This route is popular because you can get a good workout, enjoy great views, meet friendly people, and still find quiet parts to hike in. It lets you have an hour or two with nature within only a few minutes drive from home.
There are 64 steps at the start of the Canyon Trail
that get your heart going. These are the only steps in the Badger Mountain trail system. A new trail to go around these steps is planned to be built in the Spring of 2016.
The only restrooms and water available are at the start/end of the hike in Trailhead Park.
There is no shade on the hike so in the summer come early or late in the day.
The trail is wide and surfaced with gravel. Please stay on the trail and do not cut the curves. Parts of this hike are popular with mountain bikers, trail runners, and hikers, but there is ample room to allow passing without leaving the trail.
The Trailhead Park Loop hike combines all of the Canyon Trail
and Sagebrush Trail
plus the east end of the Skyline Trail
to form a loop hike a little over 3 miles long. The loop lets you sample Badger Mountain's charms, taking you from the parking lot to the summit quickly on the steep Canyon Trail
, before letting you catch your second wind. You can then enjoy the views and solitude of the south side of the mountain before meandering among old growth sagebrush on the east end.
The loop is commonly done by taking the Canyon Trail
to the summit and then returning via the Sagebrush Trail
. This direction is favored because you get the challenge of going up the Canyon's 15% grade and returning on the easier and less knee-pounding under 10% grade back down. The trails are 3 1/2 feet wide, mostly smooth with a packed crushed rock surface.
Take the path from the Trailhead Park parking lot to the official start of the Canyon Trail
by the trailhead sign board. After climbing up the more than 60 steps, there is a junction. Continue straight ahead; you'll be returning on the other branch. Another 400 feet ahead look across the gulley - there is a cluster of granite boulders embedded into the hillside. These were deposited by an ice raft during the Ice Age Floods, the last one about 12,000 years ago.
At 0.4 miles there is a bench to rest on; at 0.5 miles you'll head around the corner on an open ridge with great views of the Tri-Cities. Further along the ridge is the Lake Lewis marker. During the Ice Age Floods, this was about as high as the waters rose. Stand a moment and visualize the waves lapping at your feet while most everything you can see would have been deep under water. In a little over a quarter mile, that trail passes a stone bench at the switchback corner where you can grab a quick rest.
At just past the one mile marker is the hiker-only sign; turn around and soak in the great views from Rattlesnake Mountain to the west, the Saddle Mountains and White Bluffs above the Columbia River to the northwest, the Tri-Cities just in front, and the Blue Mountains to the east. In clear weather, Mount Stuart can be seen as a triangular peak on the horizon to the northwest.
The trail continues up and to the left of the communication towers and then drops to connect up with the Skyline Trail
. From the backside of the towers, there are great views to the east, south, and west. Mount Hood, Adams, and Rainier can be seen on clear days. You continue on the loop by going east on the Skyline Trail
For the next 0.7 miles, the trail gradually descends through scattered sagebrush and grasses. The view to the south is dominated by the large apple orchard that runs along the entire south side of Badger Mountain. For a few weeks in the spring it is full of blossoms, in the fall the orchard can fill 10,000 of those giant wooden boxes.
After .7 miles, you cross the service road. The route from here for the next .4 miles wanders through sagebrush. About a quarter mile from the service road is the junction with the Langdon Trail
and the Sagebrush Trail
. Take the curve to the left to continue. After the way breaks into open hillside covered in dryland grasses, at the second switchback corner is an unsigned junction. Take the hard left and continue to the junction with the Canyon Trail
in another 450 feet. This leaves you at the top of the steps. On the way back stop at the kiosk and read up on the Ice Age Floods.
The north side of Badger Mountain is mostly open dryland grasses and scattered scrubs. The south side is a mixture of dryland grasses and sagebrush and around on the east end are old growth sagebrush. Many different kinds of flowers are seen in the spring, starting in March. The number and variety depends on the winter moisture. Meadow Larks are commonly seen, and if you are lucky, there are quail and on the south side maybe even a coyote.