A favorite low impact high desert trail is Umptanum Creek, located south of Ellensburg inside the Yakima Canyon. The trail is listed as an important bird area by the Washington State Audubon Society.
The Old Umptanum Stagecoach Route Drive to Yakima is a scenic sagebrush road that meanders up onto the foothills surrounding the southern boundary of the valley, which leads to the Umptanum Falls trailhead.
The smaller and hidden waterfall is a pleasant surprise in what is otherwise a desert area. The falls are surrounded on three sides by dark basalt formations where the water pours into the punch bowl 40 feet below. The trail continues around the basalt walls where you may hike down to its base. The Umptanum Ridge is just west of the trailhead to Umptanum Falls where cross-country skiing is available during the winter.
Park at the BLM’s Umptanum Recreation Site and cross the river via the suspension bridge and follow the Umptanum Creek trail (4 miles RT) up the valley past beaver dams and old fruit trees that mark the sites of old homesteads. Or, you may climb cross-country to one or several of the high points along Umptanum Ridge (6 miles RT).