Trail Name: Saddle Rock
Distance: 3 miles round trip
It’s time to get back in, er, on the saddle. Saddle Mountain is the prominent and iconic Wenatchee Foothills peak that looms above Wenatchee, part of a chain of rocky buttes flanking the city’s western neighborhoods.
The hike is short, steep, and—thanks to scented sage—a tad sweet; follow an old jeep track 1.5 miles and 900 vertical feet to the craggy 2,000-foot landmark. In May the stark slopes radiate in gold thanks to a profusion of blossoming arrowleaf balsamroot (otherwise known in these parts as sunflowers). Expect plenty of real sun in this part of central Washington, too.
After that lung-busting ascent, look beyond the flowered slopes to the sweeping vistas. Face west to rows of evergreen-draped ridges and snowcapped peaks; to the west are the basaltic canyons and shrub-steppe Columbia Plateau. To the north and south is the Columbia River, here cutting its deep gorge through one of the most dramatic transition zones in the Pacific Northwest, where coastal mountains and forests converge with interior arid plateaus.
On the descent, you won’t get saddle sores, but your knees may knock, so bring your trekking poles.
Watch For: Old mines dot the surrounding hills; look for shafts, tailings, and other relics.
Getting there: From US 2 in Wenatchee turn south onto SR 285 (Wenatchee Avenue). After 2 miles, turn right onto Miller Street. Continue for 3.2 miles and turn right onto Circle Street; in 0.3 mile arrive at the trail head and parking area near the Appleatchee equestrian center.
Time from Seattle: 2 hours and 40 minutes
Craig Romano is the author of eight hiking books, including Day Hiking Central Cascades and Backpacking Washington.