Plan your visit the Yakima Valley in the spring. Enjoy acres of apple, cherry, peach, pear orchards in bloom driving along scenic country roads. Begin your drive with a stop at the Yakima Area Arboretum. Tour the grounds interesting vignette’s, from a rose garden to a Japanese garden, surrounded by beautifully landscaped areas adjacent to the Yakima Greenway Path. The Yakima Arboretum gift shop is filled with unique gifts, gardeners will appreciate. (Bicyclists will also enjoy this scenic ride with alternative directions on side roads with less traffic.)
Leaving the Arboretum this drive passes by the hop fields of Moxee, over Konnowac Pass southwest toward Zillah, WA. Scenic views of Yakima Valley fruit orchards in the spring, with blossoming fruit trees, the vibrant greens of summer and the changing colors of fall. Stop at a craft brewery or to sample Yakima Valley wines.
Directions: Take I-82 East, to Exit 34 (Nob Hill Blvd). Turn left off the freeway, left again at next light. (If you are riding a bicycle over the Konnowac Pass, you may leave your vehicle at the Greenway parking lot, this ride is about 27 miles. The pass is a moderate climb of more than two miles and a couple of short (1/4 mile) steep climbs to the top, down the other side, with the rest of the route being nearly level. Pavement quality is good and traffic generally light.)
As you leave the Arboretum turn right at the light heading east on Highway 24 toward Moxee City. (Bicyclists-There is a well marked wide shoulder; traffic speed is 55mph.)
Moxee is from the Native American word for “whirlwinds”. In the early 1880’s the Thorp Family settled the Moxee Valley, later Alexander Graham Bell and his wife’s family invested in a large farming operation. The Moxee Land Company sold 20-acre lots in the 1890’s to recruit settlers. Hops, first grown here in 1877, grew so well in this climate and soil that Moxee City, platted in 1910, became the Hop Capitol of the world. At hop picking time, hundreds used to camp and harvest the hops by hand culminating in a “hop festival”. The Yakima Valley celebrates hops with the annual Fresh Hop Ale Festival in Downtown Yakima, the first Saturday in October. Currently the Yakima Valley supplies over 78% of the Hops used in United States breweries and overseas markets. Arriving at Birchfield Road, to the left, you will see the Balebreaker Brewery, started by a longtime hop growing family. (Bicyclists: to use side roads turn right on Birchfield Road, then left on Bell Road, right on La Framboise Road, Right on Roballard Road which meets Konnowac Pass where you can turn right to continue up the pass.)
Continue on Highway 24, turn left on Faucher Road. Directly to you right you will see an operation Hop Kiln, used during harvest season. Hop fields, recognizable by the tall poles used to support the vines, reach the tops of the poles in summer. On you left you will see hop fields and an older barn.
At the Konnowac Pass Y, turn right. Konnowac Pass, through the Rattlesnake Ridge, was an old Native American trail connecting both ends of the Yakima Valley. Reaching the top of the small pass you will see the agriculture of the Yakima Valley stretched out below in a patchwork of white and pink as the cherry and apple trees blossom in spring.
Parker Heights Road, further down the pass, is on the right, just after a bend in the road. As you ride along this road surrounded by orchards, you will see Mt Adams and the distinctive wooden Hop Kiln designated a Heritage Barn of Washington State, in the distance.
When you reach the bridge over the irrigation canal, continue on the road which parallels the Yakima Valley Highway on the east side of the irrigation canal. To visit Windy Point Winery turn right up the hill past orchards. This boutique winery’s tasting room reflects the Frank Lloyd Wright style, designed and built to showcase Windy Point’s breathtaking views of the Yakima Valley.
When leaving, turn right at the end of the driveway and continue along the road under the freeway where you will see a small park at the Sunnyside Diversion Dam. A roadside marker tells the history of the site in a small park with picnic tables, overlooking the site of an ancient Native American fishery called – Ahwahtun, "deep water".
Continuing under the freeway proceed up the hill to Treveri Cellars, to enjoy their award winning sparkling wines and the views of Mt Adams from the patio. Further up the hill is Owen Roe Winery offering both white wine and special reds with grapes from the celebrated Red Willow Vineyards.
Return down the hill to Thorp Road to Birchfield Road. Turn right onto Highway 24, to return to downtown Yakima. (Bicyclists-If you have left your car at the Yakima Greenway. Greenway is on the right side of the road at the light after the bridge over the Yakima River.) Take I-82 West to Exit 33 to Yakima Avenue, bringing you directly to Downtown Yakima to experience wine tasting, art galleries, dining choices and entertainment.
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