I have the fondest memories of Kittitas County, both past and present. From childhood to teenage years, it was gateway to the magical land of towering mountains and all shades of lush green. Having spent my formative years in the arid and hot, relatively flat expanse of eastern Washington, it was always total nirvana to travel to the “other” side of the state. I perceived it as an absolute divide between east and west. It was a line of demarcation between two very different sides of the state; two environmentally, culturally, and politically different halves of the whole. Now in my adult years, I’ve come to appreciate it as the bridge which brings Washington together. I see it as the part of the state which gloriously blends the beauty, uniqueness, history and future of the state together.
Since I presently live in western Washington, I am all too accustomed to the lush green of the state. (i.e. it rains A LOT in western Washington.) I still love it and will admit to preferring said lushness, but there is a core part of me which yearns for the expansion that occurs once you pass over the Cascades. Beyond any of the mountain passes, once you cross over from western Washington, the sky starts to open up, the landscape widens and the trees begin to grow sparse. The foliage changes, the prairies and brush spread out and the start of sage country begins to unfold around you. The air noticeably becomes less heavy and humid and depending on time of year, the temperature grows either much colder or much, much hotter. Gone are the relatively mild days of western Washington and its nebulous mash-up of SpringSummerFallWinter. Say hello to four, very distinct seasons with many unique environments and extremes. Stunning in so many ways, this part of the state is the best of both worlds as well as being a truly distinctive setting all its own. Welcome to Kittitas County!
Kittitas County encompasses a large portion of land from the Cascades and Snoqualmie Pass down to just past its county seat, Ellensburg. The towns are fairly spread out and accommodate upwards of 50,000 members of the state’s population. Settler expansion into this part of Washington State began around the late 1850s with the Native American Yakama Nation having called the land home for many generations prior. Mining, logging, cattle ranching and farming were among the chief draws to the area, bringing people from around the country as well as immigrants from many other countries. Towns such as Ronald, Roslyn and Thorp which may seem fairly sleepy these days, were busy hubs of commerce and activity well into the mid-1900s.
The first stopping point on my Kittitas County tour is the Snoqualmie Pass area, via Interstate-90. Straddling the line between King and Kittitas Counties, The Pass (as it’s often referred to in the Seattle area) is a great day trip option if you’re coming from the Westside. In the winter, you’ve got the allure of the Summit at Snoqualmie ski area with additional tubing, cross-country skiing/snowshoeing and snowmobiling opportunities nearby. In the summer, there are countless hiking, camping and backpacking options as well as it being a good midway stop for travels between western and eastern Washington. (Gas, coffee, bathroom – it has all the things!) Here are a few of my favorite spots and things to do in the Snoqualmie Pass area:
For a quick shot of winter shenanigans, the Summit at Snoqualmie is a relatively painless drive from the greater Seattle area. (Weather depending) Viewed from the I-90 freeway, it might give the impression of being a smaller ski hill, but the area is actually quite extensive. It contains three, trail-connected ski areas with numerous runs on the backside as well as many trails on the neighboring ski hill, Alpental. If cross-country skiing or snowshoeing is your thing, check out the scene at the Nordic Center. If you’ve got a group that prefers careening down a hill without something strapped to their feet, hit up the tubing hill across the street from the main ski hill. There is truly an outdoor option for everyone in the family!
For the non-outdoor enthusiasts visiting the area, there are several dining, drinking and general tourist possibilities available. Some are actually part of the ski lodges, but there are additional (and often less hectic) options to be found in near reach of the ski hills. (Year round)
- If you’re in the market for a good pint and a break from your travels, stop into the Dru Bru brewery just west of the ski area. Super friendly and knowledgeable staff, a great beer selection and conveniently located next door to…
- A newer addition to the Snoqualmie food scene, (along with neighbor, Dru Bru) The Commonwealth offers a great selection of pub-style food and drink. (Family friendly!) There is something to be said for the convenience of skiing down to the lodge, popping off your skis and quickly grabbing a beer or snack. However, as the lines are often long during the ski season, it’s a nice break to head down the road for a late lunch or dinner on the way home. (Or during any other time of the year!)
