North Columbia Basin Wildlife Area
What state am I in?! Oh, just eastern Washington! The Cascades mountain range divides Washington into two parts and it's amazing the difference in geography and climate between the west side and the east side. Ancient Lakes is a desert-like environment with canyons and many lakes that were carved during ice age flooding. In less than 3 hours from Seattle you can be transported from wet, lush, and green to...well, another world!
From the Ancient Lakes Road Trailhead, or sometimes called the lower lakes access point, sandy paths fan out in many directions. There are so many different lakes, and trails to those lakes/canyons, that you can choose from. This is a great place to make up your own hike! Simply wander and see where you end up. Or pull out a map and make a more elaborate plan to connect various trails and canyons together in a loop(s). On this day I choose to do what I'll label as the most typical and easily accessible loop route in the Ancient Lakes area. So, this report only covers my experience on that particular section and not the entirety of what Ancient Lakes has to offer. I only scratched the surface and I can't wait to go back next year to explore much further!
My route took me out around the namesake Ancient Lake itself. As you might expect in a desert-like environment, the trail is dusty and exposed, but completely flat (on this section). I took the path closest to the trail head and hiked out into the canyon, making my way clockwise. At the end of the canyon, you'll reach Ancient Lake (and a couple other lakes). You can choose to explore many paths here - stay up on a small ridge or drop down lakeside. Look around closely to notice several waterfalls running off the canyon walls!
While exploring the lakes, I noticed dark storm clouds had appeared in the distance. I figured I should get moving around the reminder of the loop. It would not be enjoyable to get caught in this exposed canyon during a storm. The dark clouds gave a different perspective on the canyon during my walk out, but fortunately it never did rain! Great day trip, less than 3 hours from Seattle, to experience eastern Washington.