Almost time to tear another page off the family calendar, June is right around the corner. We get it–you are busy. School is ending, it’s time to close second quarter at work, and all your vacation plans are likely hinging on perfect execution of task lists over the next few weeks. I might be projecting. If this is you and you need a few days of mother nature to bring you back, look no further and spend a few days in Walla Walla to refill the tanks.
Easily accessible via a few hours in the car from any number of larger metropolitan areas across the Pacific Northwest, leaving after work on Friday leaves plenty of time to enjoy 48 hours in Walla Walla. For the month of June, marry the convenience of spending a night in a hotel with the thrill of spending a night under the stars. The weather is slightly more predictable than in May, and likely this year everything will still be in bloom, especially in the mountains. Pack your backpack, you are headed to Walla Walla!
Lodging Options: The Best of Both Worlds
You’ve had a long week and a few hours in the car. Luckily no matter which direction you approach the Walla Walla Valley from, it is spectacular. Crank up your favorite playlist and know that relaxation is waiting at the base of the Blues. For convenience sake, the Quality Inn & Suites and Best Western Plus Walla Walla are located just off the highway and near our restaurant recommendation for the evening. Both hotels boast a reasonable price point and a place to take a shower (it will be the last of the weekend).
If rolling into town with your trusty camper, there are two in-town options. The Blue Valley RV Park is close to downtown Walla Walla, which makes exploring historic downtown and walking to restaurants much easier. The other option is RV Resort Four Seasons, which is on the southwest side of town. Though not within walking distance, it is near Safeway which makes any last minute trail snacks and camping supplies easy to acquire. Based on the location of the trail and camping area recommended for Saturday night, we would not suggest travel trailers. I wish we had an in-town camping option; we’ve heard folks are working on this.
Your Outdoor Recreation Itinerary
Prepare for 48 hours of pure Blue Mountain outdoor fun. Showing off the best of spring and taking advantage of clean, crisp air makes for stunning viewscapes. The plan for this month is to hike the gorgeous North Fork Umatilla Wilderness area. Of course, we’ll keep your belly full of fresh, local fare grown in and around the valley. Let’s get this weekend started!
Friday @ 7:00 p.m. → Dinner at Crossbuck Brewing
If you opted to stay at one of the recommended hotels, Crossbuck Brewing is in the same shared parking lot. You’ll know you are in the right spot when you see the train car next to the old brick depot that now houses both Crossbuck Brewing (family-friendly, casual atmosphere) and Walla Walla Steak Company (more formal establishment great for celebrating a special occasion). The community is pretty excited about the recent renovation and revived atmosphere of the depot as it is definitely a local treasure.
Recently, Crossbuck Brewing came out with a special Belgian White called the Blues Crew Lavender Wit for Earth Day. Utilizing ingredients from our local Blue Mountain Lavender Farm, Crossbuck Brewery donated a portion of the proceeds to the Blue Mountain Land Trust–the organization that manages the Blues Crew. The Blues Crew is a group of volunteers who work with our local agencies to maintain and improve trails throughout the valley and into the Blue Mountains. Point being, Crossbuck Brewing sources local and supports local–thank you! Their beers change regularly, so even though the Lavender Wit is likely tapped enjoy a plentiful selection.
The menu will definitely support what we have in store for you tomorrow: great burgers, generous appetizers, and an awesome kids menu if you brought your littles. We haven’t tried the Walla Walla Steak Company yet, but their website pretty much sums it up, “The historic train depot has long served as Walla Walla’s front door…two unique spaces united by warm hospitality and menus rooted in the agricultural bounty of Eastern Washington.” I often tease that I’m a beer gal stuck in a wine town, so sprinkling a brewery in here and there are welcome additions. Enjoy your meal and get some rest. Tomorrow, you hike!
Saturday @ 8:00 a.m. → Breakfast at Taqueria Yungapeti
Feel free to get an earlier start especially if you plan on hiking the entire trail; Taqueria Yungapeti opens at 7:00 a.m. on Saturdays. Their breakfast burritos are amazing. You really can’t go wrong, and you’ll have plenty of fuel for the climb (I mean hike). If you plan on camping, make sure you grab any remaining supplies in Walla Walla. If returning for another night at the hotel, make sure to bring ample snacks and lots of water. Get ready for an absolutely eye poppingly beautiful drive. Locals and visitors alike are in for a treat. This part of the world really isn’t on the way to anything, unless you are taking the really, really long way to La Grande, so it’s totally possible you’ve never taken this route.