- For the ski and snowboard enthusiasts, be sure to pop into the WA State Ski and Snowboard Museum, located in the same building as The Commonwealth and Dru Bru. It’s a great tribute to the history of downhill snow sports in the state and fun to see how far the pursuit of speeding down snowy hills has come over the last many decades.
In the summertime, there are plenty of snow-free activities to entertain both the nature-lover and just-passing-through traveler alike. Hiking, biking, dining, rest stops, backpacking, camping, swimming – it’s a summer wonderland!
As part of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, there are countless hiking trails to explore in the Snoqualmie Pass area. The Alpine Lakes Wilderness offers many breathtaking views and dreamy mountain lake access. Part of the epic, 2000-mile Pacific Crest Trail ambles through the area and there’s even an amazing, re-purposed train tunnel you can hike or bike through. (Bring headlamps or flashlights – it’s 2.25 miles and the longest trail tunnel in the world!) During the winter months, if you’re parking in areas other than the ski hills or local area commerce, look out for lots requiring a Sno-Park pass. In the summer months, be aware of those requiring a Discover Pass.
If you’re in need of lodging, I’d recommend investigating VRBO or Airbnb as there are many great cabins and cottages to rent in the area. Neighboring towns such as Suncadia, Roslyn, Easton and Cle Elum also have great possibilities and are a fairly quick drive to Snoqualmie Pass. (Weather permitting, of course.)
For the traveler in need of services, The Pass is an easily accessible visit off and back onto the freeway. There are restaurants, gas stations, coffee spots and restroom facilities located along the main road. (Highway 906) If you’re coming from the west, take Exit 53 off of 1-90 to get to the Central section of the Pass. Take Exit 54 if you’re coming from the east.
One very important thing to note about the Snoqualmie Pass area: ALWAYS check the pass report before heading out on your trip – spring, summer, fall or winter. I-90 at Snoqualmie Pass has the lowest elevation in the state and is therefore the most popular and accessible route for traveling over the Cascades. In the winter, there are the obvious delays due to snowy conditions, avalanches, accidents, etc. In the summer, there is a never-ending string of road construction projects with which to contend and it’s not unheard of to get stuck behind a 2-hr delay due to rock blasting, lane reduction, etc. The WSDOT app and website are good about noting any closures, construction delays, etc. ALWAYS check the pass report before you go. It’s also worth noting that traffic coming back from eastern Washington on Sunday afternoons and evenings can often get quite congested. It’s a good idea to allow for a little extra time in your travels if you happen to be returning to the west side.
A little further down I-90, watch for signs leading to the tiny towns of Easton and Ronald and local campgrounds like Lake Easton State Park and Salmon la Sac. They’re relatively tiny blips on the Washington state map, but well worth the investigation. If you’re looking for lodging not involving tents or campers, check out The Last Resort in Ronald. They’ve also got a restaurant, gas station, a RV park and convenience store. For dining options other than The Last Resort or food-on-sticks at your campfire, also check out pub-style, The Old No. 3 in Ronald. (Named after one of the old coal mines in the area.)
Easton and Ronald are great jumping-off areas not only for camping, but other outdoor classics like fishing, snowmobiling, dirt bike riding, etc. In addition to ample camping opportunities in the area, there are also many great cabin rentals available through services like VRBO and Airbnb. For an area so easily accessible off one of the state’s main thoroughfares, it’s amazing how secluded and private it seems once you’re just a mile off an exit. It’s one of the things I love most about this area of the state; quick and easy access to wide-open skies and absolute, peaceful solitude.
Should you be looking for a more swanky Kittitas County adventure, take the Suncadia/Roslyn exit off of I-90, just a few miles past the Easton/Ronald area. (Exit 80) Paying further tribute to the mining history of the area, both Suncadia and Roslyn feature areas where time seems to have stood still. Suncadia is actually the newer kid on the block and leans more towards modern creature comforts, but it’s still just as easy to envision horse-drawn carts on the back roads as it is SUVs and snowmobiles. (In the winter months, it’s fairly common to see snowmobiles cruising along the main roads and gassing up at the town pumps.) Roslyn, however, largely maintains its turn-of-the-last-century charm and most of the buildings and homes have proudly been in use for over 100 years.
