East Lenore Coulee Hike

Ice Age plunge pool at the head of East Lenore Coulee.

Hike Rating: Moderate
Hike Length: 6.2 miles roundtrip (variable)
Elevation Gain: 715’
Trailhead Elevation: 720’
Best Season: April-June and September
Driving Access: Any vehicle

Plus Points
• An easy overland route into a hidden coulee, with Ice Age flood features
• Hiking route is under dramatic cliffs of a knife-edged ridge, The Great Blade
• Mega-flood erosional features, such as potholes, plunge pools and dry falls
• Spring wildflowers include arrowleaf balsamroot, phlox, buckwheat and larkspur
• Though cows are present during the grazing season, the area is lightly used
• An isolated desert coulee that is a world apart, with a good chance for solitude

Minus Points
• No established trail, but walking is easy, except a few short, steep scrambles
• Very little shade or cover, so it's best to start in the early AM on hot days
• Rattlesnakes are a possibility throughout the summer, so be aware

Download (PDF, 706 KB): Photos of East Lenore Coulee Hike
Download (PDF, 666 KB): Topo Map for East Lenore Coulee Hike
Download (GPX, 1 KB): GPS Points for East Lenore Coulee Hike
Download (PDF, 568 KB): Road Map for East Lenore Coulee Hike

Trail Notes
Map of East Lenore Coulee Hike
From the turnout on Hwy 17 (GPS Point 1), the hike ascends a double-track jeep road to the northeast, through a wire gate. The road ends in a small flat after 100 yards and a steep, single-track trail continues up the hillside, between rock talus slopes. The trail soon crests the hill and continues northeast over a grassy slope toward a notch in the rock wall (GPS Point 2). At the notch, the trail cross a wire drift fence and continues into a flat-bottomed, steep-walled coulee.

Once in the coulee, follow cow trails north toward a rocky talus slope at the head of a prominent lobe in the coulee. The cow trail climbs this talus slope, through a bit of brush, to a narrow flood channel on top (GPS Point 3). Follow the trail north in the narrow channel for a few hundred yards, past a giant pothole on the east, to where one can see the south end of the knife-edge ridge, known as The Great Blade. Follow game trails up onto the flat bench east of the blade, to where they cross an old downed, east-west fence at 0.7 miles (GPS Point 4).

From here, the route continues north cross-country, parallel to the east side of the blade, following along the flat bench about 50 yards away from the rocky slope. There is no established trail, but old game trails are easy to find in the grassy, sage steppe. Wherever there's a rocky or difficult stretch, there's always a good game trail to be found through it.

At 1.8 miles, the route passes a couple of perfectly round potholes, several hundred yards across, which were excavated out of the basalt bedrock by swirling flood waters. Within the next mile, one sees more deeply-eroded grooves and potholes to the east, some 50'-100' deep. At 3.1 miles, the route reaches an overlook on a rounded bluff, with good views of the ancient plunge pool lake (now dry) and the dry falls at the head of East Lenore Coulee. This makes a good hike and lunch destination. Return as you came.

Road to Trailhead
On State Hwy 17, about 7.1 miles north of Soap Lake, WA, or 9.4 miles south of Sun Lakes- Dry Falls State Park, look for a steep turnout on the east side of the highway, just south of Milepost 83. This pullout is 1.8 miles south of the turnoff to the Lake Lenore Caves State Park on Hwy 17. Pull into this turnout and park well off the highway in the small, steep parking area. The hike starts up the jeep road to the northeast, through the wire gate. A WA State Discover Pass is required at this trailhead.

Camping Options
View of Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park.
The nearest public campground is at Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park, about 9.4 driving miles north of the trailhead. This is a large campground with flush toilets, showers, drinking water, full hookups and over 190 campsites, including spaces for tents as well as the largest RVs and travel trailers. Be prepared for high winds. Reservations are available April 15 through September 15 and are highly recommended for the summer months. Visit the WA State Parks website or call (888) 226-7688. Camping fees are based on the type of campsite selected.

Campsites are also available at two private campgrounds in Soap Lake, WA, about 7 driving miles south of the trailhead on State Route 17.

Agency Contact: Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, (509) 765-6641

DISCLAIMER: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, but the authors do not guarantee that it is either current or correct. The reader assumes full responsibility for any use of this information, and is encouraged to contact local public land agencies to inquire about current conditions before traveling.

Page last updated: 12/8/14