Distance: 4 miles roundtrip. Minimal elevation gain. Dramatic cliffs and waterfalls. Wildlife spotting opportunities.

All around you, waterfalls pour over cliffs as you gaze upon colorful lakes. If you're lucky, a coyote scampers by through a patch of wildflowers – it's just another beautiful day in the Ancient Lakes basin, a gem tucked along the Columbia River Gorge in Central Washington.

From the parking lot, meander through a valley of sage brush under the hot sun until the whispers of waterfalls become roars. Soon, you will be peering into a basin of lakes. If you can fight the urge to jump in right away, make your way around to the waterfalls in the back of the valley.

For those who feel comfortable, scramble up the talus slope beside the waterfall to enter an upper valley for more solitude – and more waterfalls! But BE CAREFUL going off trail, because rattlesnakes are very active in the area.

Sunsets from Ancient Lakes are known to be spectacular. Another benefit of the location is it usually stays dry when the western side of the state is getting drenched.

If you're planning to backpack, check out this adventure.

Pack List

  • 10 Essentials
  • Extra water
  • Camera
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RT Distance 4 Miles
Activities Fishing, Photography, Running, Swimming, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Adult Beverages
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Lake
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildlife
Swimming Hole

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Year round hiking

South on Whitetrail Rd / Rd U, right on Rd 9 NW and continue on Ancient Lake Rd until you reach the parking area. I have explored the area in spring (March 2016) and winter (January 2017). Plenty of trail to explore throughout the area. There is an overlook over Dusty Lake and you are able to scramble to the top of the waterfall. In the winter, massive icicles form off the edges of the mesas and waterfalls.

Can be hard to find

Lots of wide open spaces and beautiful canyon cliffs to explore, we wanted to go off trail to scramble every cliff and see every waterfall, but be mindful of LNT and enjoy this otherworldly place. Just know that there is a road that takes you to the south of the lakes area as well, putting you 4 or 5 miles past the main lakes and onto an open plain. We got quite turned around here, and without cell service had to use a trail guide to sort out that we were on a completely different road. We also camped out here, be mindful that it is very cold in March still, but having said that, besides some coyote packs, we had the place all to ourselves.

about 2 years ago

Spectacular place for sunset

We hit the trail just after 4:30 in order to give us just enough time to witness one of the many spectacular sunsets Central and Eastern Washington are renowned for. With an average yearly rain accumulation under 10 inches, Ancient Lakes in Quincy, WA has fairly moderate weather year-round. It was windy so don't forget a sweatshirt and shell! After climbing above the main waterfall overlooking the lakes and watching the sky burst into color, we found our way back via headlamp. A great evening to hit the trail!


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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