Tucked in amidst beautiful forest lands with sweeping meadows and gorgeous views, Suncadia is a planned community located a few miles before Roslyn, off of Bullfrog Road. It plays host to The Lodge at Suncadia and Swiftwater Cellars Winery, the Hoist House restaurant, additional restaurants and lodging, a spa, three golf courses, private residences and various year-round recreational opportunities. Whew! Suncadia is a great spot for a romantic weekend getaway, a golf outing or a family vacation – it has something for everyone. It’s also quite a nice locale for celebrating occasions such as Father’s Day. Which is exactly what we did this year!
On said Father’s Day visit, we checked out Swiftwater Cellars Winery and their featured restaurant, the Hoist House. The lodge itself is very inviting and well-designed and we enjoyed a very tasty lunch in their spacious dining room. Set next to the entrance to the Old No. 9 mining shaft, the lodge features dining, wine tasting, plenty of indoor and outdoor lounge areas, a lovely gift shop and a golf pro shop. It would be an easy place to relax for the day, sipping a glass of their No. 9 Red on the patio, taking in the stunning views… Sign me up!
Next stop down the road (State Route 903) takes us to not only one of my favorite places in the state, but a favorite spot all-around – the ever-idyllic, Roslyn, Washington.
I visit Roslyn often. I come for the charm, I come for the history and I come for the meat. (Mmmm… Carek’s Meats – we’ll get to that in a second.) It’s also a pretty convenient half-way point for meet-ups between members of the western Washington and eastern Washington Smith family. It’s a very reasonable 90-minute drive from the Seattle/Tacoma area and an equally doable drive from the Tri-Cities and Yakima areas. In addition to my own regular visits to the area, my family tries to meet up for mini-reunions at least a couple times a year. (And meat gathering…)
Roslyn is one of the oldest established communities in the state with much of its town center included on the National Register of Historic Places. Even considering the shut-down of the town’s mining mainstay, the area has stuck it out and is enjoying a much-deserved revival. Mining may not be in the future plans for Roslyn, but the television and film industries, outdoor enthusiasts, distillery and artisan markets have all come to know Roslyn for its lovely, bucolic settings. Most recently, the Amazon Studio series, The Man in the High Castle has shot scenes in the area.
Some of my favorite places to visit and things to do in the Roslyn area:
- One of the spots that keeps me coming back to the Roslyn area is Carek’s Meats. Carek’s has been in business just over 100 years for a very good reason – Their meats are delicious. It’s a tiny shop, frozen in time, but they serve up all the greatest hits as well as making some of the most amazing beef jerky, Landjäger and meat sticks known to the world. Not only are various members of my family now super-fans, I’ve successfully gotten a few of my meat-loving friends addicted as well. I’m regularly given sizable sums of cash to procure ‘meat babies’ when visiting the Roslyn area. (Fact: Several pounds of Landjäger wrapped up in Carek’s butcher paper looks strikingly like a swaddled baby.) Try their old fashioned frankfurters. Try their smoked ribs. Try it ALL!
- If you’re looking for a great cup of coffee, a delicious light meal or snack and a good book to cozy up to, stop by Basecamp Books & Bites in the center of town. Not only a great hub for food and drink, they support local outdoor pursuits and also regularly feature local events in their downstairs space.
- In need of a tasty meal? Check out The Roslyn Café for a delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner. They’ve always got a great special on the menu and feature several great local beers. The Northern Exposure mural on the side of the building is also a great photo op. (Note: The mural was there before the show, but they added an apostrophe S to the sign during filming. The S is now gone.)
- I’ve been monitoring the progress on this for a couple of years and I’m SO excited they’ve finally opened – The Heritage Distillery, set inside the historic Northwestern Improvement Company Store building is not to be missed. Joining the various shops and galleries already housed in the building, Heritage Distillery is an excellent addition to the local scene. Stop in for a very tasty craft cocktail and delicious samples of their vodkas, whiskies, gins, etc. The space is quite large and multi-tiered and can also host private events. It’s also family friendly!
