Hike along the White Bluffs of Hanford Reach

Washington White Bluffs Overlook Parking

Added by Brad Geyer

This infrequently visited landscape offers a vastly different vista from the western Cascades and the freedom to explore at will.

While there are many desert landscapes and sand dunes in Eastern Washington, most are not located in a National Monument and Wildlife Refuge. The Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge is a part of Hanford Reach National Monument, which was once home to a nuclear processing facility as a part of the Manhattan Project. Because of its protected status, wildlife proliferates in this region and it is quite apparent as you explore.

When planning your trip to Hanford, there are two well-trodden trails which you may explore, but the choice is yours to go off the beaten path, as well. The first trail begins by parking at the boat landing and heading north along a grassy trail upward. The second trail begins at the White Bluffs Overlook, which signs will guide you towards. After arriving and parking, walk to the left and follow the paved Wahluke walking trail past the gates.

I have no commentary on those two trails because I chose to explore the heart of the white bluffs sand dunes by making my own trail:

I began by parking my car at the White Bluffs Overlook and heading north (to the right). There is a slightly worn trail that quickly dissipates. This is not a problem, because the dunes are visible and your main goal is to reach them and hike along their crest. After a while, the brushy vegetation begins to make way for sandy dunes. Follow these dunes in whichever way you please going as far as you want for as long as you want. Be sure to keep an eye open for the dozens of deer that meander through the lower meadows to the west or the coyotes that burrow in the sandy cliffs. Also be on the lookout for desert native rattlesnakes and spiky plants. But if you're wary of your surroundings, none of this should be an issue and you can have a relaxing day on "the beach."

Pack List

Necessities

  • Water
  • Shoes that will move well in sand
  • Weather-appropriate clothing

Optional

  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • GPS/map (it would be difficult to get lost here)
  • Blanket for lunch/relaxing

Not Allowed

  • Fires
  • Camping
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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Activities:

Hiking

Skill Level:

Beginner

Season:

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

7 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1600 Feet

Rating:

Features:

River
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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How to Get There

Hidden Gem

You won't find many people on this hike, but that's all for the better, as the landscape lends itself to aimless exploring. There's really nothing quite like it in Washington. Should take two to two and a half hours at most if you stick strictly to the trail.

4 days ago

Added by Brad Geyer

From 8am-5pm M-F, I am a structural engineer, but once I get home, I'm engineering my next bushwackin' sufferfest to some desolate peak in the Cascades. Sony a6000 w/ Sony 55-215mm, Sigma 19mm, Samyang 12mm.

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