Waterworks Canyon Trailhead
Cleman Mountain is a large mountain with breathtaking views named for an early explorer in Central Washington. It’s located to the northwest of Yakima and is clearly visible from nearly anywhere in the Yakima or Naches Valleys. It is by far the tallest landform in the area, which is particularly evident at the summit which offers panoramic 360-degree views showcasing Mt. Adams, the Goat Rocks, Mt. Rainier, the William O. Douglas Wilderness and Mt. Stewart.
And, what a magical day it turned out to be! I spotted four mule deer, two rattlesnakes, gopher snakes, many lizards and thirty Rocky Mountain big horn sheep. The desert-steppe country was alive with colorful spring wildflowers. Ridge tops were covered with the pink blossoms of bitterroot, the signature desert-steppe flower. Other wildflowers were salsify, desert daisies, balsamroot, larkspur, lupine, Thompson’s paintbrush, wild onion, death camas, campion and phlox.
I began the hike by going through a gate in an elk fence, entering the great outdoors and leaving civilization behind. For the first two miles there was a rough trail following the Canyon bottom, sometimes venturing into the steep scab rock below the rimrock cliffs in narrow portions of the Canyon, while gaining 1,300 feet of elevation. At this point, I climbed to a saddle in the eastern Canyon rim, gaining a hard-fought 400 feet of elevation.
After catching my breath on a comfortable rock, I noticed a mule deer buck trotting across the ridge less than one hundred yards away. He stopped, noticed me and began walking back in my direction. He got an award for being a fine poser. This was the beginning of many sightings of reptiles and game animals. A short time later, I began the last 1,300 feet of elevation gain to the 5,000 feet summit of Mount Cleman. On the way I almost stepped on a medium-sized rattlesnake.
Summit of Cleman Mountain
The top of the Mountain was wide open with only a few scattered Ponderosa Pines. Views on the top extended 360 degrees. I spent a good hour exploring the area before beginning the return hike.
All in all, the hike was eight miles in length with 3,300 feet of elevation gain; tough but fun. It took me eight hours to cover the eight miles: a sure sign of how much I truly enjoyed and savored the trek.
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