Sage Hills

Wildflower season has arrived east of the Cascade Crest and I wanted to check it out. I contacted Janet and she had the same idea. She suggested Sage Hills. I was aware that it was right outside Wenatchee but I had never hiked there. Janet had made one previous spring visit and was eager for a return trip. I saw an online photo from two days previous and the wildflower show looked to be taking off. For many years I have sworn off any Sunday trips on Highway 2. Several of the few exceptions have provided several extra hours sitting in a miles long line and barely moving. Stevens Pass ski area just closed. The wildflowers looked to be outstanding. I chose to break the rule and hoped for the best. I met Janet and Steve in Monroe at 6:45 am and headed east. The drive is 143 miles from my North Seattle home. It is 106 miles from Monroe. That makes for a long drive hence the early starting time.

Traffic was almost non existent. Far less than a normal Sunday morning. I held out hope that we might not have a 4+ hour drive home. We chose the Maiden Lane trailhead. There is currently no trailhead just a dead end road. We parked in the neighborhood. If this were too packed we would have driven to one of the two trailheads on Horselake Road. Don't take every parking spot so locals can't use any of them. We packed up and headed onto the trail at 9:14 am. There is construction going on between the end of the paved road and the start of the trails. I could not tell if several more homes were going in or perhaps a trailhead.  A post hike Internet check has not provided the answer.

There is a real maze of trails. I found most of them showed up on my Gaia GPS map app for my phone. Janet also recommended a mountain biking app called Trailforks. It has all the trails and even shows the distance and elevation gain for each. I can imagine folks without maps trying to do loops and not being able to get back to their car. That is even more of a problem since there are multiple trailheads. There are no signs on the trails. One last point. The Sage Hills trails are closed from December 1 to April 1 to allow mule deer to winter in the area.

We headed up the Maiden Lane Connector trail. Wildflowers began immediately. Arrowleaf balsamroot were the stars of the day. We saw them near their peak all along our route. I was surprised to see that lupine were not far behind. They will be peaking in the next few weeks. Other wildflowers were not in such profusion but we did see quite a few different ones in bloom. Those included, phlox, death cames, larkspur, blue bells, spring beauty, ballhead waterleaf, desert parsley, salsify, prairie star, Douglas brodiaea, buckwheat, sagebrush buttercup, serviceberrry, and a few shooting stars. All in all, there was a lot of wildflower color to be seen. These are mountain bike trails so we expected to have to move off the trail periodically. We did so. The bikers were all courteous. We saw a stream of people but it was never crowded. We had long periods of solitude too. This country is so open we could see folks half a mile away on the trails.

We also had a steady stream of bird calls. We saw a number of meadowlarks and magpies. There were other birds I do not know by sight. Sound really carries and we spotted birds far away that sounded very close. After the Maiden Lane Connector we turned onto "The Gut". This trail turned to our right and headed at a more steady grade. I did drop and climb out of one creek bed. We hiked under a small power line and at the next junction we started heading uphill again. This was on the Lower Lightening Trail. At yet another junction we continued up on the Lightning Trail. Lots of switchbacks on the climbs. Since these are bike trails the grade is steady and never very steep. Longer than a typical hikers trail but very easy on the knees while descending.

We saw the balsamroot and lupine most of the way. In places the profusion was amazing. The trail is very narrow and at times seemed to almost disappear among the bright yellow and blue flowers. The Lightning Trail climbed to round a ridge and the grade eased as we entered a basin. This is where the flower show reached its climax. The best colors of the day were here. We stopped to have lunch in a sea of yellow. At 3.65 miles out this was our turn around point. The trail rounded the end of the basin just ahead and climbed the other side what appeared to be a ridge top. We were happy to hang out at our lunch spot. We stopped at 12:35 pm. We took 3:21 to hike 3.65 miles. That is really slow. That also included about 100 photo stops. This day was about enjoying the wildflowers not grinding out miles.

We packed up and started back at 1:09 pm. The downhill was much easier. It was only in the mid 40s when we started out but the sky was mostly sunny. We warmed up quickly. At times it was even quite warm in the sun. By lunch time clouds were moving in. It went from hot cold quickly as clouds covered the sun then moved away. I took a number of photos on the way out but far fewer than on the way in. The clouds became a good subject on their own. Up high we could see much of Wenatchee and the Columbia River. The trails really are not far from the city. We came of the trails at 2:52 pm. It took only 1:43 to hike down. Much to my surprise Highway 2 never backed up at all on the drive home. That is a really rare occurrence on a weekend any time of year.

I am always interested in hiking a trail for the first time. After almost 37 years they are hard to find. That alone was a big plus. We hit the wildflowers right near their peak. That was great. We did not expect to be alone and were weren't. Still, it was never very crowded. That was another plus. Having multiple trailheads helps there. Now comes the hard part. I have to go through 335 photos and half a dozen video clips to finish this report. That is not such a bad problem to have. This was a great hike.

Starting Out
Green Hills
Bright Balsamroot
Yellow & Blue
Getting Better!
Some Clouds
Flowers & Sky
Lupine & Balsamroot
Lupine Patch
Nice Mixture
Balsamroot Close Up
Big Flower Field
Tiny Flower
Wenatchee Is Below
Really Nice
Heading Up
Steve On Trail
Another Close Up
White Ballhead Waterleaf
Two Lupine Varieties
Douglas Brodiaea
Trail Climbs
Endless Flowers
Break Time
Birds Of A Feather
Terrific Color
Janet On Trail
Against The Sky
Shooting Star
Pink Flower
Spring Beauty
Trails Below
Best Is Coming
Near Turn Around Spot
Really Bright
Biker On Trail
Heading Back
On North Side Of Ridge
Steve On Route
Prairie Stars
Flower Shadows
Sage Hills Panorama
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2019