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Westberg Trail

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Ray Westberg was the popular wrestling coach in Ellensburg who died in 1997 at the young age of 47. This trail was built and dedicated to him, with a memorial placed at the high point on the ridge. The route isn't heavily used by hikers, but it is popular with birds--birds on the ground and in the air.

You can expect to find grouse scurrying through the brush and Lewis's woodpecker pounding on the trees. In the air, look for a mix of northern flickers, bluebirds, meadowlarks, and the ever-present red-tailed hawks. If birds aren't enough of an aerial display, this is also butterfly heaven in late spring. Birds don't do it for you? Well, deer and elk also roam the region, and no one can find fault with the spectacular views--especially from the site of the Westberg Memorial at the top of the ridge.

The trail starts on an old jeep track that first crosses an irrigation canal on a set of railroad timbers, and then heads up a steep gully. Be cautious because this stretch of trail is prime snake terrain. At about 0.3 mile, the trail splits, with both paths leading to the same junction about a mile farther up the route, so you can actually turn this into a short loop. Go right. From the split, the trail (both of them) climbs steeply. Indeed, in the 1.5 miles from the split to the memorial site, the trail gains almost 1800 feet in elevation, all without benefit of switchbacks.

As the trail climbs, the scenery gets even better. Birds are likely to keep you company along the entire trek, and amazing flower displays are possible all around: brodiaea, lupine, balsamroot, phlox, paintbrush, yellow asterlike beauties, microsensis, and others. When the bitterroot is in bloom, any exposed rocky soil area flushes pink with its blooms.

The memorial site, which can be seen from all along the trail, offers stunning views of the Kittitas Valley and the sweep of the Cascade Range, with Mount Stuart capping the mountain scene. Continue another 3.0 miles if you want to get to the University of Washington's Manastash Ridge Observatory.
Driving Directions:

From Seattle, drive east on Interstate 90 to exit 101 for Thorp. Turn right onto South Thorp Highway and continue 2 miles. Then turn right (south) onto Cove Road and drive 6 miles. At the second stop sign, continue straight, crossing Manastash Road. In 0.2 mile, find the large parking area on the right side of the soon-to-dead-end road.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 17 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Manastash Ridge, Westberg Trail — Apr 06, 2014 — HikerJim
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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Saturday was shaping up to be a dismal day. Rain on the west side, rain east of the crest, rain ever...
Saturday was shaping up to be a dismal day. Rain on the west side, rain east of the crest, rain everywhere. I was not sure I would have any time to hike this weekend but I got caught up enough to get out Saturday. Janet wanted to head east. Neither of us had done Manastash Ridge so I signed on. The trail is renowned for spring wildflowers. A report from earlier in the week showed the slight beginnings of the color show. Even over there it was supposed to rain later in the day so we met in Bellevue at 7:10 am. Most of the drive east it rained. Sometimes lightly and near the Cascade crest much harder. Beyond Easton we began to see some clearing farther east. By Cle Elum it was looking pretty good. We took exit 101 at Thorp and followed the directions to the trailhead. Right at the exit, right on Cove Road in about 2 miles, and then follow Cover Road to th end. 95 miles in about 90 minutes from Bellevue.

I was very surprised to see we were the 23rd car in the lot. It was only 8:50 am when we started out so this is one popular trailhead. Mostly blue sky overhead though it was cloudy to the north. The ridge route was clearly visible near the end of our drive. We started out on the old road and soon took a switchback right that led to the top of the ridge. Coming down we followed the ridge all the way to the bottom. The right turn just after crossing the now dry drainage creek bed was easy to miss.

The Westberg trail does not bother with switchbacks. The ridge is fairly wide and the track goes pretty much straight up. Mostly a steady grade with several short very steep sections. The trailhead is at 1876'. The Westberg Memorial site on the ridge top is at 3568' after about 2.25 miles of hiking. We were on the lookout for any early wildflowers. Grass widows were the first. First one then several more clumps. There is sagebrush along most of the route. Just a few green leaves starting to open up. That will change dramatically in a week or two. Soon we began to see the early birds who were already coming down. Speaking of birds, there were a lot of bird calls going on much of the day.

Buttercups appeared in numerous small patches. They were probably the most prolific wildflowers of the day. Janet wondered if we would see any yellow bells and a few minutes later there they were. We even saw a few bluebells on the hike to the Memorial. I found my new Olympus E-PM2 did a fine job on manual focus. I had less blurry close up flower shots than with my point and shoot. Also helping was the lack of wind. The forecast was for 5-15 mph and on the ridge it is often worse. We had very little wind all day long. With the sunshine and lack of wind we were quickly down to short sleeves. Janet went to zip off shorts by 9:00 am.

