75 Free Things to Do - Explore Nature
It may be snowy outside right now, but there are lots of opportunities to get outside and appreciate the natural surroundings of the Yakima Valley all season long. Here are some great suggestions for free activities and places to view birds, wildlife and native plants. Bring your binoculars and camera, grab a to-go lunch, lace up your boots and go enjoy the great outdoors!
- Watch elk and sheep being feed at the Oak Creek Wildlife Feeding Station. The elk are fed from the start of winter all the way through March, and the sheep are fed daily around mid-morning.
- Go birdwatching at the Toppenish Wildlife Area, a protected preserve for many migrating birds.
- Get down and dirty at the annual Pullin’ of the Greens event at the Yakima Area Arboretum. You can help maintain this beautiful area at the annual spring cleanup of the Arboretum grounds. Prune, plant, trim, spread bark, pull weeds, repair garden beds and more! Participants will be treated to a tasty cup of hot soup and other treats!
- Pick up a Yakima Area Wildlife Viewing Guide at the Yakima Valley Visitor Information Center, which lists over 25 locations to view specific species of birds.
- Make plans to attend the Yakima Area Arboretum Arbor Fest in mid-April. Celebrate spring, conservation, natural science and the city, state and national Arbor Days. There are lots of activities and crafts for kids!
- Enjoy the Interpretive Walk at Sportsman State Park. The Juan A. Alvarez Outdoor Living Classroom in the park has a short, paved ADA accessible trail and pier which enters a wetland area. This trail affords visitors a look at a living, working wetland.
- Take a drive through the Yakima River Canyon and see if you can spot a rare plant, the endangered basalt daisy, which grows only grows here! It typically is in bloom May through October, with a peak in June.
- View the blooming cacti at the Hillside Desert Botanical Gardens. Blooming time is Mid-April through July, and the best times to view are May through June.
- Take an Interpretative Walk in a cherry orchard at Washington Fruit Place at Barrett’s Orchards.
- Walk the Yakima Area Arboretum grounds all summer and enjoy the blooming Rose Garden, the intricate Japanese Garden and plenty of bird watching.
- Help the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy Project Butterfly. As summer progresses, the butterflies move up in elevation, from the Yakima Valley to the surrounding mountains. If you see a big orange butterfly with black spots, the Coronis Fritillary, you might be looking at one of their tagged subjects! Take a picture, and send it in with the date, time and location of the sighting. Location can be a verbal description of where you are, or GPS coordinates. Even if you don’t get a picture, let them know if you’ve seen one with their recording form.
- Attend the Washington State Audubon Campout at the Hazel Wolf Bird Sanctuary at the Wenas Creek Campground. Participate in a variety of free natural history and recreation opportunities: "Campfire" programs on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings, and Field Trips (both birding trips and wildflower trips) are scheduled Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
- Enjoy the sights of the Yakima Area Arboretum Luminaria Walk in early December. Walk on a pathway lit by luminaria thru the grounds while listening to Christmas Songs and warm up afterwards in the Center with hot chocolate and cookies. The grounds are especially beautiful when it is snowing.
- Learn about the only mammoth bones found in the Yakima Valley at the Wenas Mammoth Mobile Educational Exhibit at one of several public events throughout the Valley.
- Believe it or not, there are still dinosaurs in the Yakima Valley! Head down Dinosaur Drive in Granger to see the 32 dinosaurs scattered around the city. The kids will enjoy climbing on these life size-replicas of dinosaurs made of cement. Attend the Dino-in-a Day annual event in early June and you can help create the next dinosaur!
- Take the scenic drive out to visit the Goldendale Observatory.