Bear Canyon offers a streamside walk along an old road, in a shady green canyon with pretty oak side valleys surrounded by semi-arid hills. This is a fun hike for kids, including little readers who can hunt for the bluebird boxes and read off the inscriptions carved in each, like Honesty, Charity, Trust, Friendship and many others.
Bear Canyon teems with life, seeming abuzz with plants and animals finding their niches and beating the odds. In the canyon, field crickets softly chirp, birds sing, butterflies take wing at the approach of hikers while lizards and ground squirrels scurry off the trail to rustle through dry leaves and underbrush.
Located a short drive up the Tieton River from Naches, Washington and its surrounding fruit orchards, the Bear Canyon trailhead is set in a grove of Oregon white oak in the Oak Creek Wildlife Area. The trail starts at an old dirt road that was washed out and it follows the creek up what remains of the old road bed, which has been swallowed up by competing plants. The trail runs three miles before linking up with a road up top that branches out in different directions. The trail and surrounding checkerboard lands were recently acquired, with the Nature Conservancy and Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, the Wildlife and Recreation Program, the Washington State Legislature, the Governor and Yakima County Board of Commissioners all working together to preserve it.
In early spring, look for a variety of wildflowers including desert parsley, arrowleaf balsamroot, ballhead waterleaf, stream violet, silky lupine and death camas, flowering shrubs like Oregon tea tree, western serviceberry, wax currant, bitter cherry and chokecherry, and butterflies such as spring azure, western pine elfin, sara's orangetip, mourning cloak, satyr anglewing, california tortoiseshell and the oak-dependent propertius duskywing.
Later in the season and in summer, look for orange columbine, indian paintbrush, penstemon, mint, stonecrop, wild forget-me-not, phlox, silverleaf and threadleaf phacelia, and butterflies such as zerene fritillary, anicia checkerspot, and western tailed blue. At forest edges, beaked hazelnut can be found.