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Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area

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Though this land is called a "wildlife area," it could as easily be named a state wildflower area. On any given spring day, hikers can expect to see an array of wildflowers that puts the pretty alpine meadows to shame.

Among the plethora of blooms spotted during visits here are thyme-leaf desert parsley, Douglas buckwheat (huge masses of it), thyme-leaved buckwheat, shaggy daisy/shaggy fleabane, linear-leaf daisy (also called line-leaved fleabane), Cusick's sunflower, Hooker's onion, woolly-pod milk vetch, brodiaea, silky lupines, rock penstemon, Thompson's paintbrush, thread-leaved phacelia, Hooker's balsamroot, white phlox, Scouler's penstemon, small-flowered penstemon, cushion fleabane, large-flowered collomia, narrow-leaf collomia, bitterroot, and bitterbrush. Bring your wildflower guide to keep track of the plants, but keeping in mind that this is a wildlife area, expect to see some critters, too.

Our recommended route has you bypassing the first access road into the Quilomene Wildlife Area (that first access is just past highway milepost 18). Our route takes you along the long ridge across from Whiskey Dick Mountain before plunging down into Rocky Coulee and then hiking up the easternmost end of Whiskey Dick Mountain to roam the ridgeline along that peak.

The hike along the old road goes fast since the path is wide, smooth, and relatively level as it contours along the ridge. After a quick couple of miles, the road drops 800 feet in elevation to the bottom of Rocky Coulee. (With high-clearance vehicles, it might be possible to drive this far, but doing so has you driving over some of the most beautiful wildflower fields). The wildflowers carpet the entire desert floor, from the ridge top to the coulee bottom. This section of the route is rich in bitterroots, hedgehog cactus, and balsamroot, as well as various species of buckwheat, lupine, and daisies.

Coyotes hunt throughout this coulee country, and they can often be heard, if not actually seen, in the morning and evening--their yips and howls echoing off the coulee walls. After following the coulee basin for a mile or so (remaining alert for poison ivy), the route turns up the side of Whiskey Dick Mountain. More stunning wildflowers abound, with increasingly clear and stunning views over the rest of the wildlife area. Keep an eye on the sky to watch the raptors soaring, and another eye on the brush to look for mule and white-tailed deer.

You'll top out on the low summit of Whiskey Dick, a bit more than 4 miles from your starting point. This is the place to turn around and enjoy the long, scenic desert stroll back to your vehicle.

Note: Whiskey Dick Mountain is now a part of the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility. April-November you can drive the now paved Beacon Ridge Rd. to the Renewable Energy Center, located on the slopes of Whiskey Dick Mountain. From here you can fill out an access permit which is good for 8 months. Once you have this permit you can park in any of the five parking lots along Beacon Ridge Rd., and hike in the surrounding areas. Keep three hundred feet from the turbines as specified in the access permit. If you would like to get closer, sign up for a guided tour at the Renewable Energy Center. They also have a few trails around the visitor's center that can be done without a permit. Also, in late April/early May they have a guided wildflower hike featuring local naturalists. For more information on access to this area you can call the Renewable Energy Center at 509-964-7815.
Driving Directions:

From Seattle, drive east on Interstate 90 to exit 115 for Kittitas. Go north over the freeway. At 1.2 miles, turn right at the stop sign. Veer to the left onto County Road 81 and continue 1.2 miles from the stop sign (2.4 miles from I-90), then turn right onto the Vantage Highway. Drive past the first access to the Quilomene Wildlife Area at 12 miles, and at 13.7 miles turn left onto the rough dirt road accessing the Quilomene Wildlife Area. At 0.4 mile on this rough road, veer right at the Y, and at 0.6 mile veer right at the second Y. A good place to park is at the pullout 1.2 miles from the Old Vantage Highway. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife permit required.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 23 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area — Mar 29, 2014 — mytho-man
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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I led my first Sagebrush Ramble for the Cascadians to the Whiskey Dick area today. We went in from ...
I led my first Sagebrush Ramble for the Cascadians to the Whiskey Dick area today. We went in from the easterly entrance off of the old Vantage highway. At the junction at the top of the ridge we took the left hand fork which took us into Rocky Coulee and then up towards the wind farm. We eventually cut across the coulee to the road traversing south along Whiskey Dick Ridge. It was pretty breezy up here and when we got to the saddle in the ridge we went around the north side of the ridge a ways to a sheltered spot for lunch with a beautiful view down Whiskey Dick Creek to Frenchman Coulee. After lunch we went back to the saddle and the wind was howling. We walked the road east to Pt 2901, but didn't stay long because of the wind. We descended a ridge into Rocky Coulee and climbed back out on a road that took us back to the cars just as a big black cloud started to dump on us. We didn't see any other people the entire day, but we did see a couple of large herds of elk and the usual early spring wildflowers except for grass widows. On the way down the ridge we also passed through an area that was just littered with petrified wood. It was sunny when we started out, but the clouds soon blew in and most of the day was windy & only partly sunny. We had a great time nonetheless.
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Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area — Mar 01, 2013 — onehikeaweek
Day hike
Issues: Overgrown | No water source
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Flickr: http://bit.ly/whiskey-dick-ii Our second visit to this area and this time we followed the...
Flickr: http://bit.ly/whiskey-dick-ii

