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Manastash Lake trail
May 30, 2015

In my never-ending quest for a good trail that combines hiking and birding, I tried the Manastash Lake trail, located southwest of Ellensburg. The drive up to the trailhead was beautiful - a wonderful basalt canyon filled with cottonwood, larch and white pine. The trail starts off a little rock and sandy - well worn by the dirt bikes that frequent the trail. Despite the national US forestry website saying it is closed to dirt bikes from mid-October to mid-June, there were dirt bikes and ATVs on the trail. Signage was inadequate and I’m sure enforcement even more so. The trail itself was pretty beaten up in some places - especially if there was any grade where dirt bikes are great at loosening dirt and rocks. When hiking those spots, we had to be extra cautious not to twist an ankle. In addition to the motorized vehicles on the trail, many locals hike to the lake for fishing.

Despite the trail conditions, the forest was beautiful - a nice mix of Engelmann and white pine, Douglas fir, and the many larches, which would be beautiful in the fall. Large stumps marked logging long ago. The trail meandered through young forest to open hillside meadows filled with lupine, larkspur, groundsel, mule’s ears, paintbrush and biswort. Wet places in the meadows hosted shooting star and glacier lilies. In the forest, calypso orchids and trilliums bloomed along side the trail.

The trail passes Lost Lake, where we spotted a few Barrow’s Goldeneyes perhaps getting ready to nest. At Manastash Lake, many people were camping and/or fishing. We found Cascade Frogs and Western Toad toadpoles in the clear waters along the shore. Past the lake, the trail climbs a steep (and torn up) section of the trail to Manastash Ridge, where we could glimpse Mt Adams in the distance.

As for the birds, I don’t think there was a moment along the trail where I wasn’t hearing bird song. The Townsend’s Warbler song seemed the most continuous along the trail. Hermit Thrushes, Cassin’s Finch, Warbling Vireo, and Yellow-rumped Warblers were also vociferous. That said, it was much easier to hear the birds than to see them.

If you’re looking for a trail to listen to bird song, while hiking among a diversity of beautiful wildflowers - and you don’t mind the multi-use trail - this is a great trail to try in the spring time.


Pictures (click on thumbnail)

Bird List
Barrow's Goldeneye 7
Turkey Vulture 1
Williamson's Sapsucker 1
Western Wood-Pewee 2 heard
Hammond's Flycatcher 2
Pacific-slope Flycatcher 2
Warbling Vireo 5
Gray Jay 1
Common Raven 3
Mountain Chickadee 2 heard
Red-breasted Nuthatch 4
Brown Creeper 3
Pacific Wren 2 heard
Bewick's Wren 1 heard
Golden-crowned Kinglet 7 heard
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 4 heard
Hermit Thrush 4 heard
American Robin 2
Nashville Warbler 1 heard
Yellow-rumped Warbler 10
Townsend's Warbler 10 heard
Chipping Sparrow 4
Song Sparrow 2
Lincoln's Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 7
Western Tanager 6 heard
Black-headed Grosbeak 1 heard
Cassin's Finch 5 heard
Red Crossbill 4 heard
Pine Siskin 12 heard
Evening Grosbeak 4
Golden-manteled Squirrel
Douglas Squirrel
Pika heard
Cascade Frog
Western Toad tadpoles and young toad
Pacific treefrog
Blue-eyed Mary
False solomon seal
Ballhead waterleaf
Hairy arnica
Three-toothed mitrewort
Big leaf sandwort
Calipso orchid
Oregon grape
Yellow violet
Showy Jacobs ladder
Nine-leaf lomatium
Douglas onion
Mules ears
Meadow death camas
Desert buckwheat
Woodland star
Oregon sunshine
Upland larkspur
Spring beauty
Douglas blue-eyed grass
Bonneville shooting star
Glacier lily
Nodding microseris
Shrubby penstemon
Black swamp gooseberry
Heartleaf arnica
Small-flowered penstemon
Mountain biswort
Swamp buttercup
American globeflower
Tall bluebell
Miner's lettuce
Sticky currant
Oregon anemone
Big-headed clover
Old man whiskers


Manastash Lake Trail


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page updated: 6/22/15