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Green trails and golden fields: Day hiking in the Jasper Mountain Reserve

By Melissa Queen

Late spring around Walla Walla, the rolling hills of the Palouse are vibrant and alive. The wheat fields, still gentle and green from spring rains, glisten and gleam. And the yellow canola fields in bloom create their own golden light.

From its vantage point overlooking this beautiful valley and these rolling hills is the Jasper Mountain Reserve.

Established on land once used for logging and for ranching, the Jasper Mountain Reserve is a private reserve and conservation area established to help restore and protect the biodiversity of its ecosystem. The Jasper Mountain Reserve “offers a unique experience that combines conservation, education, and sustainable non-consumptive tourism.”

From May through November when the Jasper Mountain Reserve is open, visitors can enjoy hiking, trail running, and bird watching and wildlife viewing across the 330 acres that make up the reserve. Overnight camping is also available in designated sites. Because the reserve is established on private lands, passes to the reserve need to be purchased in advance from their website.

Throughout the Jasper Mountain Reserve, there are just over 13 miles of trails winding along three main trail loops: the Green, Red, and Black Loops. While all trails are well-maintained, the Black Trail Loop offers a bit more of a challenge because of its elevation gain which is a little over 1,500 feet of elevation over the course of the 5.3 mile loop. Both the Green and the Red Loops are much more easy and gentle, however, with around 500 feet of total elevation across the course of each loop. 

For our visit to the reserve, we loaded up the two- and four-legged kids for a day hike on the reserve’s Green Trail Loop. This trail is an easy-going trail just over four miles and across forested terrain. It was mid-June at the time of our visit, and while plenty of beautiful wildflowers were in bloom, the scattering of unopened buds across the forest floor suggested the wildflower fireworks show had yet to reach its grand finale for this season.

While we spent most of our time that day on the Green Trail Loop, we popped across the parking lot to walk out a little ways on the Red Trail Loop as well, to take in its more expansive views out across the Blue Mountains and the Touchet River valley down below.

After our morning hike, we stopped at American 35 for pizza on our way back through Waitsburg. Raising both active boys and dogs, best behaviors are quite often elicited by rewarding rigorous outdoor activity with full bellies. Especially after a good hike, American 35’s pizza makes good on its motto’s promise of good food, good company.

Things to know before you go:

  • The Jasper Mountain Reserve and the surrounding area are located on land that holds an important place in the traditions of the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla tribes. Learn more about how the surrounding region supports the culture and way of life of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla.
  • Hunting is never allowed on Jasper Mountain Reserve. All visitors should respect the rules and regulations of the reserve. Please note that no bikes, horseback riding or motorized vehicles are permitted.
  • Access to the Jasper Mountain Reserve requires purchasing a day pass or annual membership ahead of time. Day passes or annual memberships can be purchased from their website. Guests will be required to sign a waiver at the time of purchase. 
  • If you pack it in, pack it out. If you aren’t already, get familiar with these basic seven principles of Leave No Trace for protecting and preserving natural landscapes.
  • There is no garbage or recycling collection services at Jasper Mountain Reserve. Please plan accordingly so that any waste (including bio-waste from pets) can be carried out.

Getting there:

The Jasper Mountain Reserve is at 934 Payne Hollow Road in Dayton, Washington.

Coming from either Walla Walla or the Tri Cities, head west on Highway 12 towards Dayton. Just before reaching the town of Dayton, turn right on Lower Hogeye Road. Then turn left on Payne Hollow Road. The Jasper Mountain Reserve parking lot is 8.5 miles up Payne Hollow Road, of which the first 3 miles are paved, followed by 5.5. miles of gravel road.

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