An easy hike. A Spectacular view. Two 7-million-year-old basalt pillars. A Native American legend.
★★★☆☆ Solitude: A hidden gem in an oft-ignored corner of SE Washington. Great place to take in a sunset or sunrise. Most people drive right by the Sisters--you shouldn't.
★★☆☆☆ Challenge: It can be scorching hot in summer and, yes, there's a sight chance of rattlesnakes, but overall it's an easy walk.
Know Before You Go
Case in point: Twin Sisters Rock.
Just off Highway 730 about halfway between the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla, Twin Sisters Rock offers a sweeping view of the Columbia River framed by two towering basalt pillars. The hike is easy, less than a mile round-trip, and the vista from the top is surprisingly pretty, particularly at sunset or in early spring when the wild flowers are blooming.
If geological history interests you, Twin Sisters won’t disappoint. From the base of the spires, you can see the Wallula Gap, a massive narrow cut in the landscape that once squeezed the raging Missoula flood to one-fifth its size. The water that backed up behind the gap, combined with centuries of wind-aided erosion, exposed thousands of basalt outcroppings (like the Twin Sisters) across the Columbia Plateau.
But there’s an interesting legend as well. According to the Cayuse Indians, two sisters were once turned into basalt pillars by Coyote, the trickster god, who loved the sisters but apparently had a strange way of showing it. Coyote also turned himself into a nearby rock, so that he could watch over the sisters forever.
Taken altogether, the hike to the Twin Sisters offers a nice mix of legend, geological wonder, and easy exercise. The reward at the top is a sweeping vista, two magical rocks, and a dose of solitude.
Coordinates and Notes
You'll see the sisters looming above the highway as you arrive at the small pull-off. The trail from the Highway 730 pullout is obvious and marked with a large sign explaining the Cayuse legend. Take in the tale then head up the gravel trail to the pillars. The hike is short (you’ll be at the top in about 10 minutes) but there are some steep sections with loose gravel, so ditch the flip flops and wear shoes fit for the task. A few final thoughts: Respect the private land that abuts the hike, keep dogs on a leash, resist the temptation to climb on the spires, and of course—have fun.