YAKIMA VALLEY — For decades sun-seekers have trekked to Central Washington for those 300 annual days of rays of which the area boasts. So celebrated is the sun here they named their event center the Yakima Valley SunDome.
While many contentedly baste themselves with sunscreen and laze beside a hotel pool, others are discovering that this agricultural valley — where wine roads, ale trails and hiking paths intersect — has a lot more than sunshine brightening it up these days. For instance:
Wine roads and ale trails
• The Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center, just off Interstate 82 in Prosser, and named for the agricultural scientist considered the “Father of the Washington Wine Industry,” pairs a sleek, modern tasting room with an array of meeting/event spaces and a state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen. A retail shop offers wine and food products. No admission charged; fees for tasting and culinary events. Wine sold by the glass or bottle. Open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily except holidays. 2140 Wine Country Road, Prosser; 509-786-1000, theclorecenter.org.
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• Ten miles west of Yakima, near Wiley City, 300-acre Hackett Ranch is home to Gilbert Cellars’ newest tasting room, tucked away in an orchard. Housed in a midcentury rambler farmhouse, the tasting room (open limited hours) is steps from The Cave, a lavender-bordered amphitheater with lawn seating for 300. The ranch, one of the area’s oldest, is also home to Glacier Basin, the valley’s first craft distillery and producer of a variety of fruit brandies. 2620 Draper Road, gilbertcellars.com/Hackett-ranch, 509-249-9049 for tasting room hours; glacierbasin.com or 509-930-0817 to schedule a tasting at the distillery.
• Northwest of Yakima, the towering Naches Heights plateau — a popular biking and hiking area — is one of the state’s newer American Viticultural Areas. Sip or sample wines produced by Naches Heights Vineyards and Wilridge Winery and Vineyard at their side-by-side tasting rooms at 250 Ehler Road. For hours and events: nhvwines.com or 509-966-4355, and wilridgewinery.com or 509-966-0686.
• Since its April 2013 opening, the family-run Bale Breaker Brewery has been producing award-winning craft ales. The production plant and tasting room is set amid hop yards just off the Moxee-Yakima Highway. Kids can play lawn games near the patio while parents sample the newest brews. Bring your own picnic or buy from the occasional visiting food truck. 1801 Birchfield Road; balebreaker.com or 509-424-4000.
• Yakima Craft Brewing in July opened its second tasting room, this one in downtown Yakima on the street level of the towering Larson Building, 120 E. Yakima Ave.; yakimacraftbrewing.com or 509-571-1468.
Take a hike
• More than 30 miles of trails lace the 2,000 acres of sagelands, meadows, woodlands and basalt cliffs in the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy. Snow Mountain Ranch, nine miles west of Yakima, is popular for both summer and winter hikes. Its 9.2 miles of trails lead past relics of the old cattle ranch that once operated on this 1,800-acre property. Dogs are welcome on canyon trails and can be off-leash if under your control. See cowichecanyon.org or call 509-248-5065 (Monday-Thursday).
• Near downtown Yakima and stretching 10 miles to link Selah Gap and Union Gap, the paved, wheelchair-accessible Yakima Greenway path along the Yakima River is a popular year-round destination for walkers, bikers, hikers and dog walkers (leash required). In addition to the pathway, the Greenway is dotted with fishing lakes, playgrounds and parks (including an off-leash dog park). Three years ago another five-mile section was completed in Naches along its river corridor; the two pathways are not yet connected. For maps and information: yakimagreenway.org or 509-453-8280.
Three shops worth a stop
• The Garden Girl of Yakima. So many flowers, plants, yard ornaments and home décor items fill this tiny shop in Yakima’s Historic District that the displays spill out onto the sidewalk and parking lot. 25 N. Front St., Suite 2, Yakima; facebook.com/gardengirlyakima or 509-452-2612.
• Yakima Valley Hops and Brew Supply stocks supplies (more than 60 varieties of hops) and equipment for beginning-to-advanced home brewers. In a converted fruit packing warehouse, the upstairs space, The Hop Shop, is available for special events. 702 N. First Ave., Yakima; yakimavalleyhops.com or 208-649-4677.
• Sister to Sister. This Prosser shop has recently doubled in size and offers ladies’ wear and shoes, home-decor items, gifts, kitchen gadgets. The ice-cream parlor in the back of the store shouldn’t be missed. 10 Merlot Drive, Suite B, Prosser; 509-786-7467.
• Near the Yakima Airport, the Creekside West Bar and Grill serves up hearty appetizers during its daily happy hours from 3 to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to closing. Try the blackened prawn Caesar salad and $5 wine pours. 4000 Creekside Loop, Yakima; facebook.com/CreeksideWest or 509-853-1057.
• Carousel Restaurant, an atmospheric French restaurant tucked away in Yakima’s Historic District, has both formal dining and bistro menus. Don’t miss the Cherries Jubilee. 25 N. Front St., No. 6, Yakima; carouselfrenchcuisine.com or 509-248-6720.
• Horse Heaven Saloon. This popular family-friendly (kids welcome) eatery on the main drag in downtown Prosser serves hearty sandwiches, soups and full meals. Sample the tomato bisque. 615 Sixth St., Prosser; horseheavensaloon.com or 509-781-6228.
• Oxford Inn and Oxford Suites, just east of Yakima’s downtown along the Yakima River, are footsteps from the Yakima Greenway path. Oxford Inn, double from $95/night, 1603 E. Yakima Ave., oxfordinnyakima.com or 800-521-3050; Oxford Suites, double from $125/night, 1701 E. Yakima Ave., oxfordsuitesyakima.com or 800-404-7848. Check web for discounts, packages and free hotel amenities.
• Best Western Plus/The Inn at Horse Heaven is convenient lodging for wine tasting in the Lower Yakima Valley and Red Mountain areas. Rates $119-$157/night. 259 Merlot Drive, Prosser; bestwestern.com/theinnathorseheaven or 509-786-7977.
Visitor Information Center, 101 N. Fair Ave., Yakima; visityakima.com or 800-221-0751.
To learn more about craft breweries, cideries and distilleries in the area, see the Yakima Valley Spirits and Hops Trail website: spiritsandhopstrail.com.
Freelance writer Jackie Smith, who grew up in Yakima and now lives in Kirkland, blogs at TravelnWrite.com.