Treat Yourself to a Little Piece of Heaven
by Robert Eversole
Summer is here with campfires, sultry evenings, and fabulous food. But where to go? Living in the Pacific Northwest we’re more fortunate than we realize because we have one of the best horse riding and camping locations on the West coast available to us: Haney Meadows.
If you’ve already been acquainted, you know what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t yet heard of this exquisite place start planning a trip.
Haney Meadows is located on the eastern side of the Cascades, about thirty miles north of Ellensburg off of Highway 97, near Blewett Pass. After exiting the smoothly rolling asphalt you’ll have about 10 miles of Forest Service road to enjoy on your way into camp. Although much improved from past years this bumpy, narrow, uphill slog is a small price to pay for admission into a high country wonderland with miles of trails to explore, fantastic rock formations, outrageous views, and blissful solitude.
During your drive to Haney Meadows you’ll see ample evidence of the 2012 Table Mountain fire that raged through the area. Stands of black charred and bleached white trees mingle in patches scattered throughout the forest. In the depths of these strikingly desolate, haunting even, areas you’ll see the surging re-growth that’s occurring throughout the burned regions. Waist high drifts of fireweed blooming in masses of purple and pink roll gently over the forest floor. Sharp eyes will catch glimpses of hummingbirds amongst the flowers, dancing a warm welcome for your visit here.
Ten miles, and about an hour, from the highway you’ll spot a sign at the entrance to the Ken Wilcox horse camp; your destination point. After the horrors of the fire you may be taken aback by how “normal” the camp appears. With the exception of the upper loop the majority of the camp areas were spared. The deep green pines and firs still tower over the cozy camp spots scattered along the loop drive through camp.
For the uninitiated, camp amenities consist of well-appointed campsites with fire pits, picnic tables, vault toilets, and hitch rails. Stock water is readily available either from the well pump and stock tank or Naneum Creek running just below the campgrounds. Scores of downed trees surround the camp so you’ll have plenty of fuel for campfires for gathering and telling tall tales of the day’s rides.
As wonderful as the Ken Wilcox Horse Horse Camp is, it’s not the camp that we come here for. It’s the riding. The riding is good. Very good.
Numerous trails radiate out from the horse camp and in turn loop and link with others forming a web of nearly 50 miles of trails to explore. The trails here are relatively mild with few “sporty” areas that are easily avoided. Although the space is shared with hikers, mountain bikers, and ORV’s in the 6+ years I’ve been visiting I’ve rarely encountered anything other than elk along the trails.
Before you head out, remember that Haney Meadows 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.
A Note of Caution: When riding and camping at Haney Meadows keep a close eye out for deadfalls. Although the trails have been cleared, dead trees will continue to fall as their roots slowly decay. A trail that is open now may well have a new log blocking it next week. Hang a saw from your saddle; you may be glad that you did. Likewise, don’t tie to a dead tree during your lunch stop. Your horse may not appreciate having his hitching post fall on him if you didn’t thoroughly check the stability first.
Robert Eversole, ”the trail meister,” owns www.TrailMeister.com, the largest database of horse riding and camping areas in the U.S. with free trail and trailhead information, trail maps, and much more to help horse enthusiasts experience the joys of trail riding. Robert is a registered riding instructor with PATH International, a mounted search and rescue team member, and a U.S. Marine who has served on the board of the Backcountry Horsemen of Washington (BCHW). He is enjoying his new career helping fellow trail riders stay found and safe on the trail. When not on the trail, The Trail Meister resides near Spokane, WA and teaches land navigation to a wide variety of outdoor groups across the nation. For North America’s largest horse trail and camping directory, trail tips, and more, visit www.TrailMeister.com.