When it comes to the outdoors, Yakima residents have a wealth of wildlife area adventures to explore. Within just a short drive of town, residents have access to 170,000 acres of public lands that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife stewards on their behalf.

The department is inviting locals to discover, or rediscover, the Wenas and Oak Creek wildlife areas, which can be done within recommendations to limit travel, and recreate locally.

Both areas feature shrubsteppe habitat, where higher elevation wildflowers and breeding song birds make for great photo opportunities.

Wenas Wildlife Area

104,972 acres (learn more)

Visit Wenas for excellent birding (expect neo tropical migrant birds, wild turkey, upland birds like chukar and California quail, and raptors) and hiking amid shrubsteppe habitat. Also keep an eye out for elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and small mammals and reptiles.

Top WDFW staff picks for exploring Wenas Wildlife Area:

Skyline Trail — Hiking trail in spring that provides sweeping views of the Yakima River Canyon and wildflowers (It’s a popular trail, so bring your face mask and sanitation supplies). Go big and continue all the way to Gracie Point for more wildflowers and views.

Umtanum Creek/Falls trail — Good for younger hikers and wildflowers.

Scouting/training with your bird dog — In designated areas, WDFW Regional Director Mike Livingston recommends the Wenas for upland gamebird hunting, which typically opens Sept. 1. Other areas make for good bird watching any time of the year.

Oak Creek Wildlife Area

67,100 acres (learn more)

The Oak Creek Unit is comprised of riparian, shrubsteppe, mixed forest, and steep rocky slopes that support a diverse array of fish and wildlife, and offer a scenic backdrop for outdoor recreation. The Cowiche Canyon unit features remarkably high biodiversity among shrubsteppe, oak-ponderosa pine woodland and the south fork of Cowiche Creek’s riparian habitat. More than 70 butterfly species, for example, are supported by the flowering shrubs and forbs of the shrubsteppe. The oak trees provide habitat for threatened western gray squirrels, and numerous cavity nesting bird species. The south fork of Cowiche Creek provides fish habitat for steelhead and recently coho salmon have been reintroduced. The area is also a good place to spot golden eagles.

Top WDFW staff picks for exploring Oak Creek Wildlife Area:

Waterworks Canyon & Cleman Mountain Loop — Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep.

Tieton River Nature Trail — Great for new hikers and Tieton River Canyon views.

Head to Tim’s Pond, stocked with rainbow trout, with your fishing pole (one Trout Derby prize is still waiting to be claimed).

Bear Canyon Trail — Wind your way through the canyon all the way to the top for expansive views of the wildlife area.

Box Spring Canyon Trail — This trail through the Cowiche unit holds a segment of the William O Douglas Trail, which extends all the way to Mount Rainier.

We hope you plan a visit today. If you do, please remember to follow these responsible recreation guidelines.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.