BY KYLE KIM
Located in the heart of Washington’s wine country, the Yakima Valley is quite well known for its expansive orchards, vineyards and hop yards. Long renowned for its apple, cherry and other fruit crops, in recent decades the valley’s signature wine production has taken root due to its unique microclimates and soil composition. And the Yakima Valley produces almost 80 percent of America’s hops.But that’s not all it has to offer to a curious traveler. With two- to three-hour access from Seattle and Portland and a wide breadth of activities once you’re there, there’s truly something for everyone in the Yakima Valley, from museums to cuisine to getting outdoors.
Hotel Maison, a converted Masonic Temple in the heart of the city, is a unique place to stay, and it’s comfortably close to a plethora of attractions in town, many of which are only a few minutes away.
You’ll likely want to stretch your legs after your drive to Yakima, so why not hit the trail first thing? The Yakima Greenway is a 20-mile public trail that follows the Yakima River with easy access points right in town. A good place to begin the trail is at Sarg Hubbard Park. While you’re not likely to walk the entire trail, you can stroll in either direction to enjoy the river and its natural areas to your heart’s content.
Yakima is known for its wine, beer, cider and spirits. For an introduction to some quality craft spirits, head to The Distillarium to enjoy a sampling of their whiskeys and brandy or indulge in one of their craft cocktails and appetizers from their food menu.
Dinner choices in Yakima are plenty. A popular spot that serves elevated renditions of classic American fare is Cowiche Canyon Kitchen and Ice House Bar.
In addition to Hotel Maison’s complimentary breakfast the following morning, stop by Essentia Artisan Bakery for a croissant or cinnamon roll. After that, it’s time for a morning hike; drive 30 minutes to the Tieton River Nature Trail. This riverside route has a surprise in the spring, as its wildflowers will be in full bloom. It’s around 6 to 7 miles round trip, and you’ll cross a suspension bridge looking over the glacier fed Tieton River along the way. Keep an eye out for eagles, elk, bighorn sheep or other wildlife as you go.
After working up an appetite, head back into town to grab lunch before making your way to your next stop: the Yakima Valley Museum. With over 48,000 objects collected, this museum is loosely themed around anything related to Yakima, with exhibit topics ranging from bees to William O. Douglas. It displays a wide variety of items, including Native American artifacts, agricultural equipment and neon signs. The museum also has a few more unusual things on display, like a chair made from bison horns.
For a pre-dinner wine tasting, stop by the AntoLin Cellars for a tasting flight of their Yakima Valley wines. The Yakima Valley grows at least 15 varietals and roughly one-third of Washington’s wine grapes. AntoLin Cellars offers a wide representation of Yakima Valley varietals, many grown in their own estate vineyards. For dinner, enjoy authentic Mexican cuisine at El Porton offering a range of choices from mole to chimichangas.
The next day is wine tasting day in one of the Yakima Valley’s six AVAs: Rattlesnake Hills, centered in and around the town of Zillah. But first, head down to the Lincoln Avenue Coffee Co. for a quick breakfast. On your way to Zillah, make sure to take a detour to Toppenish, so you can stop by one of the valley’s most interesting museums: The Yakama Nation Museum and Cultural Center. This museum chronicles the indigenous Yakama’s people’s culture and history. Visit the museum’s dioramas, exhibits and life-size Yakama dwellings for a taste of the region’s native culture.
In Zillah, stop at The Chophouse at the Old Warehouse. With its traditional American cuisine in old warehouse filled with antiques for sale, it’s a unique place to have lunch before heading out to sample some wines.
Now that you’re in Zillah, it’s time to start your vineyard tour. The Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail, the ninth federally recognized American Viticultural Area in the country, is interwoven throughout Zillah’s roads. This regional wine trail consists of 29 vineyards and over 18 wineries. Many of the public tasting rooms are unique from each other; you might find yourself in a traditional European tasting room in one winery and a Northwest-styled one in another.
Once you’ve had your fair share of Yakima Valley wines, it’s time to return to Yakima. On the way, stop by Hoptown Pizza for dinner. Located in an old mercantile building between Zillah and Yakima, this pizza house sources all of its ingredients from the valley. Hoptown garnishes their pizzas with creative local toppings, like pine nuts, berries, pecorino and caramelized onions. They also make their own cider from local apples.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
At the dawn of your last day, take a two-minute stroll down Front Street to the North Town coffeehouse. Grab some coffee to wake up and head out to the Cowiche Canyon Trail’s trailhead. Then, plot out a course to your liking from the network of eight connecting trails and set off for one last nature hike.
Though the various connecting trails vary in length, the main Cowiche Canyon Trail is around 3 miles long. Most of the trails in this area are easy to moderate in terms of difficulty, but your route will be lively regardless of which trails you pick; after all, the wildflowers on the trail are in full bloom from April onwards. If you’re willing to add a brief, somewhat steeper one-mile addition to your hike, head down the Winery Trail and visit the Wilridge Vineyard Winery Distillery for one final tasting of wine and their fruit brandy to wrap up your weekend getaway in wine country. Wilridge is set among the orchard, in spring in full bloom, reason alone to come to Yakima Valley this time of year. For the best blossoms, plan your visit for late April.