- One of the most iconic establishments in the town is the vibrant Brick Saloon. Laying claim to title, ‘Longest continually operating tavern in the state’, the Brick is a must-stop destination for any visit to Roslyn. Good pub food, a wonderful vintage, saloon-style bar complete with spittoon trough, live bands and family-friendly to boot, the Brick is never dull. I’ve had the pleasure of performing there on a few occasions and have always had a great time. (Minus maybe the time part of the ceiling dropped on my head while standing in the audience… But whatever – it’s an old building.) It also has some great history which is unfortunately not open to the public. (I was able to check it out one time I was performing there…) As you walk in the front door, notice a narrow stairway off to the left. At the bottom of the stairway is an entrance to the sub-basement of not only the Brick, but an area extending beneath most of the city block. There’s an original, dirt-floor jail cell and a fascinating hodgepodge of Roslyn history lying around. I hope someday they’ll consider opening it up as an underground tour of sorts.
- If you’d like to dive into the history of area, be sure to pop into the Roslyn Museum. This tiny gem is filled to the brim with fascinating artifacts and treasures from the town beginnings and into more modern times. I’ve visited the museum several times over the years and I always seem to find something new packed into its corners. There is also a great display of mining equipment in the field next to the museum. Like time has stood still…
- Equally fascinating, but slightly more somber, the Roslyn Cemetery is an interesting look into the very diverse group of immigrants who came to Roslyn to work the mines and helped shape the culture and story of Washington State. The cemetery is actually divided into sections based on nationality and represents over 20 countries including Croatia, Poland, Slovenia, Serbia, Germany, Italy, Scotland and many more.
- Featuring a wonderful cross-section of goods from local farmers, artisans, vintners, etc. the Roslyn Farmer’s Market operates on Sundays from June through September. (10am – 2pm) The weather is often so beautiful this time of year and it’s a great day trip destination coming from eastern or western Washington. PICTURES
- For great camping, hiking, snowmobiling, fishing, etc. options, head up the road, past Roslyn to Lake Cle Elum. There are also local area cabins for rent – check out VRBO or Airbnb for availability.
A few more lovely places to check out in Roslyn:
- Redbird Café & Bakery – Charming little café with outdoor seating. Also home to the lovely Spruce Moose Inn.
- Roots BBQ – Excellent BBQ located in the courtyard behind the Roslyn Café.
- The Roslyn Theatre – First run movies in this recently restored movie house. Two screens, real butter on the popcorn – Cash/CHECK only! (When was the last time you wrote a check for the movies?! J)
- Roslyn Arts Festival – August 3-5 – Check it out!
- Gypsi & James – Reimagined Furniture and Home Décor – ‘Lots of very cute things I really need!
- Roslyn Brewing Company – Cool taproom and (weather permitting) beer garden open Friday – Sunday
Heading a few miles further east on SR 903, you’ll arrive at the quaint little town of Cle Elum. It has advertised itself as having ‘easy through access’, but there really is a little more to the area than being a one-street town. (They have multiple streets!!) Although a little larger than Roslyn, it features a similar ‘lost in time’ feel and depending on the age of vehicles on the road, you could easily imagine yourself in the 30s or 40s. Many of the buildings on and around the main street are also included on the National Register of Historic Places.
Continuing on the quest for delicious meats, I made a stop at the iconic Owen’s Meats in the center of town. (Located on East First Street, the ‘easy through access’ street.) Owen’s has been in business for over 125 years (one of the oldest operating businesses in the state) and has an impressive selection of meats, cheeses and a remarkable array of condiments. All those delicious facts aside, I’d like to pay tribute to one of their most impressive attributes – They have a meat vending machine! True story. You say you’re craving a beefy T-bone at two in the morning? Maybe you need an addition for your charcuterie plate and it’s eight in the evening? NEVER FEAR – The Owen’s Meats vending machine is on the job! Located directly outside their front entrance and in glorious operation 24/7, their proprietary vending machine features great cuts of meat as well as cheese, meat sticks and whatever else they choose to fit in. They’ve also graciously set up additional vending machines in key locations around the state. (The Filson flagship store in Seattle and the Mt. Si Shell Station in North Bend to name a couple.)
