by Robert Eversole
My first brush with Conrad Meadows came because of a suggestion from Ken Wegner of K&S Saddlery. I remain very grateful for the heads-up on the area. Ken’s advice for a wonderful place to ride was just as perfect as his recommendations for a new saddle. I suggest you take the time and plan a trip to Conrad Meadows in 2014.
Conrad Meadows is the largest sub-alpine meadow in the Cascade Range and is famed for the patchwork of meadows, water crossings, dense forest, gorgeous lakes and rocky peaks that make up the area. Level 5, Warm Lake and the Devil’s Horns are all names of areas around this truly wonderful riding destination located in Yakima County. Getting there is as simple as driving 34 miles west from Yakima on Highway 12, then heading south on Forest Service Road 1200 and then south again on Forest Service Road 1000. Stay on the 1000 road for about 13 ½ miles to the end. Once you reach the end of the road you’ve arrived.
On the east side of the road is an especially large and pleasant camp area that is bounded to the east by the frigid waters of the South Fork of the Tieton River. There are open areas for those with corrals and trees perfect for a highline. Interestingly, the campground and much of the surrounding locale is private property. That a private land owner allows complete strangers to camp and ride across his property is simply amazing; what a wonderful gift. That very generous landowner is Mr. Herke and he is often sighted driving through camp. Should you see him, take the time to thank him for the opportunity to camp and ride.
The Herke’s use this land for cattle grazing and doubtless you’ll see cattle on your ride. And, yes, the herd will come into your camp to feast on any leftovers from your stock. They might also make short work of your camp kitchen so keep a clean space to avoid problems. Make sure to leave your camp better than you found it and please don’t harass the cattle. Ensure that this opportunity remains available and open in the future by being a considerate guest.
Riding at Conrad Meadows ranges from leisurely meandering in the flat valley bottom, to rides on the well maintained USFS trails, to cross country treks into areas such as the aptly named Devil’s Washbasin where a steady surefooted mount is welcome. One popular ride departs camp heading south through the flat valley meadows to the start of the Goat Rocks Wilderness (make sure to fill out a wilderness permit) and then ascends the valley walls and passes the delightful Surprise Lake before looping around and back down to the valley floor. For the more adventurous, this ride can be extended to include Warm Lake and Level 5, both of which require a bit of off trail cruising, a good sense of direction and an appreciation of heights.
In summary, Conrad Meadows deserves a spot on every trail rider’s bucket list. Vast grassy meadows, high alpine lakes, craggy peaks, good trails and a great camp await you and your horse or mule. As always, for more information on this and many other great horse riding and camping areas in Washington and beyond visit www.TrailMeister.com
Published March 2014 Issue