Saturday @ 9:30 a.m. → Hike Nine Mile Ridge Trail
The Nine Mile Ridge Trail has a lot going for it. Access is possible from the Buck Creek Trailhead (lower) and Nine Mile Ridge Trail (upper). It is located in the North Fork Umatilla Wilderness area, so the trail is open to foot traffic and horseback riders and isn’t heavily used. At 6.8 miles, it is totally possible to conquer the entire trail in a long day, but don’t push it. Typically, as a family, we make it about 2.5 miles from the lower trailhead, which is the section that gains the most elevation. In less than a mile, the trail leaves its lush creekside drainage bottom and climbs along the hillside, traversing in and out of flora-rich gulches. The views are second to none. By the time you climb a little over 1,000 feet in just over two miles, you will need to take a snack break because it is time to take a few moments and enjoy the view. The South Fork of the Umatilla River is visible at the canyon bottom. The forest is dense on the opposing north slope, while the trail sidehills up the wildflower covered south side. This is actually a common feature of the Blue Mountains.
We really could go on and on about this trail, but hopefully we’ve peaked your sense of discovery. It is worth mentioning that the trail likely hasn’t been maintained even by June. Expect to duck under a few trees, push through brush at times, and cross a few washed out areas. The first half mile is in need of the most brush clearing. The trail in general is in pretty good shape. We noticed flags indicating that perhaps the Forest Service is working on the trail, and it is likely on the Blue Mountain Land Trust’s Blues Crew radar as well. Be sure to read the specifics on the Nine Mile Ridge Trail BEFORE you go as the trail isn’t well marked and there are two other trails that start at that trailhead. There is also no service in this area, so Google can’t come to the rescue; consider printing the details.
Saturday @ 3:30 p.m. → Decide Where to Set Up Camp
By all means take your time enjoying the trail and the views. Observe the little things–the delicate flowers, the insects, the animal tracks, and maybe even a rubber boa if you are lucky. The only other thing you need to do today is find a place to camp. Umatilla Forks is the only campground in the area, but there are plenty of places to dispersed camp along the South Fork of the Umatilla River. If camping with truck and camper, you might throw your bike on the hitch so that you can secure a great dispersed spot along the river and ride your bike to the trailhead. Worst case scenario, Umatilla Forks Campground is a quarter mile from the trailhead, so pick a spot and walk to the trailhead. At the trailhead, parking is available for about eight vehicles, and it would be tough but not impossible to maneuver a bigger vehicle.
If you opt to head back to Walla Walla for the second night, there is plenty to keep you busy. The Walla Walla Sweets summer collegiate baseball team has a few home games this month. With all the tasting rooms downtown there is usually live music somewhere. We love Sweet Basil Pizzeria followed by a treat or two at Colville Street Patisserie. Assuming your legs aren’t screaming at you, Whitman College is just east of downtown. The campus is quite lovely and the neighborhoods surrounding are worth a gander. Whether you spend a night under the stars or in the comforts of a hotel room, we hope you enjoyed a day in the wilderness without any possibility of hearing the ding of an alert, call, text, or email.
Sunday @ 10:30 a.m. → Breakfast at Long Branch Cafe & Saloon
Waking up to the sound of a river just does great things for the soul. You still can’t check your social media feeds if you opted to camp, and likely by now you really don’t want to either. Take a leisurely walk through the forest with your campfire coffee or skip a few rocks with the kids. The Buck Creek Trail, Buck Mountain Trail, Lick Creek Trail, and North Fork Umatilla River Trail are also nearby, so by all means go for round two if you are up for it. Otherwise, once you get packed up treat yourself to small town hospitality at the Long Branch Cafe & Saloon. Located in Weston, Oregon on the way back to Walla Walla, the Long Branch Cafe & Saloon is housed in a charming brick building at the heart of town and displays quite a collection of antiques. Steak and eggs will no doubt offset any calories burned yesterday or better yet the biscuits and gravy. Fuel up for the drive home; we have one more stop in mind for you.
Sunday @ 2:00 p.m. → Tour the Blue Mountain Lavender Farm
Located on the west side of town, so perhaps a convenient way to start making your way home, the Blue Mountain Lavender Farm is 10 acres of pure joy. Rows and rows of mature plants blanket the rolling hills. They have many varieties growing and available for purchase. The gift shop is always full of thoughtful items, including lavender-filled stuffed animals. There are a plethora of resources available to help you cook with lavender or grow your own plants. We can’t think of a better way to end a relaxing weekend in Walla Walla than taking a few items home that can help extend those feelings.
Sunday @ 4:30 p.m. → BONUS HIKE at Twin Sisters
If home is west of Walla Walla, then consider one last stop at Twin Sisters near Wallula Gap. Just a few miles past the turn toward Tri-Cities, Yakima, Spokane, or Seattle or on the way to the Portland, the view is well worth the detour. This quick hike jogs up the canyon and the view of the Columbia River from just a few hundred feet above the road is absolutely stunning. Not a bad place to pause for one last round of reflection.
Thank you for visiting the Walla Walla Valley and Blue Mountains. We assure you that this is just one of countless ways to spend a weekend outside Walla Walla. Come back anytime–we look forward to seeing everyone near and far on the trail.