Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Scenic Drive on The Road Less Traveled

Travel scenic country roads on this circular route, from the beautiful manicured grounds of the Yakima Area Arboretum, through the hop fields of Moxee, over Konnowac Pass southwest through the Yakima Valley. Scenic views of Yakima Valley fruit orchards beautiful in the spring when the fruit trees are blossoming, the summer when the foliage is a vibrant green and the fall, when the angle of the sun uniquely illuminates the leaves changing colors. Discover four winerys, two of which are in historic buildings.
Starting at the Yakima Valley Visitor Information Center, turn left out of parking lot and access the I-82 East freeway. Continue to Exit 34 (Nob Hill Blvd). Turn left and then another left at the light. (If you are bicycling the Konnowac Pass, you may leave you vehicle at the Greenway parking lot which at Sherman Park- this ride is about 27 miles. The pass is a moderate climb of more than two miles and a couple of short (1/4 mile) steep climbs to the top, down the other side, with the rest of the route being nearly level. Pavement quality is good and traffic generally light. Pleasant ride for Motorcyclists). The Arboretum Road to the interpretive center of the Yakima Area Arboretum and Botanical Garden is on the left. This 40-acre “tree museum” features self-guided tours, (map available), a Japanese Garden, gift shop, Jewett Pond Fountain and endless photo opportunities.

As you leave the Arboretum turn right at the light heading east on Highway 24 toward Moxee City. (Bicyclists-There is a well marked wide shoulder; traffic speed is 55mph, turn off is approximately 3.5 miles).

Moxee is from the Native American word for “whirlwinds”. In the early 1880’s the Thorp Family settled the Moxee Valley, later Alexander Graham Bell and his wife’s family invested in a large farming operation. The Moxee Land Company sold 20-acre lots in the 1890’s to recruit settlers. Hops first grown here in 1877, grew so well in this climate and soil that Moxee City, platted in 1910, became the Hop Capitol of the world. The Moxee Land Company sold 20-acre lots in the 1890’s to recruit settlers. At hop picking time, hundreds used to camp and harvest the hops by hand culminating in a “hop festival”. Moxee still celebrates this distinction as a hop growing region with the
Moxee Hop Festival annually, the first weekend in August.
Currently the Yakima Valley supplies over 75% of the Hops used in United States breweries and overseas markets.

Turn right on LaFramboise Road, left on Robillard Road and right on Konnowac Road. Hop fields, recognizable by the tall poles used to support the vines, reach the tops of the poles in summer.

At the Konnowac Pass Y, turn right. Konnowac Pass, through the Rattlesnake Ridge, was an old Native American trail connecting both ends of the Yakima Valley. Reaching the top of the small pass you will see the agriculture of the Yakima Valley stretched out below in a patchwork of white and pink as the cherry and apple trees blossom in spring.

Parker Heights Road, further down the pass, is on the right, just after a bend in the road. As you ride along this road surrounded by orchards, you will see Mt Adams and the distinctive old wooden Hop Kiln in the distance.

Continue on Parker Heights until the bridge over the irrigation canal. For a closer look at the old hop kiln and to visit the winery with the hop kiln pictured on its label, turn left over the bridge to the Yakima Valley Highway, after a short ride turn right to the Piety Flats Winery and Tasting Room.
The tasting room, in a 1911 Mercantile Building with old country store charm, offers unique gifts, gourmet food items, delectable wines, and picnicking in the shade. The Old Hop Kiln on Piety Flats wine labels can be seen near the winery

Returning back to the Yakima Valley Highway, turn left, going back over the small irrigation canal bridge and continue on this road which parallels the Yakima Valley highway along the irrigation canal. Take the road going up the hill to Windy Point Winery. This boutique winery’s tasting room reflects the Frank Lloyd Wright style, designed and built to showcase Windy Point’s breathtaking views of the Yakima Valley.
When leaving, turn right at the end of the driveway and continue along the road under the freeway where you will see a small park at the Sunnyside Diversion Dam. a roadside marker tells the history of the site in a small park with picnic tables, overlooking the site of an ancient Native American fishery called – Ahwahtun, “deep water”.

Continuing under the freeway proceed up the hill to
Thorp Road to Birchfield Road. To return to downtown Yakima turn right onto Highway 24, (Bicyclists-If you have left your car at the Greenway. Greenway is on the right side of the road at the light after the bridge over the Yakima River.) Take I-82 West to Exit 33 (Yakima Avenue). This will bring you directly to Downtown Yakima to experience wine tasting, art galleries, dining choices and entertainment.

The Yakima Valley blog articles feature members of the Yakima Valley Visitors and Convention Bureau. If you would like to receive information regarding membership, Click here, or to request a membership application, please contact Michele Hopkins at (509) 575-3010.

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