Our second visit to this area and this time we followed the guidebook's route recommendation. The area is so vast, so one can pick their own route and start hiking. We hiked easterly along the side of the road and made the point where the road started to go downhill our turnaround.

The main attraction is obviously the wind turbines, which can be seen from all directions of the wildlife area. We didn't encounter any wildlife (probably because of the dogs) but we did see a few animal remains scattered throughout.
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Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area — Jun 16, 2012 — Riri
Day hike
Issues: No water source
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Went over the pass today with Bliss and the dogs in search of sunshine, exercise, and a place to let...
Went over the pass today with Bliss and the dogs in search of sunshine, exercise, and a place to let the dogs roam free. This "hike" is along a dry and dusty road, not a real trail at all, but the fragrant sagebrush, desert scenery, wide open spaces, and blue skies made for an enjoyable afternoon outdoors. No major flowers left, just a single mariposa lily, a few fleabane, and lots of yellow flowers amidst the sage. Did come across a horned lizard, which I had never seen before.

Direction clarification: the turnoff onto the dirt road is just past MP 20 (I don't know what the 13.7 mi reference was referring to). I didn't have any issues with the other directions.
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Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area — May 19, 2012 — Bruces Walks
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: No water source
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YouTube channel, "Bruces Walks", Ellensburg, Kittitas Valley, etc.: http://www.youtube.com/channel/...
YouTube channel, "Bruces Walks", Ellensburg, Kittitas Valley, etc.:
http://www.youtube.com/[…]/UCaeUkaZE9EQkKrIjGv_HGmA?feature=watch
Check all entries, share, bookmark, embed, etc., show your friends where you have been or where you're going.
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Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area — Jun 27, 2011 — Jackson
Multi-night backpack
Features: Wildflowers blooming
Issues: Overgrown | No water source
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On Monday me and a couple buddies hiked outta vantage into the whiskey dick. The weather was hot and...
On Monday me and a couple buddies hiked outta vantage into the whiskey dick. The weather was hot and dry sometimes around 90 degrees down in the coulees. We hiked the old road just west of ginko state park, up to park peak and north along the wall past hole in the wall, spring cayuse creek (which was dry) and up to the mouth of whiskey dick creek. The views day one of babcocks bench and the Columbia were awesome their were still a few wildflowers hanging around too. Whiskey dick creek was running but there was no easy water access so we hiked out and filtered water out of the cloumbia. Saw lots of birds of prey osprey, baldy, red tail etc. As well as a few mountain blue birds. One of my friends saw a rabbit and I saw a haron perched on the river bank. That evening was warm and loud from the crickets, frogs and bats. The stars were awesome. Day two we set out following the road up the whiskey dick, just outta camp the creek ran across the trail and my friends de booted to cross the 9+ inch deep water. About a half mile after that the road turned away from our intended destination and we continued off trail, the road was supposed to continue and there were portions that we used to continue on. Kohler springs was running. We hiked up off the road on to the Platue on the south side of the whiskey dick creek coulée where after a little bit of route finding, wandering and looking at the map we found the road continuing south over the ridge down to lone star spring and rocky coulee.the climb up the ridge was rough in the sweltering heat and the packs soon felt heavy. Lone star spring is not running. There are trees and vegetation from the water and two small muddy stagnate puddles so instead of camping there (which would have presented more probles then water) we hiked the remaning 4 1/2 miles down rocky coulée through hells kitchen and back to the trailhead. All in all was a fun trip the heat and lack of water were a little disappointing but the views of babcocks bench and frenchmans coulée defiantly made up for it. O' by the way there were a heard of sheep at the trailhead when we got back.
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Whiskey Dick mytho-man.jpg
Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area. Photo by mytho-man.
Location
Eastern Washington -- Yakima
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Statistics
Roundtrip 8.0 miles
Elevation Gain 1750 ft
Highest Point 3850 ft
Features
Wildflowers/Meadows
Mountain views
Summits
Wildlife
User info
Good for kids
Dogs allowed without leash
Discover Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Best Desert Hikes: Washington (Bauer & Nelson - Mountaineers Books)
Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Yakima

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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