Rounding out the meaty hub that is the Roslyn/Cle Elum area, Glondo’s Sausage Co. and Italian Market is also not to be missed. In operation since the mid-80s, they’re still the young buck in town, but their expertise and quality of product is definitely in the same storied class as Carek’s and Owen’s. Their sausages are delicious and are featured at various local restaurants. I had a chance to sample their brats at the Iron Horse Brew Pub in Ellensburg and they were fabulous. I was sad when I came back through town that day as they’d closed for the day. Not to worry, I’ll be back!
If you’re looking for a good cup of coffee and an even tastier pastry or pie, stop by the town classic, Cle Elum Bakery. In operation since 1906, the Cle Elum Bakery has been waking up with many generations of townsfolk and shows no sign of slowing down. The staff is very friendly, there’s a great selection of items in addition to fresh bakery goods and the atmosphere warmly invites you in for a relaxing break, whatever the time of day. I’m particularly in love with both their classic maple bars and custard-filled donuts.
In addition to the various cute shops, restaurants and conveniences lining the main route through town, here are a few more noteworthy spots:
- New to the Cle Elum restaurant scene, Orchard is located on East First Street. It comes highly recommended to me by the Dru Bru staff and is next on my list of places to try in the area.
- The Twin Pines Drive-In is a Cle Elum classic and a great place to grab a burger, shake or malt.
- Happen to be really into the history of the telephone? The North Kittitas County Telephone museum is the place for you!
If you’re in need of lodging, check out these local options:
- Stewart Lodge – Cozy local lodge. Great spot year around and close to local recreational activities.
- Ironhorse Bed and Breakfast – Formerly known as the Milwaukee Road Bunkhouse, people have been checking in since 1909. You can stay in a railway caboose car!
- Flying Horseshoe Ranch – Super cozy cabins, horseback riding, horse boarding and an events space – open year round!
- Check out this great resource for local camping options
Heading further east is the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it community of Thorp. Many driving through the area via I-90 will know Thorp for its giant fruit stand located directly off the freeway. While that fruit stand is indeed one of my favorite spots in all of Washington State, I prefer to arrive in Thorp via the scenic back way, starting with State Route 10 out of Cle Elum. Once east of Cle Elum, take a right onto SR 10. Follow the road as it winds up and down through a beautiful river-lined valley filled with pastures and farms. About 9 miles up the road, near the wind turbine farm, take a right onto N. Thorp Highway and wind your way down towards Thorp. And then a little further on to the… Thorp Fruit and Antique Mall!
But first, be sure to stop off and visit the fascinating and remarkably well-preserved and restored, Thorp Mill Museum and Thorp Mill Town Historical Preservation Society located directly off the N. Thorp Highway. The hours of operation are somewhat limited, but it is well worth the effort to stop. I’ve been curious about it for years and had been under the false impression it was some sort of lumber mill. I’m glad I was finally able to investigate as I was completely mistaken! It wasn’t a lumber mill, but was instead one of the first – and largest – flour mills in this part of the country. In its heyday, they were sending bags of flour as far away as China! They also hosted a 23-acre ice pond that provided refrigeration to the local railroad as well as ice for nearby towns. (Interesting note for Tri-Citians: The ice making facilities were later moved to nearby Pasco in 1913. Pasco represent! Go Bulldogs!) Be sure to take the guided tour inside the mill itself. The volunteer staff is incredibly friendly, very knowledgeable and happy to show you around the mill and all its amazing equipment.
As alluded to above, no visit to Thorp, around Thorp or driving by Thorp on I-90 is – or should ever be considered – complete without stopping in at the Thorp Fruit & Antique Mall. Enter a world where you can score a box of apples, an iced mocha, a hand-crafted jar of pickles, a good bottle of wine, some saltwater taffy, a 1920s china teapot and… Two vintage Goonies glasses, circa 1985. YES!! This place is an absolute dream and I always seem to find something tucked away in its packed aisles of cubbies and displays that I REALLY need. Like, really, seriously, I can’t-live-without-it NEED. It’s also a great place to hit up if you happen to have forgotten something for your nearby campsite. Or you’re in need of gas or ice from the gas station next door… Don’t forget to stop at the Thorp Fruit & Antique Mall. It has all the things you need. NEED!! (I swear I’m not a paid agent for the Thorp Fruit & Antique Mall. Unless it were to get me the remaining two glasses in my Goonies set… Just sayin’.)