As we neared the top of Manastash Ridge the route turned right and began a more gentle ascent. We topped out at the memorial site at about 10:20 am. With the photo stops it took us 1.5 hours to hike up 2.25 miles. Not a very fast pace. This was more of a take photos and enjoy the views type of hike. There were quite a few folks at the memorial. We took a few photos then headed south to meet a road. This was a good spot for a food and water break. It's about another 2.75 miles to the UW Observatory site. It is all by road. We started down the road as it descended. More wildflowers along here. some violets and more of the flowers seen earlier. We also noticed a lot of bitterroot plants. Not close to blooming but it will be a very colorful display when they do. We also saw many dried balsamroot leaves from last year. this years plants are just coming up. There will be a lot of balsamroot when they bloom.

The road soon splits. We took the left fork that stays high. Just before the turn Janet noticed a rare flower. Shell flower, aka "floribunda kablamblam". A rare sighting indeed. The bright blue flowers seem to bloom all year round. I have a photo below. By now the blue sky to the south was becoming white. To the north the wind farms were periodically nearly disappearing in rain squalls. We were losing the sunshine but it we were on an island of dryness. The road had several ups and downs as we continued on. Down low there were evergreen trees in the wetter draws but few on the ridges. We now had more trees on the north side of the ridge top. The south is mostly bare except for sagebrush.

We stopped at the highpoint of our day. We were 4.03 miles from the car per my gps at an elevation of 3847'. The observatory was in sight for the first time. Still about a mile away. With the weather turning we chose to have lunch and then head back. On the hike back to the memorial site we saw one mountain bike rider and one hiker. For all the crowds the first 2.25 miles it was lonesome after that. Below us to the south was the road from Umptanum Road from Ellensburg to the Wenas Valley. The north side of Umtanum Ridge looked to be about snow free. There was one small patch of snow on the north side of Manastash below the road and that was it.

We arrived back at the Westberg Memorial at 12:37 pm. We had a few raindrops near the end of the road but that was all. We were going to sit west of the other hikers. I noticed a hiker with a black and a yellow dog. I wonder if that's John Porter? I went over to see and sure enough it was. I have run into John several times on the trail now. John has a hiking/climbing site as well called One Hike A Week though we seems to be getting out far more often now. We talked for about 30 minutes and then it was time to head down. Much less time taking photos led to a quicker time. By 2:15 pm we were back at the car. There were still 20 cars in the lot.

Drizzle began a few minutes into the drive home. It soon became light rain. By the time we reached I-90 it was steady rain. It continued most all the way home. I always enjoy getting in a dry hike on a day when it rained all day at home. This was a prime example. Their were not a lot of wildflowers out yet. We did have a good sampling of early flowers. In two to four weeks the route should be a riot of color. With the easy access both driving and hiking I may have to go back again this year. Janet and I had a great time. Always nice to get in a brand new trail.

I have posted 30 annotated photos on my website located at Go to "Trips -2014" on the left margin.
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Manastash Ridge, Westberg Trail — Apr 05, 2014 — Putz-in-Boots
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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Ick, Ick, Ick. Early in the week the forecast looked wet everywhere. Late in the week the only promi...
Ick, Ick, Ick. Early in the week the forecast looked wet everywhere. Late in the week the only promising area looked like someplace around Ellensburg. AlanB had recently posed a couple of photos of Manastash Ridge with flowers...hmmm...

I pinged Jim to see if he was interested. He waffled like an Eggo waffle at first...suspicious of the weather. Then, late Friday night..."I'm in". Good!

We met at the SE 8th P&R and began the soaking wet drive over Snoqualmie Pass. Yikes was it raining. We sure hoped the forecast was going to hold. Sure enough...just east of the crest the sky looked brighter. By Easton blue sun breaks were opening up. This was looking promising. We'd got an early start (7:10am meet time at the P&R) because the forecast did say light rain was going to move in late morning and into the afternoon.

We were the 22nd car to park at the wide spot at the end of Cove Road. This looked to be a popular trailhead. Runners? Mtn bikers? Other hikers???

