The Sage Hills Loop is a gorgeous hike, right outside of Wenatchee, Washington, offering views of snow-capped mountains, rolling hills, and even wildlife sighting opportunities. Come springtime, though, this already stunning trail explodes with wildflowers, with vibrant blooms of yellow, purple, and white blanketing its slopes, as far as the eye can see. Here’s everything you need to know about the Sage Hills Loop, the best wildflower hike in Washington.
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About the Sage Hills Loop
- Length: 12.1 miles
- Elevation gain: 2,089 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate to hard. The elevation gain along the trail is reasonably gradual, but it is looooong—so I personally consider this closer to hard than moderate.
- Dogs: Great news- fur babies are welcome on the trail, but should stay on a leash.
This rule is really important to follow, friends—this land is owned by the Chelan County Public Utilities Department and is specifically meant to serve as a wildlife habitat (to make up for the habitat lost when the Rock Island Dam was built). If there’s human-imposed factors that are negatively impacting said wildlife (like, say, unleashed dogs), this land can be swiftly closed to the public. And no one wants that!
- Parking pass/permit: None- it’s free!
How to Get to the Sage Hills Loop
The Sage Hills Loop trailhead is located here, in the town of Wenatchee of central Washington. It’s located a little over two and a half hours away east of Seattle or a little under three hours west of Spokane.
The trailhead is tucked away in the back of a nice residential neighborhood, so the roads are paved and well-maintained the whole way—no need for four-wheel drive here (cough, cough—sending a side-eye to Washington’s bumpy National Forest roads)!
What you will need, though, is to get here early. The lot only holds about seven cars at its absolute maximum and unfortunately, most of the residential streets around the lot don’t allow street parking.
There’s some parking a few blocks away on the eastside of Day Road North (see here), but again—double check for “no parking” signs and do not block anyone’s driveway! This street still only holds about twenty or so cars, so if you get here late—like my husband, Justin, and I did—you may have to park pretty far away from the trailhead. We wound up parking about half a mile from the trailhead—by the end of this already 12.1 mile hike, my feet were VERY mad at me for not getting up a bit earlier!
Tip: Make sure to use the bathroom before you come here—there’s no restroom by the trailhead and the vast majority of this hike is completely exposed to pretty much everyone in a mile radius of you. After having to pee soooo bad for several miles while hiking this trail, I eventually had to get pretty creative with a burnt-out tree stump—we don’t have to talk about it!
When to Visit the Sage Hills Loop
One of the unique things about Sage Hills Loop is that this area is actually closed for a significant chunk of the year, from December 1 through April 1, to protect the mule deer that spend the winter here and to protect the fragile landscape from further trail erosion.
Outside of this window, the trail is open to be enjoyed, but I’d highly recommend trying to time your visit with the blooming of the springtime wildflowers, which usually occurs in the first couple of weeks in May. We visited the trail at the beginning of May and I couldn’t believe my eyes—there had to be millions and millions of wildflowers, blanketing the hills surrounding the trail, from cheery balsamroot and lupine to Indian paintbrush.
While this is, in my opinion, one of the very best wildflower hikes in Washington, the trail is still lovely throughout the rest of the year, with jaw-dropping views of the surrounding green and pink hills and beyond, the almost vertical peaks of the Cascade Mountains.
Just be wary of hiking here in the summertime (July through September), as Wenatchee’s high desert climate can get HOT. If you’re hiking during this timeframe, be sure to either start really early or late, to avoid the hottest part of the day, and be sure to bring LOTS of water (there’s no water sources along the trail)—Justin and I swear by these comically giant Nalgene bottles.
What to Expect Along the Sage Hills Loop
The trail is considered a lollipop loop—the first two miles of the trail are out-and-back, with an eight-mile loop at its end.
Starting off from the trailhead, you’ll reach a fork in the path almost immediately—random forks are a VERY common occurrence on this trail, with extremely limited signage, so be sure to have the AllTrails map at the ready so you don’t get lost! For this first fork, we’re going to head to the right.
The first mile or so of the trail will gradually climb uphill, with increasingly better views of the rolling hills off to the east. At 1.3 miles into the trail, it forks again, with the right path sloping down and the left heading uphill. For this particular junction, it doesn’t matter which side you pick as the trail meets back up again in about 0.2 miles (although the right pathway is a bit shorter, slopes downhill, AND had a metric ton of wildflowers during our hike, so that route gets my vote!)- either way, pick your poison!
Continue to climb along the rolling hillsides until you’re 2.1 miles into the hike, where the actual loop portion of the trail starts.
So here, you can either go clockwise or counter-clockwise–like your last decision, neither one’s the wrong choice.
