The Tieton River Nature Trail is an easy hike along the Tieton River in the Tieton River Canyon. The trail follows the south side of the river from the Oak Creek Wildlife Area Visitor Center to FS Rd 512 with two access points from Hwy 12 along the way: a suspension bridge at the Quonset hut 1.3 miles west of the Visitor Center and a footbridge at the west end of a large pullout 3 miles from the Visitor Center.
Along the way you'll enjoy a ramble along the river, impressive geologic formations, and relative solitude. The trail is best walked in the spring for wildflowers and in the fall for some of the most spectacular fall color you’ll ever see. It’s also a nice snowshoe or cross-country ski in the winter when there is snow on the ground.
From the Visitor Center, cross the highway, take the bridge across the river, and turn right through the gate in the elk fence. Inhale the heady scent of multiple wildflowers if they're out, and take note of the Garry oak trees with woodpeckers perched in them. Be wary of ticks and rattlesnakes as you hike, but don't let your awareness distract you from enjoying the beautiful flowers and views of the river that keep you company on this gently graded trail.
The first 1.8 miles of the trail to the suspension bridge winds through sagebrush flats below the spectacular Royal Columns, dramatic cliffs of columnar andesite popular with local rock climbers. If scaling basalt walls isn't on your schedule, continue on the path that parallels the river, passing more signs that indicate some of the climbing routes on the cliffs. These are closed seasonally for nesting birds of prey.
From the suspension bridge, the trail makes its way up and down through the flood plain, immersed in the lush riparian vegetation of cottonwoods, aspens, garry oaks, willows, red-osier dogwood, and wild rose. After about a mile the trail enters a large meadow with a couple of big ponderosa pines and a giant oak tree in the middle. After crossing the meadow, the trail climbs a little and then cuts across the hillside directly above the river to the upper footbridge. Returning to the Visitor Center from here gives you a roughly 6.75 mile round trip.
From the footbridge the trail continues to contour above the food plain for another mile or so to a large, flat peninsula with nice views up and down the Tieton River Canyon. This makes a good turnaround spot, especially if you’ve started at the Visitor Center. It's about 9 miles round trip to this peninsula and back. Be careful on this leg of the trail in winter: the trail is narrow in spots, with a steep drop-off on one side. It can be tricky to navigate in icy/snowy conditions.
If you want to continue on, the trail climbs, mostly in conifers, to the ditch rider’s road along the Tieton Irrigation Canal and on to FR 512, 6.5 from the Visitor Center (13 miles round trip).
WTA Pro Tip: Be aware that Naches can be quite hot, so bring lots of sunscreen and water, and take it easy. Hiking in direct sunlight can be quite fatiguing.
Tieton River Nature Trail
- 6.75 miles, roundtrip
- Elevation Gain
- 300 feet
- Highest Point
- 1,900 feet
Hiking Tieton River Nature Trail
Tieton River Nature Trail
Map & Directions
Co-ordinates: 46.7192, -120.8344 Open in Google Maps