Frenchman Coulee Waterfall


Backpack - Frenchman Coulee

Two-night Backpack shuttle trip along the east bank of the Columbia River from Ancient Lakes south to Frenchman Coulee. Expect excellent riverside camps, warm fires, a few early wildflowers, amazing rock formations and expansive views. Also expect off-trail travel, nighttime temps around freezing and about 12 hours of darkness each night.

  • moderate
  • Moderate
  • Mileage: 27.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 4,200 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 1,200 ft
  • Pace: 1.5-2.0

This is a one-way shuttle hike we will meet at the Frenchman Coulee Feathers Climbing area. We will leave one or more cars there and then drive north to the Quincy Lakes South TH--an upper access point to the Ancient Lakes area.

Direction to Frenchman Coulee to drop-off car(s) at beginning of trip:

From Ellensburg, drive east on I-90 to exit 143, Silica Road and The Gorge Amphitheater. At the bottom of the ramp, go left under the freeway for 0.7 mile. Turn left on Vantage Road SW.  Travel 1.25 miles to a busy parking area on your left for the "Feathers Climbing Area".  

Discover Pass is required at both trailheads.

This is a beauty desert area.  There are a few trees along the waterways, but other than that it is open sagebrush countryside.  I have been on 3/4 of the route and it has great scenery.  Both camps are located on the Columbia River and quite scenic.  The key will be securing good weather for the trip.  High temperature average in the low 50s this time of year and lows about freezing.  It could be warmer or much colder.  If the weather is uncomfortably cold during the day or raining the trip will be canceled or changed to another location if possible. Bring extra warms clothes, long underwear, gloves and hats in layer for the cold evenings and mornings.  We will be making fires both to stay warmer and to seek to stay up an hour or two after dark to shorter the long nights in the tent.  Sunrise will be about   6:35 AM and sunset about  5:45 PM.  We will plan to get up at first light, about 6 AM, each day and stay up by a fire as late as folks want--likely between 7-8 PM.  Bring reading material, music, podcasts, movies for your time in the tent if desired.   Please bring earbuds for the sound.

Here is the approximate route:

This is a Leader's Permission Only trip.  Please answer these four questions/concerns.

1)  Are you are okay and comfortable with easier off-trail travel through open sagebrush  countryside?  

2) There are two steep sections of trail on day one.  There are not dangerous, but not easy.  Are you comfortable with traversing steeper rocky slopes?

3)  If I haven't backpacked with you before. Please tell me about your experience that shows me you can do this trip--24 miles, 4,200' of total gain.  

4)  Please tell me what activities you have been doing over the winter that would demonstrate that you are in good conditioning to do this very early season trip.

Thanks.  Rob


Frenchman Coulee Waterfall

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials plus overnight gear which may include:

  • Tent with footprint/ground tarp
  • Stove and fuel
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Water filter
  • Bear canister or extra stuff sack and cord designated for hanging food or Ursack
  • Cooking pot/pan with plate and utensils
  • Toilet paper and shovel or blue bag to deal with waste
  • Extra warm clothes
  • Gloves and Hats and long underwear
  • Minimum two liters of water storage.
  • Fire starter
  • Trekking poles, for the steeper sections
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