Beautiful hills, views, and trails, immediately accessible from Wenatchee. It’s short to get there and sweet to walk. Look for these native plants and wildflowers along the Foothills.
Nearest Town: Wenatchee
Skill Level: 2 — Be aware, there is no signage for this route.
Fitness Level: 2 or 3-
Distance: 10.4 miles (round trip)
Elevation: 1,850 vertical-foot gain.
Recommended Season: Early April to early July and mid-September to November. Most years the wildflowers are wonderful between mid April and early June. This trail is closed by order of the PUD (the main landowner) from December 1 until April 1.
At the intersection of Fifth Street and Western Avenue in Wenatchee, head west (uphill) on Fifth Street for about 0.6 miles until the road hooks hard to the left (south) and becomes Number One Canyon Road. Carry on about 0.4 miles to where Sage Hills Road splits off to the right. Park here on the right (north) side of Number One Road. There is a small gravel pull off that can easily accommodate 6 or 7 cars if users park efficiently. (Elevation: 1,080’)
Note: The old parking area at the end of Sage Hills Road is now closed and posted with ‘No Parking’ signs. You can be ticketed and neighbors will happily call a towing company if you park there. Avoid this old spot, park at the spot mentioned above, and walk an extra 0.2 miles to the trailhead.
Maps: Our topo map below is overlaid with a few different routes in the Sage Hills. We’ve also noted the boundaries and ownership of the public land. Print on 8.5’x11” paper in portrait mode.
- Follow Sage Hills Road. Almost immediately the road Ys. Take the right fork and walk to a cul de sac at the end of pavement (0.2 miles).
- The Lester Trail starts at right side of cul de sac. Follow it uphill and then along the flats until you intersect a utility road leading to a water tower on Chelan-Douglas Land Trust property (0.4 miles). Cross road and remain on the trail. Locals now call this segment of the trail the Sage Hills Trail.
- After another 0.4 miles, you’ll hit a trail intersection. Go straight and then climb uphill on a trail with several swithcbacks that eventually cuts under a rock outcrop. Note: This section of trail was built in 2006 and the old, direct trail up the gut of the draw before you was decommissioned because it eroded badly. Please use the new trail.
- In 0.7 miles you you’ll come to a saddle (el 1,360′) where Five Trails intersect and named Five-Trail Saddle by locals. A hard right leads to private property, 2nd right drops into the Broadview development after 0.5 miles, 3rd right is the trail you want and leads to Coyote Canyon, a hard left goes up a steep ridge and is being decommissioned by the PUD.
- For the next 0.3 miles, a variety of trails and roads intersect your trail. Stay on the larger trail (not fainter spur trails) that climbs very gradually and contours (avoid trails dropping or climbing steeply).
- The trail intersects an old jeep road that goes up a ridge past powerlines and eventually reaches the skyline. Go straight, remaining on the trail that contours.
- After 0.95 miles you’ll intersect a double-track jeep road (elevation 1,780′). To reach this intersection you will have contoured above a draw (Coyote Canyon), dipped in and out of that draw, and climbed up two switchbacks. This new jeep road you’ve intersected follows along a long, undulating ridge that eventually drops down to the lower sections of Horse Lake Road.
- Turn left onto the Jeep road and follow it uphill for 50 or 60 yards. Right before the road starts getting quite steep, fade left onto a narrow path. For the next mile or more, this path will switchback up the same hill the Jeep road is climbing. Use the path which locals call the Lightning Trail. It is longer, but it was built in a sustainable way so that rain water runs off it without causing terrible erosion. The road, however, because it follows the fall line, erodes badly when it rains; the Wenatchee Valley Trails Committee working with the PUD hope to decommission and revegetate this road in the near future.
- After 0.6 miles (el 2,050’) the trail rejoins the road on a small, flat bench in the hill. Walk up the road for 20 or 30 yards passing one trail on your right (it goes flatish and then downhill). Take the second trail on the right side which gradually keeps climbing.
- This trail will recross the road a few more times in the next half mile then eventually leaves the road and heads off left (south) away from the ridge the road follows. At an elevation of 2,570 feet, the trail passes the first Ponderosa Pine and then climbs into a zone with a mixture of Ponderosa Pines and Douglas Firs. At an elevation of 2,785 feet (1.35 miles from the intersection with the Jeep Road at the small bench mentioned in the last step), you’ll come to a fork in the trail.
- To enjoy the views from the Ponderosa Ridge overlook, take the left branch which contours more than climbs. (This spur is not drawn on the map, but would contour south from the intersection at 2,785 ft that is on the border between PUD and DNR land). Follow this trail for another 0.25 mile. The trail gets fainter as you go. After a quarter of a mile and at an elevation of 2,830 feet, the trail emerges onto a flattish open ridge with very nice views of Mission Ridge to the south west and the Columbia River to the south. The trail peters out here. Enjoy the views and then return by retracing the route to the intersection. From here, either head back down the Lightning Trail or take the northwest fork to the upper Horse Lake Reserve.
There is no signage back here so you need to follow instructions well and/or be good at reading a map to find this route. You’ll find ticks back here in early spring, rattlesnakes in late spring and summer (leave them alone). Intense heat after early July.
There are a variety of ‘hot’ buttons pertaining to use of the Sage Hills. Failure to use the area responsibly will threaten public access to the area in the future.
1) Make sure to park legally as described under access.
2) The desert vegetation is very fragile. Stay on the major trails and don’t follow faint new trails or fall-line spurs down steep grades (these erode badly when it rains).
3) Because most of the property is wildlife habitat managed by the PUD, the area is closed to the public between December 1 and April 1.
4) County ordinances require that dogs be leashed–this is especially important on the first 1.25 miles of the walk where the trail borders private land and dogs chasing after landowner’s horses and pets has created some resentment of the trail users enjoying the area.
Uses Allowed: Walking, running, mountain biking, pets on leash.
Uses Not Allowed: No motorized vehicles allowed. This is by order of the different property owners (private landowners, Chelan-Douglas Land Trust, and the PUD). Motorcyclists, ATVers, and snowmobilers occasionally recreate back here and they should be politely informed they are prohibited on these lands.
Land Designation: The Sage Hills are a mixture of private, Land Trust, and PUD property. The southern portion of the trail (The Lester Trail) is open due to the generosity of the Lester Family. The PUD is the largest land owner, and the 960 acres it owns are managed as wildlife habitat to replace habitat lost as a result of the Rock Island Dam.
Fees/Permits: None required.
Related Articles: Preserving Paradise, Sage Hills–Trails Update
Trip Reporter: Andy Dappen, May 2006. Updated September 2008 and June 2013.
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…
Disclaimer. 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.