The Cowiche unit covers 7,683 acres south of Tieton and west of Yakima. In 2010, the unit expanded with the acquisition of the Worrell Ranch on the south side of Cowiche Mountain, adding 2,340 acres of shrub steppe habitat. The South Fork Cowiche Creek, which hosts spawning steelhead now that downstream barriers have been removed, flows for more than three miles through the unit.
The Cowiche Unit is an excellent example of intact shrub steppe plant community attracting a variety of shrub steppe obligate birds. Bird watchers and nature lovers can see many bird species and beautiful spring wildflowers throughout the area. Elk and mule deer can be found year round, with hunting opportunities available in fall.
A segment of the William O. Douglas trail runs through the Cowiche Unit, offering great views of shrub steppe habitat and the Yakima Valley below. The five-mile Box Spring Canyon Trail departs from Access Site #1 and follows the elk fence along Sunset Way. At the first corner, hikers can use the gate in the elk fence to access an old road and pick up the trail that runs beside it.
One elk winter feed site is located on the unit, but there is no public access to view the elk in the winter.
Map and Driving Directions
Access Site #1
Driving Directions From Hwy 12 at Yakima, exit on 40th Ave. Go south on 40th for 5 lights to Summitview Ave. Go west (right) on Summitview approximately 8.5 miles. Left on Cowiche Mill Road for 3 miles to the elk fence and gravel road. Go approximately 300 yds. to the small parking area on left side.
Parking/Restroom Information No facilities.
Other Information No motor vehicle access. Walk-in and horseback access only.
Seasonal Closure Information
The unit is closed to public entry south of Cowiche Mill Road from the start of winter feeding until May 1 at 6 a.m. to protect elk from human disturbance. The boundary of the closure is clearly posted and marked on green dot maps available at the Oak Creek Headquarters and the Region 3 office in Yakima.
Excellent wildflower displays in spring. Pristine shrub-steppe habitat. Viewing of numerous sage-obligate wildlife species possible after April.
A Discover Pass or WDFW Vehicle Access Pass
is required on all WDFW lands. Learn more at DiscoverPass.wa.gov