Other areas to visit in the Thorp vicinity:
- Iron Horse Trail (Used to be John Wayne Trail and is now officially known as the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail) A 212-mile trail which traverses through the beautiful and diverse lands of the Palouse area in SE Washington through the central part of the state (Kittitas County!) and on towards North Bend. This trail also includes the train/trail tunnel mentioned earlier in the Snoqualmie Pass section. It is a bucket-list goal of mine to conquer this trail at some point in the next few years.
- Icewater Creek Campground – This is a favorite camping area of the Smith brood. I’d recommend finding trails further up in the Cascades if you’re looking for a backpacking adventure, but this area is great for car, camper and tent camping – especially if your family has some dirt bike shenanigans to embark upon.
Next up on the tour is a town known for many things – It has one of the state’s main universities, hosts a nationally known rodeo, boasts a charming downtown area included on the National Register of Historic Places, features sweeping farmlands and pastures… So much excellence! But to any of us who’ve spent countless days and nights traveling back and forth across the state, it’s known quite poignantly for another very important feature: It’s pretty much dead-center in the state, especially when traveling on I-90. Are you in need of gas and SOON? Do you need another latte and bag of donuts to keep you going on that late night drive? Do you really have to pee – and RIGHT NOW?? What goldmine of a town is this, you ask? Ellensburg, Washington, of course! Yep – Ellensburg’s got everything you need. Ellensburg is the ONE STOP TO RULE THEM ALL. (Seriously – take Exit 109 off I-90. You’ll find what you need.)
Not, of course, to distract from the fact that Ellensburg is a great place to visit overall – even if you don’t have to use the restroom. It’s a welcoming town year ‘round and has a breadth of things to entertain the passer-through and tourist alike. Some of my favorite spots for dining and adventure:
- For a completely charming meal, anytime of the day, check out The Yellow Church Café in the downtown area. Delicious scratch baked goods, hearty home cooking and a good wine and beer selection, all set inside a reappointed, old neighborhood church.
- Just down the block from The Yellow Church Café, you’ll come across a very distinct looking house with surrounding “gardens.” I wasn’t looking for this place, but I’m very happy to have found it. I immediately pulled over and had to see what it was all about. For a completely unique and absolutely interesting shot of local art, definitely check out Dick and Jane’s Spot. The couple that owns the home, Dick and Jane, have been creating and collecting local art for the past 40 years. It’s an amazing display of creativity, whimsy and charm. Don’t miss it!
- If you’re up for a tasty beer and a really tasty pub-style meal, head over to the Iron Horse Brewery Pub in the heart of downtown Ellensburg. It’s got a nice casual vibe, the staff is easy-going and helpful and the beer is delicious. I’m particularly enamored by their Life Behind Bars Kolsch and their very popular, Irish Death. Their website, along with their onsite marketing and PR is also pretty entertaining. Well played, Iron Horse Brewery. Well played.
- Looking for a bit of relaxing wine-tasting in the Ellensburg area? Head into the Gard Vinters tasting room in the center of downtown. (They also have tasting rooms in the Woodinville and Walla Walla areas.)
- Love museums as much as I do? Be sure to stop in at the Kittitas Co. Museum, located downtown in the classic Caldwell Building. Learn all about the history of the greater Kittitas County area! Free admission!
- Another classic dining experience in downtown Ellensburg can be found at The Palace Café. In operation since 1892, this is one of the oldest operating restaurants in the state.
In addition to more lovely shops, lodging and dining opportunities in downtown Ellensburg, there are many other local options available to keep the visitor busy:
- The Ellensburg Distillery, featuring their Amethyst Lavender Gin and Wildcat White whiskey is worth investigating and stands to be an afternoon well spent.
- For the Jazz lover, be sure to check out Jazz in the Valley every July. They always feature great Northwest musicians and the weather is reliably beautiful. (And hot!)
- Another great local farmer’s market is the Kittitas Farmer’s Market. It’s open every Saturday, 9am – 1pm from May through October.
