Central Washington has a landscape that is drastically different from the rest of the Washington. This change is more evident right after crossing over the mountains on the east of the Snoqualmie Pass. It is almost like a curtain opening. The mountainous scenery that closely flanks Interstate 90 suddenly opens wide into acres and acres of land with hills on the horizon, and soon the route begins to parallel the Yakima River.
Umtanum Ridge Crest Hike is one of the more beautiful desert hikes in Umtanum Canyon region, and it is relatively unknown. Drive to Umtanum Canyon Recreation Area via the beautiful Canyon Road with the Yakima River on one side and the Umtanum Canyon on the other. While driving along the canyon, you might find people fishing in the Yakima River. Once you reach the parking lot you might find a few campers near the river.
The trailhead starts at the end of the suspension bridge that swings over the Yakima River. From the parking lot, walk across the bridge and at the end of it you will come across a railroad; either duck underneath the track or walk over it and you will find yourself at the beginning of two of the less explored desert hike of Washington State: Umtanum Canyon Creek on the right and Umtanum Ridge Crest Trail on the left. Make sure to stay left after the railroad to get to the Ridge Crest Trail.
The Ridge Crest hike is about 6.0 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 2,400 feet. The trail is marked nicely, and it leads through twists and curves, beneath towering and rugged basalt cliffs, beside wildflowers and sagebrush, and near a tiny creek flowing through the crevices. If you're lucky, you might encounter some wildlife: bald eagles scan for fish in the Yakima River and bighorn sheep climb in the basalt rubble. And be sure to watch out for rattlesnakes in the summer.
After a mile on this trail the grade becomes steeper and views of the Stuart Mountain Range open up. As you continue further to about 3,480 feet of elevation you will reach to the top of the ridge and get some spectacular views of Mount Rainier and Mount Adams. Be cautious, it can get a bit windy at the top.
When you descend back to the parking lot you can walk through the shrubs right at the footsteps of the suspension bridge and take a right to find yourself on the Yakima River.