Haney Meadow: Then and Now
by Robert Eversole
Most people in Washington’s Back Country Horsemen community have heard of Ken Wilcox, our patron saint of back country equestrian trails. Many people have at least a passing knowledge of Ken’s namesake horse camp near Haney Meadow. Far fewer people have actually made the journey to the Ken Wilcox Horse Camp and enjoyed what was wonderful camping, scenery, and outstanding views in this gem of a spot. Unfortunately, the camp is now closed due to The Table Mountain fire of 2012 that burned about 42,000 acres. Most facilities within the camp such as toilets and picnic tables were not burned, but the camp will require considerable work before it is put back in use. An opening date for 2014 is still unknown. Dispersed camping is allowed, but be sure to bring your own water.
For the uninitiated, Haney Meadow is located on the eastern side of the Cascades about thirty miles north of Ellensburg off of Highway 97 at Blewett Pass. Once you exit the smooth rolling highway asphalt you and your favorite riding buddy are greeted by approximately ten miles of rather rough Forest Service road. This sometimes bone-jarring, consistently narrow and uphill drive is the price of admission into a high country of miles of trails, meadows, fantastic rock formations, and blissful solitude. Occasional views of Mount Rainier are available as well as a myriad of other peaks in the eastern Cascades.
An elevation of about 5,500 feet makes this a summer riding destination. By the time you’re reading this, conditions should be pretty favorable for a visit. Sadly, what was once a wonderland filled with stands of fir and ponderosa pine and vast fields of spring wildflowers is only a memory. It goes without saying that the views have changed significantly since 2012. That said, re-growth after fire is fascinating and the trail systems remain open for horseback riders. I wouldn’t recommend visiting unless you love adventure and have a chainsaw as burned trees are beginning to fall.
The trails start at higher elevations and stay high, with generally mild elevation gains and losses as you traverse the ridges nestled between the wild Cascade crest and the more open desert regions found to the east. These trails are multiuse so you’ll be sharing them with hikers, mountain bikers, and ORVs. Expect to see wildlife in abundance throughout the area.
Before you head out, remember that Haney Meadow is located in the Wenatchee National Forest and all livestock users are required to use certified weed-free hay or processed feed, also be sure to have your Northwest Forest Pass when you’re there. It is recommended you research the area before riding, taking care to note current fire danger alerts and warnings. Help preserve access to these trails by following all Leave No Trace guidelines and protocols, looking forward to the day when Ken’s great horse camp is re-opened and the area again blossoms.
As always, for more information on this and other riding areas in Washington and beyond, please visit www.TrailMeister.com.
For more information about the Ken Wilcox camp ground/Haney Meadow, as well as other horse camping opportunities and trails in the Okanagan-Wenatchee areas, please visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/activity/okawen/recreation/horseriding-camping/?recid=57113&actid=30
Originally Published August 2014 Issue