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Backpacker Magazine – June 2000

Washington's Juniper Dunes: Not So High, But Dry

In a region known for soggy times, Juniper Dunes is a warm sandbox where you can dry out.

by: Andrew Engelson

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QUICK TAKE: Juniper Dunes Wilderness, WA

DRIVE TIME: From Seattle, it's 234 miles (41/2 hours). From Portland, it's 225 miles (41/2 hours).

THE WAY: From Seattle, drive I-90 west to Ellensburg and turn south on I-82 toward Richland. Exit at I-182/US 12 and continue 16 miles, turning northwest on Pasco-Kahlotus Road. After 5.5 miles, turn north on Peterson Road. Drive 4 miles and turn east onto a dirt road. The parking lot is 100 feet ahead. (Drive past the lot and your car will likely bog down in sand.) Hike the road 3.5 miles northeast to the gated wilderness boundary.

TRAILS: There are no established trails. Once inside the wilderness, you can hike an abandoned road west 1.5 miles to an old fence, then northeast 3 miles to the largest juniper groves.

ELEVATION: Peak elevation is 920 feet.

CROWD CONTROL: The area is open to hunters for 3 weeks in October and November. Wear bright colors. The Bureau of Land Management does not require permits, but you must cross private property to access the area. Stay on the main road and limit your activities until you reach BLM land.

GUIDES: USGS 7.5-minute quads Rye Grass Coulee, Levey, Levey SW, and Levey NE cover the wilderness (888-ask-usgs;

PIT STOP: Try Plutonium Porter at the Atomic Ale Brewpub in Richland.

WALK SOFTLY: Avoid delicate grasses and wildflowers.

CAN'T MISS: Stands of western juniper, which can survive on only 8 inches of rain a year.

MORE INFORMATION: Wenatchee BLM Field Office; (509) 665-2100.

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Reader Rating: -


Steve M.
Feb 22, 2009

I hike/camp here frequently. Great stargazing and wildflowers (March-May). Unfortunately the area outside the fence is being trashed by motorcycles and ATV's. Some have even cut the fence on occasion, and entered the wilderness area. Hope BLM can keep these idiots out...

Anyway, to get to the hikine area here's the route: Go north on the Kahlotus HWY (Lewis Street & HWY 12) about 5 miles to Peterson Road. A large fake Sign threatens "PRIVATE ROAD--STAY OUT". This is a ruse by some of the locals to keep traffic down--BLM has a lease to allow public access. Drive in (gravel/dirt) almost exactly 4 miles (you will see "Public Access" signs about 2 miles in). At 4 miles turn right on "Juniper Road". This is the ATV area and is sadly trashed. Stay on the main path & drive about 3 miles to "Wilderness Road". Turn right (a 4x4 will be needed) and drive 1 mile to fence/trailhead. Check out YouTube (Juniper Forest) for my latest hike/camp. Enjoy


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