UPDATE: AS OF MARCH 2022 ACCESS TO GRAYBACK MOUNTAIN HAS BEEN CLOSED BY THE PRIVATE LANDOWNERS. PLEASE RESPECT THEIR DESCION.
We kicked off our official 2021 hiking season with a bit of an obscure hike from Matt Reeder’s “Off the Beaten Trail” (2nd edition) guidebook. The hike to the summit of Grayback Mountain is a gated dirt road walk through mostly private lands to a view of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks. Because the road to the summit passes through private land it is important to respect the landowners rights, Leave No Trace and be aware that access could be closed at anytime. The hike starts on Washington Department of Natural Resources Land (A Discover Pass is required to park) at a parking area at a gate.
To reach the trailhead we took Washington Highway 142 north from Lyle, WA 23.3 miles to a junction with the Glenwood-Goldendale Road where we turned left for an additional 5.6 miles to an unmarked junction with Grayback Road on the right. (The road crests just beyond this junction and begins to descend into the Klickitat River Canyon.) We followed Grayback Road for 0.6 miles to the parking area at the end of a meadow.
Looking back toward the meadow.
After checking out the various wildflowers around the trailhead we set off past the gate on Grayback Road.
Western white groundsel
Mahala Mat (Prostrate ceanothus)
We then just followed this road for 5.6 miles to a radio tower atop Grayback Mountain. There were several junctions with other roads along the way but by keeping more or less straight and uphill it was easy enough to follow the correct road.
Ranging in elevation from just over 2000′ to approximately 3700′ the scenery varied from oak and ponderosa pines interspersed with meadows to mixed conifers and then to open hillsides filled with wildflowers (mostly parsleys). The views were spectacular and we were fortunate to not only have relatively clear skies but little wind making our time at the summit quite pleasant. We saw no other people during the hike and I don’t think a minute went by that we didn’t hear at least one bird signing. Butterflies came out later in the morning and I spent much of the return hike trying to catch them at rest for pictures.
Showy phlox among the oaks.
Grayback Mountain from Grayback Road. The first 2.5 miles of the hike only gained 400′ while the next 3.1 gained 1400′.
Large head clover
Camas, much of which had yet to bloom.
Ponderosa pines along the road.
Woodland star and slender phlox
Pussytoes and camas
Oaks and ponderosas
<img src=”https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51153012403_83d088dc07_c.jpg” width=”800″ height=”600″ alt=”IMG_3197″>Death camas and parsley
Dark eyed junco
A more forested section of the road.
Dandelions in Mahala Mat
The real climb started at about the 4 mile mark at a junction below Grayback Mountain.
Sagebrush false dandelion
Climbing up Grayback Mountain
Red breasted nuthatch
First view of Mt. Hood since the trailhead.
Mt. Hood beyond the Klickitat River Canyon
Entering the meadows on Grayback Mountain.
Approaching the first view of Mt. Adams.
Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks
Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks
In the meadows.
A balsamroot surrounded by parsley.
Western meadowlark in a patch of Columbia desert parsley.
Radio equipment atop Grayback Mountain with Mt. Adams beyond.
Mt. Hood (we could just barely make out the top of Mt. Jefferson too.) from the summit.
The Klickitat River
Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks
Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks (the Klickitat River originates from Goat Rocks.)
Obligatory survey marker photo.
Looking east across the summit to the long ridge of Indian Rock. The boundary of the Yakima Indian Reservation is just on the north side of the summit.
A few gold stars still had petals.
A hairstreak but I’m not sure which type.
At least 4 ants on a large head clover.
Looking back south down Grayback Mountain.
There was a lot of white-stemmed frasera in the area but this was the closest one to blooming (and it’s a ways off).
Maybe a brown elfin. I couldn’t get a clear picture of this one.
Erynnis propertius – Propertius Duskywing (aka Western Oak Dustywing). There were lots of these duskywings flying about, it turns out that oaks are their host plants.
Another Erynnis propertius
Juba skippers caught in the act.
Anise swallowtail coming in for a landing on showy phlox.
Alligator lizard on a log.
Western fence lizard
I believe these to be Mylitta crescents.
After our relatively crowded previous outing at Columbia Hills State Park (post) the hike to Grayback Mountain was a welcome dose of solitude. While the flower display wasn’t as plentiful here it was still nice and there appeared to be plenty more to come. The view from the summit was worth the visit on its own and the near constant bird song made for a perfect soundtrack for the day. Happy Trails!
Flickr: Grayback Mountain