With such a diverse landscape, it’s no wonder Kittitas County is a great place to just go for a drive. You may have to make more than one trip to see it all. Some of the best things to check out along the way include fall foliage, basalt canyons, rolling pasturelands, the Yakima River, peaceful forests, mountains and the mighty Columbia River.
Explore Washington State’s Barn Quilt Trail with a scenic drive through Kittitas County. The Barn Quilts are a beautiful way to honor Kittitas County’s agriculture industry and the farmers and ranchers that settled in the area. Each quilt block displays traditional or modern quilt block designs and will have special significance to the farm or ranch. This is a self-guided tour available year-round. Click below to find a map of Kittitas County’s Barn Quilt Trail, which includes information about each barn’s history and the meaning of its quilt block.
State Highway 10
When staying in Ellensburg, you shouldn’t miss a chance to drive Highway 10, where the Upper Yakima River Canyon winds its way through pasture, steep cliffs and wooded areas. From downtown, head west on University Way. Take a right on to Reecer Creek Road. Take an immediate left on Highway 10. It twists all the way up to Cle Elum, giving the motorist views of some of the most scenic areas around.
State Route 821
Main Street in downtown Ellensburg eventually turns in to Canyon Road, which becomes State Route 821 — one of the most scenic drives around. The road, a twisty and narrow drive, has jaw-dropping views of the Yakima River. The winding water is walled in by cliffs so high, you’ll have to stick your head out of the car window just to see the top. But be careful! These roads have some sharp curves. This is also a great route to take if you’re headed to Yakima.
Interstate 90 at Vantage
The powers of the ancient floods that once swept across the Pacific Northwest are evident here, where the Columbia River pounds its way through canyons of basalt cliffs and hills of sagebrush. You won’t see much in the way of houses here. It’s all Mother Nature. To get there, head out of town and take Interstate 90 east for about 30 miles. The Columbia River is straight ahead.
Reecer Creek Road to Lion Rock
If you’re looking for fall foliage, this is the drive to take. Most of the Ellensburg area is considered arid, so there isn’t a great deal of fall color here. But this trip isn’t lacking. For the best fall color viewing, take this drive in mid- to late-October. To get there, head west on University Way from downtown Ellensburg. Take a right on Reecer Creek Road and stay on it for several miles. Go past all the farmland and head up the hill.
U.S. Highway 97
U.S. Highway 97 is the route to take if you’re headed to Wenatchee, Leavenworth or beyond. The route begins off U.S. Highway 10 and winds through some breathtaking pasturelands before getting to equally beautiful forest.
Suncadia resort near Cle Elum is a great place to go for an easy, well-paved and scenic forest drive. Plus there are great houses to check out along the way. The roads meander through preserved forestlands and past pristine golf courses. You can take two routes to get there. For the longer way, take scenic Highway 10, mentioned above. When it ends, take a left on to Highway 970, which quickly becomes state Route 903 and then First Street. That takes you straight in to Cle Elum. Take a right on to Oakes Street, a left on to Second Street and stay on it until you get to Bullfrog Road. Take a left on Bullfrog Road and stay on it until you reach a roundabout for Suncadia’s main entrance. Turn right and get ready to explore. From Ellensburg, the long route will take about a half-hour. For a more direct route, head west on Interstate 90 for about 35 miles. Take exit 80 and turn right off the ramp. Exit 80 is Bullfrog Road. You will stay on it for about five minutes before you hit the roundabout at Suncadia. Turn left.
To get to this area, take Highway 10 west and when it ends, turn right on to U.S. Highway 970. You’ll soon find long stretches of road meandering through beautiful pasturelands. Hills in the distance conjure up images of rolling European farmlands. Big farmhouses and barns in the area make for beautiful photographs. There’s no particular road to choose from. All of them lead to scenic spots.