Rattlesnakes and Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep on Mount Cleman

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.

Knowing the enchanting upper alpine areas in the Cascade Mountains would not be open for several months, a few years ago in late May I headed for Waterworks Canyon near the Naches River.  The area I planned to hike was desert-steppe turning to desert-alpine near the summit. From a distance the country looks barren, but it has its own beauty when explored up close. 

Mule Deer Buck

Bighorn Sheep


Magical Day

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 elevationAt this point, I climbed to a saddle in the eastern Canyon rim, gaining a hard-fought 400 feet of elevation

Big Horn Ram


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. 

Rattlesnake heading in the right direction



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.

Naches River from summit



Mt. Adams over Goat Rocks

Bighorn Sheep

Naches River



Categories: Washington Cascades HikesTags: , ,

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