While the west side of the mountains was being pelted by a river of rain, we escaped to sunny Eastern Washington in search of fresh hops, hikes, and fall colors in the Yakima Valley.
2019 Update: Two Yakima trails are featured in our new guidebook, Urban Hikes Washington, available July 2020. Check it out to learn more!
Home to 75% of the United States hop production, the Yakima Valley is ground zero for fresh hops in the fall. Its culminating event is the Fresh Hop Ale Festival at the end of September, a "celebration of the hop and craft beer industry." Attend this event if you can. We didn't make it to the festival, and you don't have to in order to experience the beer bounty of the Yakima Valley. So next time it's raining in Seattle (imagine that!), head east to Yakima for those 300 days of sunshine.
Surrounded by ridges of scrub-grass covered basalt, Yakima may feel smack-dab in the desert at times. But thatâs not the case at the Yakima Area Arboretum. With manicured-green lawns and multiple species of trees making up the collection, this oasis sits right on the river and along the Greenway path. Pack a picnic lunch, or stop in at the cafe, then explore the collection in bloom. During the fall, highlights include larches, ginkgos and maples as the leaves change color. Other highlights include the Japanese-inspired Joyful Garden and the intriguing Dawn Redwoodâ a living fossil which was rediscovered in 1944.
During our visit we milled around the 40+ acres of green space, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. Since we missed the brief alpine larch season this year, Brandon was very excited to see the grove here, decked out in their golden mantle.
Cowiche Canyon (itâs pronounced Cow-itchy) is a popular desert canyon trail outside of downtown Yakima. Towering andesite and basalt walls guard a bustling ecosystem of plants and animals that make the banks of the swift Cowiche Creek their home. Families, trail runners, mountain bikers and even equestrians visit this vibrant landscape to journey on this placid trail.
We took our time meandering along, with a side trip up the Winery Trail where we wandered through Wilridge Winery to the tasting room. Cuz wine not?
It seemed fitting that as we walked into the brewery, Led Zeppelin was playing over the soundsystem. Founded in 2013 by the Hatten family, Bron Yr Aur Brewing isnât named after the song, but after the same Welsh cottage that inspired Plant and Page during their stay there. Located just north of Yakima in Naches, the âGateway to the Cascadesâ, Bron Yr Aur also has a reputation for fantastic pizza. Combined with some decadent dark beers â like their 2017 Washington Beer Awards gold-winning Thriller Pillar Porter â the brewery makes for a cozy space to kick back after a hike.
Other favorites we sampled during our visit were the Gentleman Stout thatâs dark char profile is exactly what a hunting lodge might taste like, and the breweryâs uniquely hoppy take on the Cream Ale.
We nearly walked right on by this unassuming taproom before stepping back in time at Berchmanâs Brewing. Housed in the former Opera House (built in 1889), Berchmanâs sunny little space was previously used as a brewery by North Yakima Brewing and Malting Company. Today, youâre greeted by the walk-in safe, a smattering of tables, and an attractive bar upon entry. Of the five Yakima Valley breweries weâve visited, this may be our favorite in terms of beer.
Maybe itâs the water. An artesian well provides super-cold water for brewing and wort-cooling purposes. Berchmanâs brews are also bottle conditioned, resulting in natural carbonation and wonderfully unfiltered body. We caught the tail end of Fresh hop season, and were rewarded with a choice of 3 on tap! One of our favorite beers was Mr. Ruff, a German-style Hefe that really let the Belgian influence the brewery is known for shine.
Stay the Night
Sampled a few too many of Yakimaâs fine beers? Consider staying at the Oxford Inn with Yakima River views, conveniently located on the Greenway Trail. ââYou can even walk a couple miles down the trail to the Yakima Arboretum from here. Cheers!