Cashmere Canyons is a new trail system on the eastern slopes of the Cascades. Thanks to the generosity of the land owners, this privately-owned area is open to hikers, but managed primarily for wildlife habitat and wilderness conservation. Because of this, dogs and mountain biking are not allowed here, and the area may close at various times throughout the year in order to protect wildlife. Please respect any and all closures.
Visitors to Cashmere Canyons will spend more time on a ridgeline than in a canyon on their hike, though reaching the ridge requires quite a climb from the trailhead off Nahahum Canyon road (the only access point to this trail system). Before you set off, have all the water you need for the day. There is no water anywhere on the trail and little shade except for near the summits of Little Bear and Sunrise and the Spring Canyon loop.
Set off from the trailhead, hiking north-northeast around the nose of a ridge and following the trail as it turns left and heads uphill. It is a steady climb along an old ranch road; the gateway to the Preserve. Luckily, there are lots of viewpoints along the way where you can stop and catch your breath on your way to the Crossroads.
The canyons here are not of the steep-walled river-cut variety. Think instead of gently folded grasslands dotted with sagebrush and bitter-brush and, at the right time of year, a thick carpet of yellow balsam root and purple lupin.
After a gradual 0.25-mile ascent from the parking lot, the trail turns into a system of old abandoned roads that are one of the pleasures of Cashmere Canyons – visitors can walk and talk side by side. For the next 1.7 miles, the trail climbs consistently, first up a wide meadow and then switchbacking and contouring along hillsides, to gain 1200 feet of elevation and reach “the Crossroads”, a saddle along a ridge top.
From the Crossroads you have several options.
Little Bear and Sunrise
For those who want to get as high as possible as quickly as possible, and for beautiful views into the heart of the Enchantments to the west, to the Columbia River to the south, or the Entiat Range to the north, turn left and follow the route illustrated on the map to the Saddle between the wooded summits of Little Bear and Sunrise.
From the Saddle, continue slightly to the right, and briefly downhill, for a quick 0.3 mile trip with 150 feet of elevation gain to the top of Little Bear. Alternately, you can turn left and do 0.2 miles and 100 feet of elevation to the top of Sunrise. Of course if you want to just stop at the Saddle you will still be rewarded with a beautiful view into the Enchantments.
Spring Canyon Loop
Another alternative is to do the Spring Canyon Loop which takes you through a Douglas-fir and Ponderosa forest. From the Crossroads, head towards the Saddle and then to the top of Little Bear and follow the map route to Spring Canyon Loop. You’ll descend to the southwest along a ridge crest, in a counter-clockwise circle, eventually returning, in 2.6 miles, to the Crossroads. This makes for a 3.5 mile roundtrip loop from the Crossroads, with about 700 feet of elevation gain.
Ridge Road and Lower Loop
A third option from the Crossroads is to head in the opposite direction of the Saddle, following the map route towards the Ridge Road and the Lower Loop. This trail undulates gently for 1.3 miles along a long ridge line (hence the imaginative name “Ridge Road”). Along the way, you'll expansive views in all directions. If the weather cooperates, you might see students of the paragliding school floating down from the Ridge Road to the valley floor.
At the northernmost point of the Ridge Road, 350 above the Crossroads, you can either turn around and head back, or to do the Lower Loop, tur right and complete a loop that adds 0.8 miles and 200 feet of elevation gain to the trip.
At all the key viewpoints you’ll find large wood “rounds” for resting your legs and at all the major trail junctions, clear trail maps with mileage and elevation.