Ginkgo Petrified Forest
State Park And Wild Horse Wind And Solar Facility
On 8 April 2023, Zosia Zgolak and I visited
Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park and Wild Horse Wind and Solar
Facility; both are located in central Washington. Ginkgo Petrified
Forest State Park is renowned for its collection of petrified wood from a
variety of species including that of the park's namesake. The Wild
Horse Wind and Solar Facility provides energy for the Puget Sound area
but also allows recreational access for part of the year. We would
start our day with two separate hikes in the State Park followed by
another hike in the Wind and Solar Facility to tag a couple of
officially-named summits--Whiskey Dick Mountain and Chinamans Hat.
From I-90, take Exit 136 and drive north through the village of
Vantage. About 500 metres past the intersection between Main Street
and Ginkgo Avenue, turn right onto Recreation Drive. Drive 650
metres and park in a small pullout near a signed gate. This is the
starting point for the Trees of Stone Trail which can be made into a loop
with a second trailhead located about 600 metres further along the road
near a campground at Rocky Coulee Recreation Area. The more popular
Trees of Stone Interpretive Trail which showcases the park's
collection of petrified trees is accessed along Vantage Highway about 2.8
kilometres west of the Recreation Drive junction. Parking anywhere
in Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park requires a Discover Pass which can
be purchased either
online or at an automated pay station in the Interpretive Trail's
At the start of the Trees of Stone Trail, there are two diverging roads
heading westward from the gate, and Zosia and I took the right branch
which gently ascends a grassy hillside. This road winds northward
for several kilometres through open terrain before reaching an unsigned
junction just past an unnamed high point. Turning right, we dropped
into a slight dip and passed a second easy-to-miss junction to reach a
viewpoint overlooking Wanapum Lake (Columbia River). After having
our fill of far-reaching views, we backtracked to the dip and took a
faint trail branching off to the east. This trail drops down a
bushy gully and turns southward contouring along the tops of cliffs
overlooking Wanapum Lake. The trail seemingly disappeared as we
approached its southern terminus, but fortunately, we found an old road
winding down steep terrain to the campground below. From there, we
simply walked back along the road to our starting point.
The I-90 crosses Wanapum Lake on the Vantage Bridge.
After finishing our first hike, Zosia and I drove to the
parking lot for the Trees of Stone Interpretive Trail. We spent
some time here touring the various specimens of petrified wood scattered
throughout the hillside. Due to vandalism and theft, the specimens
are sadly housed in cages. One of the specimens is that of a ginkgo
tree from which the park derives its name. Currently, ginkgo trees
are only native to China, but at some time in the past, they were far
||A herd of sheep watch Sonny warily
while grazing on the hillside.
Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak
Distance: 9.0 kilometres
Round-Trip Time: 2 hours 49 minutes
Net Elevation Gain: 247 metres
When we finished our tour of the State Park, Zosia and I drove
to the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility to hike up Whiskey Dick
Mountain and Chinamans Hat. Although Chinamans Hat is technically
on public land, the easiest access is through the Wind and Solar
Facility. Based on an agreement with the State of Washington, the
facility allows limited recreational access annually from April to
||Along the Trees of Stone Interpretive
Trail, Zosia checks out a petrified wood specimen which is secured
inside a cage.
||Here is a closer look at a petrified
log from an ancient spruce tree.
||The petrified wood specimens are
scattered throughout this hillside.
Turn north onto Beacon Ridge Road from Vantage Highway about 26
kilometres east of Ellensburg or 18 kilometres west of Vantage.
Drive 5.6 kilometres to the Wild Horse Renewable Energy Center. A
free recreational access permit must be obtained here before venturing
further. The start of the hike to Whiskey Dick Mountain begins at a
Y-junction 500 metres beyond the Energy Center. Park on the side of
the road without blocking a locked gate for the left-branching service
As soon as we circumvented the gate, Zosia and I abandoned the service
road and began climbing a rough double-track going up the east ridge of
Whiskey Dick Mountain. This double-track passes an array of solar
panels--also accessible via the service road--before running past the
flat and nebulous summit. While the hike to the top was simple
enough, the ground was quite soft from spring thaw, and we had to tiptoe
around a lot of wet and muddy spots along the double-track.
After tagging what we thought was the summit of Whiskey Dick Mountain,
Zosia and I continued westward along the double-track and soon entered
public land. The double-track eventually drops down to a saddle and
continues past the north side of Chinamans Hat. We left the
double-track at the saddle and easily hiked off-trail to the summit of
Chinamans Hat. A convenient wind-break there allowed us to take
shelter and sign the summit register.
For our return trip, Zosia and I simply retraced our steps back over
Whiskey Dick Mountain. When we returned to the solar panels, we
avoided all the remaining wet sections along the double-track by taking
the service road back to the gate.
||Sonny stops at the Wild Horse
Renewable Energy Center to pick up a free recreational access permit.
Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak
Zosia starts up a double-track which runs parallel to a service road at
right. The Wild Horse Renewable Energy Center is visible in the
Zosia approaches an array of solar panels on Whiskey Dick Mountain.
Here is a closer look at the solar panels.
The top of Whiskey Dick Mountain is broad and flat.
Zosia and Sonny stand somewhere near the indistinct summit of Whiskey Dick
Mountain (1183 metres).
Zosia continues along the double-track toward Chinamans Hat.
The double-track passes the north side of Chinamans Hat
which can easily be ascended from any direction.
Sonny and Zosia stand on the summit of Chinamans Hat (1131 metres).
Zosia leaves the top of Chinamans Hat with intentions of hiking back over
Whiskey Dick Mountain.
Zosia tries to imitate the windmills along the service road.
Distance: 8.2 kilometres
Round-Trip Time: 3 hours 1 minute
Cumulative Elevation Gain: ~210 metres