We were headed up the trail (Westberg Trail TH 1876') up the drainage by about 8:50am. The trail crosses a large drainage over a couple of planks, we headed up the drainage and then before the first sharp turn in the trail we followed a steep boot path/trail up to the top of the rib on the north side of Manastash Ridge (.6mi, 2208'). The rib is nearly flat in some spots and there are short stretches where the "trail" is steep. We reached the top of the ridge (2.25mi, 3568') and wow...the sun was out, the wind was minimal and best of all...we'd already seen some flowers. At this junction there is a series of several (many) memorials. We'd thought there would be just the one (Westberg Memorial) but there were at least a half dozen and a large pile of stones looks like it's become a sort of memorial to locals who have passed.

We stepped aside and continued up to the first highpoint where we dropped out packs to get some snacks. Still, even on top of the ridge, the wind was minimal. The day was already turning out better than expected. The trail/4WD road continued westward with several moderate ups and downs along the way. We stopped at about 4.07mi (3847') for a proper lunch and we watched as minor squalls moved in and over Ellensburg. Several of the squalls obscured the wind farm towers. Looking further to the west we could see dark clouds over the observatory which were slowly making their way east. Rain was was just a matter of when. We finally packed up and headed back down.

The "trail" is really a series of multiple use trails (old roads, mountain bike trails, hiker trails, etc.

Several early wildflowers were out...buttercups, yellow bells, grass widows, spring beauty, violets, and bluebells.

At this point, the snow is gone from the ridge.

Stats: 7.88mi, 2490' gain (round trip)

More photos here:[…]/manastash_ridge_tr.html
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Westberg Trail — Apr 05, 2014 — Maisie
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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This is a good close to the west side, dry side hike. Arriving at 12:30 the parking area was mostly...
This is a good close to the west side, dry side hike. Arriving at 12:30 the parking area was mostly full, but with space available. The flower show had not started, we only saw grass widows in the open slopes and a few spring beauties in the pine woods. Trail is in good condition, hard packed dirt. There were no posted maps at the trailhead, see last year's trip reports for more details.
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Westberg Trail — Jan 29, 2014 — mOuNtAiNeEr51
Day hike
Issues: Snow on trail
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Hiked up the canyon trail. Nice fresh powdery snow, moderate grade, and minimal traffic made for goo...
Hiked up the canyon trail. Nice fresh powdery snow, moderate grade, and minimal traffic made for good conditions that weren't slippery. Wintery mix of precipitation began as I met up with the main trail which I followed to the top and hiked down. Because of the amount of people that use this trail and the many steep spots, this trail is very icy and slippery. Traction is strongly advised. It is probably best to do this hike the other way around: hike up the main trail and down through the canyon.
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Westberg Trail — Oct 20, 2013 — Paul's wife
Day hike
Features: Fall foliage
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The Kittitas County Bureau of Reclamation maintains a parking lot for this hike at the end of Cove R...
The Kittitas County Bureau of Reclamation maintains a parking lot for this hike at the end of Cove Road, just after it crosses Manastash Rd. We had managed to leave all trail passes in the other car, so this is one of the very few hikes that does not require any pass. The hike is roughly equidistant between Thorp and Ellensburg, and not far off I-90.
You first head directly towards the hill, following a road. You quickly get a choice of two trails: 1) slightly to the right, immediately crosses a footbridge over the irrigation ditch, and 2)hard right, follows to the right of the irrigation ditch along the base of the hill.
#1 (Westberg Trail) pretty much goes straight up the ridge, it is not a constructed trail. It is sunny and steep, with many dogs and joggers.
#2 (Boy Scout Trail)crosses the irrigation ditch within a half-mile from the trailhead and goes up an adjacent ravine. The Boy Scouts constructed this trail, which follows the creek up the ravine. There is lovely fall foliage and it is shady and less steep. Distance-wise, I think the two trails are about the same.
It is possible to go up one and down the other. The Boy Scout Trail joins the Westberg Trail just below the ridge, where the trail leads to the Westberg memorial viewpoint. Fabulous views of Ellensburg, Thorp, Stewart Range, wind farms.
The Desert Hikes Book describes this as 4 miles roundtrip, but this is a very long 4 miles!
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Westberg Trail-M&S.jpg
Westberg Trail. Photo by M&S.
Eastern Washington -- Yakima
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Roundtrip 4.0 miles
Elevation Gain 1710 ft
Highest Point 3560 ft
Mountain views
Guidebooks & Maps
Best Desert Hikes: Washington (Bauer & Nelson - Mountaineers Books)
Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Yakima

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