Wrapping up my tour of Kittitas County, let’s take a journey down one of my favorite roads in the state, Canyon Road. (State Route 821) I’d originally considered it as part of my Yakima County piece, but lo and behold, a good portion of this road is actually in Kittitas County. Who knew? (Well, probably the fine folks of Kittitas County…) In addition, one of the stops I’d been wanting to make for a while is conveniently located on the Kittitas County side…
Before Interstate-82 and the pass over Manastash Ridge were constructed, Canyon Road was one of the main routes between Ellensburg and Yakima. It winds along the beautiful Yakima River Canyon, carved out by the equally beautiful and meandering, Yakima River. Take Exit 109 off of I-90 and make a left onto Canyon Road to head into the canyon. During the winter months, this route is quite popular for trucks looking to avoid the long grade of the passes through Manastash Ridge.
If you happen to be traveling through the canyon during the summer months, keep an eye out on the river for flotillas of people leisurely floating downstream – Often with inner tubes containing a cooler somehow rigged to the center of their flotilla. After all, you don’t want your tasty beverages floating away from you while trying to enjoy the afternoon.
About 20 minute or so into the drive, you’ll come upon the Canyon River Ranch and Red’s Fly Shop. I’ve been wanting to stop here for quite a while and am so glad it finally worked out! It was lunchtime when we arrived and their covered patio area made for quite an enjoyable break on the sunny afternoon. From the patio there’s a great view of the river and the rolling hills sheltering the valley. There are train tracks lining the opposite shore and a train rambled by as we were enjoying our meal. Something about the valley seems timeless and the addition of the train coming through added to that feeling of a bygone era. I’m interested in going back for a longer stay as the lodge looked inviting and the area has such a quiet, peaceful feeling to it. Be sure to walk down along the riverbank and take in the scenery as the river moseys by. And if you have any fishing enthusiasts in your life, be sure to step into Red’s – they have a pretty cool selection of goods and a lot of pertinent local knowledge.
In conjunction with the wonderful fishing, wildlife viewing and river float opportunities, there are several great camping sites as well as boat launches along the canyon. The Roza Dam is a particularly cool spot to spend the afternoon or set up camp. I have very fond memories of water-skiing escapades near the Roza Dam as a child. (I’m pretty sure I was an amazing water-skier. Almost positive…)
And with that triumphant mental image, I shall wrap up my adventures. Kittitas County gathers together so many of the most amazing features of Washington State into an easily explorable package. It spans the beautiful stretch of state from the Cascades down to the Columbia River as it casually winds through the Columbia Gorge at Vantage. With such iconic imagery and landscapes, how could you go wrong? (I must restate, however, to CHECK THE PASS REPORT before you venture out.)
I will always return to this part of the state. Its beauty is etched indelibly upon my soul, forever reminding me of why I love Washington State so much. With environmental, cultural, political and trailblazing diversity brimming across its borders, Kittitas County is an area not to be missed. There is something for everyone – Go eat up Kittitas County!
Until next time –
Kittitas County Playlist
I was feeling fairly reflective during the bulk of this adventure. Always seems to happen in this part of the state when the sky spreads out and the road opens up in front of me… I brought the groove back towards the end, however. 😉
- Hejira – Joni Mitchell (The lyrics and Jaco’s bass playing – Dreamy…)
- Cactus Tree – Joni Mitchell (This one’s long been on my adventure playlists…)
- Lucky One – Alison Krauss & Union Station
- Daylight – Alison Krauss & Union Station
- Tennessee Whiskey – Chris Stapleton
- A Long Way to Get – Bob Schneider (I love Bob. I love this song.)
- 40 Dogs (Like Romeo and Juliet) – Bob Schneider (I love Bob. I love this song.)
- Between the Bars – Madeline Peyroux
- Dis, Quand Reviendras-Tu? – Martha Wainwright
- Us – Regina Spektor
- Alaska – Maggie Rogers
- Heartbeats– José González
- Come Away with Me – Norah Jones
Gymnopedie – Erik Satie (performed by Emile Pandolfi) (Always reminds me of my friend, Emily…)
- American Beauty – Thomas Newman (American Beauty Film Score)
- Song for Bob – Nick Cave & Warren Ellis (From the soundtrack The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford)
- Bad Bad News – Leon Bridges
- If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be) – Leon Bridges
- Gwan – The Suffers