Maps quick view - #1 Map

Photo: Dead camera on the hike? You don’t say. Luckily Paul N. Robertson has posted some great photos like the one above at

As any entertainer worth his salt knows, timing can tip an act’s reception from adoring cries for an encore to a barrage of rotten tomatoes. Similarly, the timing of a recreational outing can determine whether the venture is a boom or a bust. Some outdoor acts are memorable no matter the conditions, while others may need a little performance enhancement. While I can’t speak to Blythe Lake’s standard performance, I was fortunate to visit during a moment worthy of a standing ovation.

I tacked this trail on as an addendum to a day spent in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge and hit the parking lot just as the sun began sinking behind the scabland coulees south of Moses Lake. Although I was threatened by the coming darkness, I shelved my anxiety and hit the trail. Within the first half-mile, the coulees and shrubs around me melted into a creamy gold, and I converted my slow meander into a jubilant lope. I don’t have the patience to slow down when savoring beautiful sunsets and soaring vistas. Instead, I itch to move faster and gobble up the sensational places Earth has to show off. So, with fanny pack bumping every step of the way, I zigzagged through a rolling jumble of trails, a modern-day cowgirl running toward the sunset, and away from my four-wheeled steed.

I could wax poetic about the lonely, golden beauty of this trail run, but rather than gushing about a trail that’s so devoid of human evidence that it makes you feel like the last person on Earth, I’ll offer SparkNotes and let visitors find their own poetry around Blythe Lake.

Here goes: Pretty lakes and bizarre rocks. Wild, people-free landscape. Hungry but sluggish mosquitoes. Unmarked but negotiable trails through open terrain.

Finally, visit at sunset. Let yourself roam and soak up the golden remains of the day.

Details, Details: Blythe Lake trail ramble

Maps. See our topo map below for more information. Note: Use ‘Print Preview’ to orient/scale the map before printing.

Activity. Trail running, hiking, fishing.

Nearest Town: Othello/Moses Lake.

Skill: 1

Fitness: 1

Distance: 1-5 miles 

Elevation Gain: Under 200 feet.

Best Seasons. Birders will enjoy viewing all the migrating birds in spring, but any season should make for a peaceful ramble.

Access. From Moses Lake, take State Route 17-S to 262-W. Follow 262-W for 10.2 miles. Just past the public access for Potholes Reservoir, turn left into the large gravel area across from Mar Don Resort. Take the primitive gravel road marked by a ‘Public Fishing’ sign that leads southward into the wildlife refuge. In 0.7 miles, pass Corral Lake on your left. After another 1.0 mile, arrive at Blythe Lake. The lake is not marked, but if you see a boat access and a large parking lot, you’re in the right spot.

Trip Instructions.

The route I chose is outlined below, but the hillside near Blythe Lake is webbed with game trails and Jeep roads, and the fun in this trip lies in making impulsive route choices. The horizon is broad and treeless and most of the trails run generally parallel to Blythe and Chukar Lakes (on the north side) and the basalt coulees (on the south side), so it’s easy to take random paths without getting lost. Feel free to indulge your whims and invent a new route. 

Approaching Blythe Lake, you’ll notice a gravel road to the right that leads uphill to a gate. Bypass the gate, heading south on a defunct primitive road.

  • In 0.5 miles, the road dwindles into a single track path.
  • In another 200 feet, the road forks. Turn right and follow a single track uphill. Soon, you will be greeted by the bizarre sight of regimented stripes of bunchgrass tufts growing along the path.  Scratch your head over this agricultural anomaly and, in 0.4 miles, hit a T- intersection with turns to the east and west. Turn left (east) onto a double track.
  • In 0.2 miles, merge left (north) with a gravel, double track road that points toward the lake.
  • In 0.1 miles, hit the Marsh Unit II boundary road, which could be linked to Crab Creek and the Marsh Loop with a bit of creative navigation. Turn right (north) onto the gravel road.
  • In 0.2 miles, the road ends at a low wall of boulders and a nesting box. Turn back from whence you came!

Hazards. Watch for rattlesnakes. Also, during hunting season, make yourself colorful so it’s apparent to the distant, gleaming eye that you’re not a trophy buck.

Land Ownership. Columbia National Wildlife Refuge is one of the 500 federally owned wildlife refuges that collectively protect 93 million acres of land and water.

Fees/Permits. None required for parking or entry into the refuge.

More Info. Blythe Lake, Chukar Lake, and Corral Lake are open to the public for fishing, as are many of the other lakes at the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.

Other Trips. Columbia National Wildlife Refuge has a number of options for hiking, trail running, and fishing. Potholes State Park and the Winchester Wasteway are also close by for paddling and hiking.

Reporter (and date). Shelly Forster, 9/25/2012

Leave It Better Than You Found It. This should be every outdoor user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull some noxious weeds along your route, throw branches over unwanted spur trails, don’t ride or walk wet trails when you’re leaving ruts/footprints deeper than ¼ inch…

 Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Conditions change, and those contributing these reports are volunteers–they may make mistakes or may not know all the issues affecting a route.You are still completely responsible for your decisions, your actions, and your safety. If you can’t live with that, you are prohibited from using our information.

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