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Trip Report    

Backpack - Black Canyon (Umtanum Ridge)

Black Canyon B3 Trip, mid-week, May 11-12, 2017

  • Road recommended for high clearance only
  • At the recommendation of the Wenas Wildlife Manager, we drove the paved roads to/thru Selah to Black Canyon road (due to a rough winter, the other route from Ellensburg had washouts).  Black Canyon road required high-clearance roads – it is rocky, rutted and lined with sagebrush.  No cell phone service beyond Selah.  There is space at the base of Black Canyon Road to leave vehicles, and a few pullouts along the road to the trailhead, if needed.


From the Black Canyon trailhead, we hiked up past the old homestead cabin, and took the lower route towards the ridge. Camped below the ridge – for the convenience of water (in addition to the stream running along parts of the lower trail, there is underground spring water from pipe visible from the trail (these water sources can dry up later in the year – some trip reports indicate no water available in June), and selected a well-worn area (old road that was blocked off by fallen trees) so as to not tread on wildflowers, and also to avoid the exposure/wind of camping on the ridge.

The forecast for our trip was cooler than average for mid-May (high temps barely in the 50s), wind, shattered showers, and potential for snow at the higher elevations.  Everyone was well-prepared for the cooler temperatures.

Along the canyon, up towards the old cabin, balsamroot, service berry and lupines abound.  In the Ponderosa forest, there was a meadow of shooting stars, near full bloom.  This was prime season for viewing wildflowers.

After setting up camp, we hiked up to the ridge to enjoy the views from Umtanum Ridge.  The weather and wind was not conducive to spending a lot of time there, so we opted to return to camp and planned to hike the next morning.  Setup a group cooking area under a tarp in the trees.  Saw one mule deer near camp, and enjoyed watching birds near the water.  The trip was part of the B3 program include discussions on ‘leave no trace’, backpacking equipment, food preparation, and navigation.

Did not see any other hikers on Thursday, and only a couple hikers and one ATVer later in the day on Friday.

Friday morning was clear and early-morning frost covered our tents; our water bucket was filled with shards of ice.  We hiked up to Rattlers Benchmark, and practiced our navigation to find the loop/side trail off the ridge between Spud and Black Canyon that took us back to camp.   Weather changed quickly and we experienced a squall of ‘styrofoam’ hail (graupel) as we left the ridge.  Back at camp in time for lunch and packing up (just as the weather cleared).  Returned to the vehicles about 3pm