Dog and human enjoying Lake Easton view

Casual hikes in central Washington

Looking for new day-trip experiences or traveling across the state? In the heart of Washington (Kittitas County specifically), you will find three of our parks – perfect for those wanting to check off a few on their must-visit list or newbie hikers looking to hit an easy-rated trail.

To help you plan your next adventure, my dog Scout and I took to the trails in Kittitas County to share our experiences and show you why you too should get out and explore these parks.

Depending on the time of year and day of the week you plan to head out, these parks could be busy or offer that sort of stillness you have been searching for.

Now, let's check out some of your options for exploration in central Washington.

Lake Easton State Park tunnel
Emily and Scout the corgi walking through a tunnel on the trail at Lake Easton State Park
The lake at Lake Easton State Park
View of Lake Easton State Park's lake, trees and railroad tracks

Lake Easton State Park

Just a quick drive from Seattle and one of my favorite state parks is Lake Easton. Living in or visiting central Washington you get a little bit of everything – sunshine, snow, rain, desert, large trees, bodies of water and so much more.

Lake Easton offers that taste of the typical PNW, Twilight vampire vibe that we all know and secretly (or not so secretly and are still rooting for Team Jacob) love in Washington state.

Just pop off I-90 with your dogs, family or friends and enjoy the panoramic views of Lake Easton. The trail around the lake, a.k.a. the Palouse to Cascades Trail is super flat, allowing you to take in all your surroundings and reset. The special thing about Lake Easton State Park is that the trail doesn't stop within the park. You can either turn around or keep going as the Palouse to Cascades Trails takes you, all the way into the town of Easton.

You can learn more about adventuring on the Palouse to Cascades Trail here.

Lake Easton also offers camping and even turns into a Sno-Park in the winter – offering miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. Or if you are not into that sort of thing, an ol' fashion snowball fight will work too.

If you are coming from the west side and Lake Easton is a little too far or you can't make it over the pass – Olallie is a great option for easy-going trail hiking too.

Olmstead Place Historical State Park

Just a little east of Lake Easton sits Olmstead Place Historical State Park. In between the cities of Ellensburg and Kittitas, you'll step back in time to experience the Olmstead family's homestead.

The Olmstead family was a multi-generational family of farmers, using this land for decades for beef and dairy cows. The land was then donated to State Parks in 1968, but still reflects the rich farming history of the Olmstead family.

Bring those history buffs along for a prescheduled tour, or just enjoy a little exploration on your own. Take a stroll through the day-use areas to see old farming equipment and log cabins. Meander down a little farther on the Altapes Interpretive Trail and you'll find Coleman Creek.

Red barn at Olmstead Place Historical State Park
Red barn with barn quilt and farm equipment at Olmstead State Park



I suggest planning a trip to this park in the fall (and bring a lunch). The leaves and giant red barn, make the perfect backdrop for an Instagram picture, an artist to create or just a crisp, peaceful walk.

Dog at Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park
Scout enjoying the trails at Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park

Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park

I have visited Ginkgo in the winter and just recently in the summer. Both times I've been in awe of how beautiful this park is. It offers desert terrain and unmatched views of the Columbia River. Ginkgo is famous for its rare specimens of petrified Ginkgo trees discovered there in 1932.

This park is set up a little different than our other parks. Instead of it being all in one spot, the trail is separated from the camping areas and Interpretive Center. Your map will most likely take you to the Interpretive Center. The center features a museum with more than 30 varieties of petrified wood, including the famous and rare Ginkgo tree. Before you move on, look out onto the river and spot how the ice age floods shaped the walls of the Columbia River Gorge.

Once you are done there, drive down Vantage Highway to the Trees of Stone Interpretive Trail for an interactive look at more pieces of petrified wood, while you walk along the trails. This trail is cool because there are many different paths going up, down, and side to side – you can choose the difficulty level and distance for yourself.

Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park museum
Museum at the start of the interpretive trail at Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park
Snake sign at Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park
Snake warning sign at Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park

One thing to note: if you visit this park in the summertime, watch out for snakes. The last time I was there in June, I saw a big rattlesnake. Become very aware of your surroundings to protect yourself, dogs and whoever else came with you. But despite the rattler, Scout gave the trail two paws-up, particularly because I'd brought enough water and treats to keep her happy.

You can turn your day trip into an overnight stay by booking a reservation at the Wanapum Recreation Area at Ginkgo. Once you reserve your spot, cap off the hot day with a refreshing swim or boat float in Wanapum Lake.

And if you are looking for more adventure, try another part of our Palouse to Cascades Trail just down the way on the other side of the I-90. The new Beverly Bridge (finished earlier this year) is a magical trail, crossing over the Columbia River into the town of Beverly.

Before the snow hits, plan your adventure to central Washington. And if you do go, please tag us in your photos!

Originally published August 24, 2022

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