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NCW Spring hikes to walk off the cooped-up blues

By on March 27, 2021 in Outdoor Fun with 1 Comment
The Entiatqua Trail offers cool (sometimes cold) views for the early Spring walker.

Story and Photos

By Alan Moen 

And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks… and good in everything. 

— William Shakespeare

The COVID-19 pandemic, now raging worldwide for over a year, has obviously had a huge impact on our lives, causing the tragic losses of friends and family members, as well as the loss of employment, financial hardship, a big downturn in our economy and social isolation. 

The affect of the virus on outdoor recreation has also been enormous, as people have tried to escape the effects of the pandemic in record numbers, causing crowded beaches, parks and trails.

But even in this time of destination desperation, there are still many places to go that provide exercise, scenic beauty and even a measure of solitude.

Here are a few suggestions for lowland trails in our region accessible year-round that will lift both your legs and your spirits.

Entiatqua Trail (Entiat River Confluence Trail)

This short family-friendly trek begins in an undeveloped park just half a mile up the Entiat River Road, located midway between Wenatchee and Chelan off Highway 97A. 

Take a left into a large parking area past a big sign and drive to a gate. The trail begins here, following a section of old river road eastward along the Entiat River to its confluence with the Columbia River. 

Passing an open field, it becomes more of a path, bordering the brushy, marshy edge of the river. 

Although backwater from the Rocky Reach Dam has altered the flow of the river here, it’s easy to see why the Entiat tribe called the river Entiatqua, meaning “grassy water.”

This is a great spot to view wildlife, particularly in the early morning or at dusk. Ducks, geese and herons ply the calm waters, while eagles and osprey circle above. Look for beaver lodges and other signs of beaver activity here as well.

Farther along, the trail curves around a wooden fence and passes under the Highway 97A highway bridge and a steel railroad bridge. 

Swallows have built nests at the top of the highway bridge columns, and a local artist has built a “troll” above the path under the bridge. 

The wide pools at the confluence of the river are a favorite spot for shorebirds. Across the river is “Numeral Mountain,” a 600-foot cliff decorated with nearly a hundred years of Entiat High School class numbers.

Continuing past the bridges, the trail contours the Columbia, affording panoramic views of the river and the mountains across it. 

The trail ends at a park bench at the edge of the south parking lot of Entiat City Park.

While the round trip distance of this hike is only about a mile, hikers can continue through the park for another 1.5 miles to its northern end, passing restrooms, picnic shelters, and many campsites.

The entire trail is dog-friendly, but visitors are encouraged to keep their dogs on a leash so as not to disturb wildlife. There are “pooper-scooper” boxes at both ends of this short trail and also within the park.

Cyclists are required to walk their bikes on the section of the trail that passes under the bridges.

Icicle Creek’s waters thunder under the high trail bridge over the Icicle Gorge.

Icicle Gorge Trail

It’s not much of a gorge compared to the Columbia Gorge or the Royal Gorge in Colorado, but the narrow canyon of Icicle Creek near Leavenworth is a scenic treasure in its own right. 

The gorge is at its best in spring, when snow keeps hikers from accessing the higher mountains, and snowmelt causes a big surge in the rushing waters of the creek. 

This gentle 4.2-mile trail, marked with some interpretive signs, is easily accessible from the Icicle Creek Road after it opens to travelers in the spring. 

Drive 15.3 miles on it to a large, well marked parking area just past the Chatter Creek guard station. 

Here’s a choice: follow the trail to the left, or go right. Both paths make a loop, but the left route is more immediately rewarding. In just a quarter mile, the trail crosses a high bridge over the creek, with dramatic views of waters tumbling over striated rocks on their way to a junction with the Wenatchee River. 

After crossing the bridge, the trail works up a damp slope in about a mile to an overlook rimmed with a stone wall. There’s a good view here upriver toward the creek’s origin in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. 

From here, the trail edges along the creek through a pine and fir forest, crossing a couple of side steams on small bridges to emerge into a clearing and a junction with Forest Service Road 615. 

Then it goes left over an old wooden bridge and crosses the creek on the high Rock Island concrete bridge, leading to a small campground with a toilet and picnic tables. A good lunch spot.

Picking up the trail again, head back east, edging along the creek for more whitewater views, then entering forest close to the Icicle Creek Road. At 3.1 miles, there’s a junction with the Icicle Gorge View Trail, which goes left across the road up a brushy slope for more views, adding another optional 1.25 miles and some elevation gain to the trip. 

Finally the trail reaches the parking lot where you started.

A Discover Pass or a $5 day hike permit is required at the trailhead, Dogs are welcome, but they must be leashed.

Some of the upper waterfalls on the Ancient Lakes hike, looking down toward the lakes.

Ancient Lakes 

(Lower Trail)

Perched in a hidden valley above the Columbia River near Quincy, the Ancient Lakes are an unexpected oasis in a dry and barren landscape. Three small lakes nestle between high basaltic cliffs, offering much room for roaming.

To get there, drive Highway 28 south from Wenatchee to the rest stop at the top of the long grade past Trinidad above the Columbia River. Turn right, then left, following the road around the rest stop, and go straight ahead to a junction with road 9 NW. Here take a right, heading steeply down off the plateau onto a wide gravel road that goes south 3 miles to a parking area at its end. 

The 4.6-mile trail starts here, following an old road through grass and sagebrush south, then a path turns east (left) into the wide valley. 

Past a marshy area, look for a 150-foot waterfall plunging improbably from a cliff on the left. After climbing a small hill, the trail drops down to pass near a gigantic boulder and then ascends another hill. Below to the right is the first small lake, bordered by rushes and willow trees.

From here, either contour up right to a higher lake below the cliffs or go left below it to reach the final two lakes, with a 100-foot waterfall plunging down at the far end. 

Scramble up to the top of the falls on a scree slope, entering a small basin with more little waterfalls pouring down over rock ledges.

From here, either return the way you came, or make a loop by climbing right to the top of the cliffs and following them back to where it’s feasible to descend to the upper lake. 

With its wide valley, waterfalls (which freeze into tall icicles in winter) and charming lakes, the Ancient Lakes are a great place to explore any time of the year, but it can get quite hot and crowded in the summer. 

It’s a favorite place for mountain bikers and horse riders, too. It’s probably best visited in the spring, fall, or even in winter when the lakes are frozen over. Carry water, as the lake water is not safe to drink.

There are many other lowland hikes in north central Washington in the spring that are worth taking. 

But when you go, be sure to take a mask and use it when encountering other hikers. This dangerous virus, even in the outdoors, is going to be with us for some time to come.

Writer Alan Moen has been an avid hiker for over 40 years. He lives in the Entiat Valley. 

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  1. Desirée Ross says:

    Wonderful Article! Makes me want to visit them first hand. Thank you. I will reference this again.

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