If you hike counter-clockwise, the ascent is a bit more gradual, with views of the Cascades as you climb and a steep descent down 34 switchbacks (yes, I counted!).
If you hike clockwise, the initial three mile climb up to the rideline might be a bit of a butt-kicker, but your descent will be gentler on the ol’ knees and feet. Plus, you’ll be smacked in the face with the jaw-dropping view of the snow-capped Cascades once you reach the ridgeline. Justin and I chose to hike the trail clockwise (simply because we’re trying to get back into hiking season shape) and literally gasped when we saw the view of the mountain from the top—it’s seriously so stunning!
Regardless of which way you decide to hike, you’ll be treated with spectacular views throughout. No, but, seriously, though—Justin and I could not get over the diversity of uniquely beautiful things you’ll come across on the trail. A quiltwork of orchards off in the distance; striated badlands-esque erosion features; neon green lichen-covered trees; enormous mountains; the Columbia River—this trail truly has it all!
About 10 miles into the hike, you’ll complete the loop portion and retrace your footsteps down through the rolling hills and back to the trailhead.
Things to Know About Sage Hills Loop
Stay on trail.
I hope we all know this by now, but just in case, PLEEEEASE don’t step on the meadows or the wildflowers—yes, not even to get that TikTok or whatever. Wildflower meadows are incredibly fragile. Once a wildflower is trampled, it loses its ability to reproduce—which means, if you step on it, you’ll also be killing their future wildflower grandbabies to get that one Instagram shot. And you don’t want to be a wildflower grandbaby killer, do you?!
Hiking season also happens to be rattlesnake season.
Central Washington’s dry atmosphere is a rattlesnake’s paradise from April through September and these little slitherers LOVE the Sage Hills Loop. As in, they seem to enjoy just laying right on the trail, especially early in the morning or close to sunset.
So keep a lookout where you’re walking and don’t be the annoying person on the trail blasting music, so that you can hear if there’s a rattlesnake around you (you shouldn’t be the annoying dude on the trail with the loud music, anyway!).
Expect mountain bikers.
This trail is well-loved by hikers, runners, and mountain-bikers alike, so remember to be conscientious about others on the trail.
For example, while there’s some debate over who has the right of way between hikers and bikers, I personally step to the side to allow bikers to pass me. In summary, just be aware of your surroundings (see my tip above!) and you’ll be fine.
Avoid using the trail when it’s muddy.
The soil at Sage Hills is incredibly fine and drains rainfall poorly. So, after a rain shower, the trail can get quite muddy and resulting in craters from hikers or ruts from mountain bikers that channel water and expedite erosion.
As mentioned above, the primary purpose of this land is to serve as a wildlife habitat—so if our collective feet are causing too many mud craters and eroding away this beautiful landscape, it may eventually be shut down by its owners.
In addition to making it comically challenging if you need to pee, this completely exposed and unshaded trail almost guarantees that you’re going to get sunburnt while hiking six hours on it.
Instead, slather on some of that sunscreen and protect that luscious skin of yours.
Where to Stay Near the Sage Hills Loop
When I told my friends from Seattle that we were going to hike out in Wenatchee that weekend, several of them asked whether we were making a weekend out of it. And while we didn’t, you should definitely learn from my mistake and do it!
There’s TONS to see in the area, from the kooky, Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth (I mean, seriously, have you seen Leavenworth at Christmas yet? It is EPIC); Colchuck Lake and the rest of the Enchantments; and more cideries, breweries, and wineries than any sane person could try in a weekend.
- Warm Springs Inn and Winery: This ADORABLE bed and breakfast is situated on a gorgeous riverfront property. For breakfast, you’ll get to enjoy a gourmet, multi-course meal, whipped up using fruits and vegetables grown onsite by the owners themselves. I can’t imagine anything better than finishing up with the Sage Hills Loop and kicking back with a glass of their own wine on the inn’s deck!
- Avid Hotel Wenatchee: If hotels are more up your alley than bed and breakfasts, the Avid Hotel is a modern, yet colorful stay, with complimentary breakfast, pet-friendly rooms, and a hot tub to relax those sore post-hiking muscles in.
- Bavarian Lodge: While the other two hotels I recommended are in Wenatchee, this alpine-themed hotel is located in downtown Leavenworth, about half an hour away. The hotel definitely leans into the town’s Bavarian vibes, from the heavy wood furniture to the overflowing flower boxes on the windows. The real clincher for me, though, is the heated pool and hot tub, with views of the surrounding Cascades.
Do you have any questions about the Sage Hills Loop? Or are there any other not-to-be-missed wildflower hikes in Washington? Let me know in the comments below!