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.
Manastash Lake Trail