the very short hike on the prominent Twin Sisters. The trail is not much more than a quarter mile, but has great views. The trail leads up to the shelf at the mid-level and you can get into the saddle between them, which on this day was quite the wind-tunnel.

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But the main appeal is the hike to the bluff of the Wallula Gap gorge on the west side. I used the book Washington's Channeled Scablands Guide to find the trailhead, which has no signage. From Twin Sisters, you have to drive north to Pasco, cross over to Kennewick and drive south 15 miles (to the town of Finaley an then on roads Piert, Meals and Avery to it's end), the last two miles on a well-graded gravel road. Access to the hike was blocked by barbed wire, but no signs regarding tresspassing, so I found my way over it.

The hike itself was about 7 miles RT and there are many intersecting trails up there again with no signage, so you have to make some guesses. But with the river usually in view, it's not as hard as it sounds. The hike mixes dirt roads with single track trails. Like Catherine Creek or the Labyrinth, it is open grasslands up there and plenty of exploring is possible.

It's about 3 miles and 800 foot gain to a radio tower that gets the first view from the bluff. There are many more promontories farther on, some of which require inland detours around deep canyons.

On the way, I had a good view back to Twin Sisters.
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The generally open terrain up there
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One of the views. I did continue out to the point you see here. It was more south facing, and the more south-facing on that day, the worse the winds.
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I saw a herd of deer, maybe 20 of them, in the distance. This is the only picture that came out well. At first, I thought they were pronghorn, but hooking more closely, it appears they were deer.
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As you could see, 100% sun, temps in the lower 50s, and breezy. Didn't see a single person up there and my car was the only one at the trailhead.

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retired jerry
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Re: Wallula Gap

Post by retired jerry » February 18th, 2013, 9:49 am

Hmmm... I will have to check that out, thanks

That would be much drier than the West side and since it's close to sea level it would be warmer and snow freer than higher up

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BrianEdwards
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Re: Wallula Gap

Post by BrianEdwards » February 18th, 2013, 10:31 am

Very interesting adventure. I had no idea the west side of the Gap was accessible to the public. Those views look spectacular. Thanks for sharing
Clackamas River Waterfall Project - 95 Documented, 18 to go.

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drm
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Re: Wallula Gap

Post by drm » February 18th, 2013, 11:24 am

BrianEdwards wrote:Very interesting adventure. I had no idea the west side of the Gap was accessible to the public. Those views look spectacular. Thanks for sharing
After noticing that I said that I saw nobody and there was no visible break in the barbed wire, I wondered about access. I did a Google search for any report that maybe the area is now closed, and saw none posted. It's not clear to me who owns this land. There are fenced in ranches in the area. The radio tower has a road going to it that the trail merges with near the end. And the access road on the bottom appears to serve mainly the railroad.

So although my book and a fair number of online guides give directions and don't way it is closed, anybody driving all the way out there should probably try and do a bit more checking. It's possible that there is an opening in the barbed wire a bit earlier - before that roads deadends, which is where I went to.

Jerry is right that it is a good winter choice. But you can't backpack - most trails say that they are closed after dark.

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retired jerry
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Re: Wallula Gap

Post by retired jerry » February 18th, 2013, 12:05 pm

"Jerry is right that it is a good winter choice. But you can't backpack - most trails say that they are closed after dark."

Boooo!

I bet there aren't a lot of drinking water streams around there. Maybe that's a place to camp next to your car and just day hike.

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drm
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Re: Wallula Gap

Post by drm » February 18th, 2013, 12:54 pm

There are a fair number of campgrounds at state parks and the like for camping in the general area, such as that Sand [something] are in the first photo.

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retired jerry
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Re: Wallula Gap

Post by retired jerry » February 18th, 2013, 1:31 pm

Sand Station Recreation Area from Garmin Topo

Other detail on that map or USGS map

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bobcat
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Re: Wallula Gap

Post by bobcat » February 19th, 2013, 8:47 am

Thanks. I love the Sisters, but I had no idea about that trail (or the guidebook for that matter).

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er0ck
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Re: Wallula Gap

Post by er0ck » February 20th, 2013, 5:51 pm

cool! :mrgreen:

it was so nice out, made me want to go do some overnights...
might have to get out to the dalles soon

i was in baker city over the weekend. drove through this area on the way down from spokane. amazing country.

saturday night on the way to the hotel in downtown baker city we passed a black-tail, or maybe a mule deer just chillin on the sidewalk looking at us, as if thinking "hurry up and pass already".
then it waited on a few other cars before crossing the road. :lol:
bad knees rules everything around me.

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IslandCougGirl
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Re: Wallula Gap

Post by IslandCougGirl » February 25th, 2013, 12:20 am

The land is owned by a farm that graciously allows hikers on their property. I did this hike twice last month, once in fog so thick you couldn't see the cliffs and 5 days later in beautiful sun. I mostly wanted to do this hike for the geocaches and in the winter I can avoid the heat and rattlesnakes. It's a great hike that follows a lot of deer/cow/horse/alien trails that can help-my friend and I would go XC thinking it was easier and then we would find a trail and then want to smack ourselves in the head. I would love to do this again but coming back kills my knees even though it's not difficult.

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