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Wild Horses Monument

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This simple little trek offers visitors some of the most impressive geologic and historic views of the Columbia River area. The uniquely beautiful sculptures at the top of the ridge offer great exposure to one of the most impressive outdoor art pieces in the Northwest.

The trail leads out of the parking area and climbs steeply to the fifteen surprisingly lifelike horse sculptures. These beauties stand on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River. Constructed out of welded steel plates, they are the work of Spokane artist David Govedare. The tempered steel ponies were put on the bluff in 1989 for Washington State's Centennial Celebration.

A short hike up the path leads to the base of the hill, from where you can peer up to admire the monument. To really experience the horses, though, and to connect with the desert landscape, follow the scramble trail from the viewpoint up to the horses. This steep, rocky path is only a few hundred yards long, but it's enough to lead you to some beautiful wildflowers and increasingly open views down to the river.

Once at the side of the horses, enjoy them up close, then continue to hike along the slope behind them until you can frame the horses against the blue ribbon of the Columbia down in the canyon to the southwest. You'll feel like you are watching a real herd of wild mustangs running over the hills when you look back on them! You'll also feel transported back hundreds of years to a time when horses first migrated into the area and ran wild through these hills.

Amble around the sagebrush flats above the monument at your leisure, enjoying the views before heading back down. To the west, look out over the rugged landscape of the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park highlands; north of that you'll see the Colockum Wildlife Area wildlands climbing more than 5000 feet above the river.
Driving Directions:

From Ellensburg drive east on Interstate 90 to exit 139 (just after crossing the Columbia River). The exit, signed "Scenic Viewpoint," leads to a large parking area. In winter, park at the closed gate and walk in. In any season, though, stop here for a quiet, relaxing, hour-long break when traveling across the state on I-90.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 5 trip reports for this hike.
Wild Horses Monument, Wild Horse — May 03, 2013 — SurvivingUrban
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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The Wild flowers were blooming and the weather was great. It wasn't to hot so this is a great time t...
The Wild flowers were blooming and the weather was great. It wasn't to hot so this is a great time to stop and take in the view. If you want to see some photos of the great view www.survivingurban.com
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Wild Horse — Apr 06, 2013 — justalittlefarther
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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Took a drive out to the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility today. Stopped by the Renewable Energy Ce...
Took a drive out to the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility today. Stopped by the Renewable Energy Center (visitor center) for a few minutes (you can fill out a form and get a free 8 month parking pass for the site), then drove back down to a trailhead/parking lot mid-way down the hill. The visitor center has maps of existing trails and abandoned jeep trails, but most of the hiking is cross country. I picked up a game trail dropping into a small valley east of the parking lot. There were about 100 elk on the hillside above me, and another group of 50 or so further east. This little draw has a few nice rock outcrop with Hedgehog Cacti, which had buds, but it will be a few weeks before they start blooming. I continued down the draw until it intersects an old road that takes you back to the Beacon Ridge Rd. The hillsides in this area were absolutely covered with Gold Star. I don't think I have ever seen so many in one area. The Prairie Lupine, Cushion phlox, Sagebrush Violets, and Hooker's Balsamroot are also blooming. We also spotted several pairs off Mountain Bluebirds near their nesting boxes.
We crossed over Beacon Ridge Road and headed west over a small rocky knoll which had a full spectrum of colors of cushion phlox. We then dropped down into another larger canyon. This canyon has a distinct and well used game trail at the bottom, which I followed north back to the parking lot.
The flowers are really early this year, so go within the next month to see the best ones. My total round trip was only 3.5 miles, but there are a lot of other hike options out there. Try the hike through "The Pines" for a change in scenery. While it was cloudy today, this area also provides beautiful views of Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and even Mount Hood on a clear day, as well as abundant wildlife in the spring. Aside from the elk, we spooked a group of mule deer out of the canyon.
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Wild Horses Monument — May 12, 2011 — Susan Elderkin
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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As you race across the state on I-90, take time to stretch your legs with a short scamper up to the ...
As you race across the state on I-90, take time to stretch your legs with a short scamper up to the Wild Horses Monument. Sure, the horses on the hill look great from the highway or the scenic viewpoint, but it is so much better from top.

The trail, if you could call it that, probably turns a lot of folks away. There are several paths to the top - all steep, with loose rock that is apt to land you on your bottom on your descent. But it is short and the views are definitely worth it. Right now balsamroot brightens the way, though it looks to be on its way out.

I spent a lot of time taking photos - framing the horses with the Columbia River behind and playing with different photography apps on my phone. It would be particularly beautiful early in the morning. Unfortunately, there is a lot of graffiti on the horses (see photo), which does dampen the experience. I hope that it is possible to remove it without damaging the sculptures.
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Wild Horses Monument — Apr 30, 2011 — Eric Jain
Day hike
Features: Wildflowers blooming
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Short scramble up loose dirt and rocks. Great views from the top, but not that much different than t...
Short scramble up loose dirt and rocks. Great views from the top, but not that much different than those from the parking lot... Near the bottom, Arrowleaf Balsamroot appeared to be in full bloom.

Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/[…]/WildHorsesMonumentApril2011
Tracklog: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/82636796
Panorama: http://photosynth.net/view.[…]39a5-4326-8b42-f8b72311ff70

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Wild horses monument.jpg
Wild Horses Monument. Photo by Susan Elderkin.
Location
Eastern Washington -- Yakima
Washington State Department of Transportation
Statistics
Roundtrip 1.0 miles
Elevation Gain 150 ft
Highest Point 1300 ft
Features
Rivers
Wildflowers/Meadows
Guidebooks & Maps
Best Desert Hikes: Washington (Bauer & Nelson - Mountaineers Books)
Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Priest Rapids

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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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Red MarkerWild Horses Monument
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