This unique garden although not a typical trail, offers a variety of plants, pools and sitting areas along with one mile of walking paths. It is a fee-based locale which as of 2023 costs $8 per adult, 6-17 year olds are $4 and age 5 and under are free. You can also purchase a yearly membership for garden entry. Ohme is open seasonally, closing mid-October and reopens in the spring. Check the Ohme Gardens website for more information.
The History of Ohme Gardens: Ohme Gardens began in 1929 when Herman Ohme purchased 40 acres of land which included a 5-acre apple orchard, an old house, and a high rocky bluff with nothing but sagebrush and dry grass overlooking the Wenatchee Valley and Columbia River. “It occurred to me at once what to do with this rock that nature had left after millions of years in the making. The rock had beautiful formations for a garden.” It was then that Herman first planted a few trees and started a small rock garden.
Not long after beginning work on his hilltop garden, he met Ruth Orcutt and the two were married, beginning a partnership that would ultimately lead to the development of Ohme Gardens. Working together in their orchard they often ended their days sitting on top of their rocky bluff enjoying the view and dreaming of building a house on their view property. But this was the start of the Great Depression and banks were not loaning money. Undeterred, they started work on their yard for the time being. Driving their Studebaker coupe to the nearby Cascade Mountains they loaded up the rumble seat and running boards with young trees, ferns and shrubs to transplant to their bluff. As there was no water up on the outcropping, they filled 5-gallon milk cans at their nearby orchard and drove them up the hill to hand water their transplants.
Truckloads of flat rock were collected from the banks of the Columbia River near where Rocky Reach Dam is today, to create pathways, benches, and tables. After the dam was built in 1962 covering their source of stone, the Ohmes found similar rock outcroppings on surrounding hillsides. They used sledge hammers and wedges to get the stone they needed. In addition to bringing in rock, tons of rocks were removed to clear areas for lawns and pathways. Much of that rock became the wall that runs along the western border of the Gardens. Often an old army stretcher was used to haul the rock. The larger rocks were transported with a mule pulling a plank sled. Herman would then use a big crowbar to walk or roll the rocks into place. “You couldn’t hire me to do that” he said, “it was a labor of love.”
After ten years working in their spare time on summer evenings and in the fall when harvest was over, they had two acres developed and the little patch of green against the brown hillside was starting to get a lot of attention. Word started to spread and more and more people came up to admire their handiwork. When The Wenatchee Daily World published a story on the Gardens with photos, the following Sunday some 500 locals came out to look at the man-made wonder. In 1939, Herman bowed to the urging of his friends and admirers and opened the Gardens to the public. Partly to help offset the rising maintenance costs and partly to keep from being overrun, they charged 25¢ per carload. But instead of keeping people away as he expected, the admission charge did just the opposite, it attracted even more people! Finally, Herman & Ruth leased out their orchard and turned all of their attention to doing what they loved to do – developing what would become known as ‘Ohme Gardens.’
Never intending it to become a tourist attraction, Ruth commented, “We just wanted to build a nice backyard.” Neither botanists nor landscape architects, the Ohmes relied on their intuition and achieved striking results, largely by trial and error. There was never a written plan; they simply carried out what they envisioned, depending on their inborn sense of beauty and proportion, to create a garden completely in keeping with its inspiring vista. The intention was not the development of a formal flower garden, but of informal, natural alpine beauty.
One of their two sons, Gordon, showed an interest and ability toward the land and took over management in 1953. Gordon, along with his wife Carol, expanded the Gardens another five acres in addition to his father’s original four and installed a carefully engineered and practically invisible sprinkling system with over 140 sprinkler heads.
As the Gardens grew word spread and by the 1950’s the annual number of visitors was nearing 20,000 and the Gardens were gradually becoming self-supporting. In the 1960’s, several magazines including Life, Women’s Day, Holiday, and Better Homes & Gardens wrote articles rating Ohme Gardens among the leading gardens in America which brought national prominence and even more popularity. Since then, the Gardens have been featured in many national and regional publications.
Sadly, Gordon Ohme became ill and was unable to continue working in the Gardens. In 1991, the Gardens were sold to the State of Washington to keep them open and available to the public in perpetuity. In 2008, the State transferred ownership to Chelan County which now administers it as a self-supporting attraction. The Gardens change throughout the seasons! For more information: www.ohmegardens.com.
Stats: Ohme Gardens offers over 1 mile of natural stone pathways. These can be tricky to navigate for those with mobility issues. If you do have mobility issues we suggest you stay in the main grassy areas to avoid trip hazards. Ohme does offer walking sticks to help those navigate the steps.
There are 53 stone benches, seven water pools and four waterfalls.
Hours of Operation: Ohme is open seven days a week from 9am-6pm. The last entry to the garden is at 5:15pm. This is a seasonal locale closing mid-October and reopening in the spring.
Animals: Pets are not allowed in the gardens.
Leave It Better Than You found It. This should be every outdoor user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others.
Disclaimer. Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Conditions change and those contributing these reports are volunteers–they may make mistakes or not know all the issues affecting a route. You are completely responsible for yourself, your actions, and your safety. If you won’t accept that responsibility, you are prohibited from using our information.