Yakima: A Cave Hike, an Amazing Campground and A Plethora of Breweries!
We were in total darkness, feeling our way through the center of Boulder Cave, when I decided to investigate the source of the screaming we could hear. These weren’t the sounds of terror, however, but the distinctive sound of children who were having a blast. They weren’t in our cave though, so of course we needed to investigate!
It started when I grabbed my wife, Rhonda, and our two girls for a random adventure. We decided on Yakima Valley as the destination. Rhonda researched spots to stay and ran across the Elk Ridge Campground. I liked the idea of camping and she loved the idea that the campground offered cabins.
Without doing too much research (or planning) beforehand, we loaded up our mini van and headed over Chinook Pass on Highway 410. Rhonda reminded me of her hiking rule, which states that all family hikes must be on a wheelchair-accessible trail. None of the four of us require a wheelchair, but she, Rhonda, flat out doesn't like to hike and assumes that ADA trails will likely be flat. This rule has become a law of sorts for our adventures and I have found some great spots.
Boulder Cave was recommended by Tim Hoefer, the proprietor of Elk Ridge Campground. I pulled him aside and asked if it was wheelchair accessible. He glanced at my kids and wife and then nodded saying something about getting a stroller up there if we needed to. So, he had said yes and confirmed with a nod! (That rule turned law is not written down anywhere and I find gray areas when in a pinch.)
The hike itself was very easy, but the heat made the haul up a short hill (300 feet gained) somewhat of a drag. Rhonda was complaining and asking where all the wheelchair hikers were. I reminded her that there were some handicapped spaces back at the parking lot and that softened her up a bit.
We reached the entrance to Boulder Cave in a short time and this is when we heard kids screaming and laughing just up and off the trail from here. I asked Rhonda if she wouldn't mind hanging out while me and the girls went to check it out. "Of course we could," she said with a relaxed exhale, sitting on a rock next to the sign reading Stay on Trail. (Note: Stay on Trail was for safety inside the cave and it is ok to explore outside where we went.)
We scrambled some rocks and couldn't believe what we discovered hidden beyond the main trail. A waterfall flowed into a crystal clear pool inside a smaller cave. It was straight of a movie or fantasy fiction.
The girls got in and I snapped some pictures, but we would have to come back another day to explore this place some more. If I stood just right, Rhonda came into view and she was playing on her phone. We needed to head back before she lost all patience.
We hopped the same rocks back and after telling Rhonda all about it, I sensed a little spark of adventure. She might not ever admit it, but she wants to see this small bit of paradise someday.
Now for the main cave. There are signs about bats and all four of us wiped our feet clean as directed. The trail itself is very easy to follow and gets just dark enough in the middle to get a sense of total darkness. We shut our flashlights off, just our phone flashlights were plenty bright. This made the girls a bit nervous, not that they’d admit it.
The far side of Boulder Cave had a series of stairs and decking platforms. The views were stunning! The same creek that fell into that other cave and created the most picturesque pool that I have ever seen, also carved out a beautiful little canyon here.
We climbed back out and then back down to the car. My wife muttered something about never going in a cave again. I took note of this new rule and have already thought of a few workarounds.
I had promised the family hot food and beer. Well, the kids wanted hot food and I wanted a beer. Just down the 410 before hitting the actual town of Naches, we passed Bron Yr Aur Brewering Company. This place was perfect for all of us! Their pizza is the best we found in the Yakima Valley and their beer was top notch as well. Our family will stop for a slice anytime we pass through from now on.