Who are we kidding? When it comes to natural scenery , this part of the county can’t be beat. From Mount Rainier National Park to Gifford Pinchot National Park, Mount Adams, Cowiche Canyon Conservancy and beyond — there’s more than a handful of great vistas in south Central Washington. With that in mind, we set out to find a few you may not know about, and from that list of suggestions we culled five of the best, off-the beaten-track views in the area. They include opportunities to drink a glass a wine and explore gardens, enjoy a morning or afternoon hike or simply take in the solitude of the outdoors. Some require hiking and others just a drive. Whatever your fitness level or preference, there’s no excuse not to get out and take in some of the great beauty of the Yakima Valley.
1. Windy Point Vineyards — The vineyards include a wine and tasting room overlooking lush green hills rolling along the valley beneath, and on a clear day views of a perfect blue sky. From a winding country road — complete with a rustic wooden fence on each side — to the view at the top of the hill, Windy Point offers stunning visual relief from drab day-to-day living.
Tip: Visit just before noon, when the day’s light offers an ideal view, the wind isn’t too high and the air is filled with the fragrance of well manicured, lush vegetation.
Getting there: Windy Point Vineyards, 420 Windy Point Drive in Wapato; Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday; Details: 509-877-6824.
2. Owen Roe — Down the hill and about five minutes from Windy Point is Owen Roe, another winery and tasting room with a series of spectacular views from virtually every angle of the property. You can see an impressive glimpse of Mount Adams over the hilltops circling the valley beyond.
Tip: If you’re there to purchase or taste wine, ask for Taylor. Her wine knowledge is extensive and she’s great at making visitors feel welcome.
Getting there: Owen Roe, 309 Gangl Road, Wapato; Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; Details: 509-877-0454, or email email@example.com.
3. Cowiche Canyon — The canyon is one of the area’s best spots for an afternoon hike and also to take in 360-degree views from the top of any one of the hills. Here you can take in views of Yakima, the West Valley and beyond, and catch a glimpse of some of the area’s vineyards and orchards. There’s also a trail that leads to two wineries in the Naches Heights area.
Tip: Take the trailhead off North Weikel Road. It’s easy to find and accessible for out-of-towners, and close to town.
Getting there: Cowiche Canyone Conservancy has several trailheads that provide access to the 5,000 acre preserve; Get detailed directions to the trailheads and other information at www.cowichecanyon.org/hikethetrails.html.
4. Snow Mountain Ranch — In many ways, Snow Mountain Ranch may be the perfect natural view of the area and is worthy of a day of hiking and exploration. Walking the ranch’s trails gives you an opportunity to feel like you’re miles away from anyone or anything while taking in expansive views of the valley and surrounding mountain ranges. Remnants of an old ranch, the area’s namesake, add charm to the area.
Tip: From the parking lot, take the trail leading from the left into a slightly forested area. Depending on the time of the year, you’ll see a plethora of the area’s wildflowers.
Getting there: Snow Mountain Ranch, 2648 Cowiche Mill Road in Cowiche; Get directions and more information at http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/snow-mountain-ranch.
5. Gilbert Cellars Winery at The Hackett Ranch — The winery and ranch sit on a hill at the top of a twisting gravel road, making it an ideal spot for views of wind-blown hills and the property’s gardens and pond below. The winery and ranch are peaceful, tranquil and inviting, and the Yakima Valley, orchards and mountain range views are striking.
Tip: Try to visit during the Music in the Vines series, which offers a variety of music over several summer evenings.
Getting there: Gilbert Cellars Winery at The Hackett Ranch, 2620 Draper Road, Yakima; Tastings and tours by appointment only; Details: 509-249-9049, extension 7.