Goldendale Things to Do
Slightly south of downtown Goldendale, and on the west side of Highway 97, you will find a pull-out that gives a view of the open grasslands surrounding Goldendale. Here, you get a good view of the flat prairie that sits between the descent to the Columbia River Gorge and the Toppenish Hills to the north.
This viewpoint provides a wonderful view of Mount Adams, and if the weather is even more clear you may also be able to see Mount Hood, Mount Saint Helens and Mount Rainier.
There is also a Klickitat County Information and Map display available here.
Views of the large number of wind turbines built in the area in the last few years are also available here.
It is best to visit this location when going south on highway 97, as it can be quite difficult to get back out onto highway 97 going north. This is because the view of traffic coming north is blocked a little bit by the hill in the road.Related to:
- Road Trip
Along Highway 97 south of Goldendale you will find a viewpoint just a little past the point where the road starts to go down the hill. Here, you will find a paved parking loop, and several short paved trails that lead to viewpoints that overlook the small gorge along which highway 97 descends to the Columbia River Gorge.
Depending on the weather, the views extending south into Oregon can be pretty long (into the 40 mile range).
These days, however, the viewpoint is also a good location to see the acres and acres of wind turbines that have been put in this part of Oregon and Washington in the past several years. They just go on an on forever, and there are about 20 that are reasonably close to the viewpoint so that you can get a fairly close look at them if you so desire.
During the spring months, you will also find a small selection of wildflowers in bloom in the grasslands along the paved trails at the viewpoint.Related to:
- Road Trip
NOTE for those who can not climb stairs: you will want to contact the observatory beforehand, as their facility was built in the early 1970s and parts of it are not wheelchair or otherwise accessible if you are unable to climb stairs.
Also Note: As this is a Washington State Park, visiting here requires the use of a Discover Pass. Please see my Discover Pass Tip. A day use pass may be purchased here from the state parks employee for $10.
State parks of most any state in the USA have trees, picnic areas, camping, and all that. Some state parks will have significant historical sites preserved. However, not many states can boast of a state park that has a telescope - let alone two telescopes - that are used as part of public investigation of the universe in which we live.
The main telescope here was constructed in the early 1970s by several astronomy hobbyists, who agreed to donate the results of their labors to the city of Goldendale if the city would provide a structure for housing it. In 1973 the 24.5 inch telescope and its new observatory structure was open for business.
Through a series of events the state parks department wound up purchasing the land and structure in 1980 and thus the facility is now a state park.
Tours, presentations, and telescope views are offered regularly throughout the year, but on a different schedule during the winter months vs. the summer months. The current summer hours are Wednesdays through Sundays, 2 to 5 in the afternoon plus 8 in the evening to midnight. Winter hours are Friday through Sunday, 2 to 5 in the afternoon plus 7 to 10 in the evening. For details on the various programs offered all year it says on the web site to call the phone number.
The typical program involves going into the small auditorium that is part of the main structure, where an introductory program is offered. Everyone is then brought into the telescope room, where setting the telescope by reading the charts of what is visible and when is demonstrated.
Then, everyone gets a chance to view what is visible in the telescope. Venus is usually visible during daylight, and so that makes a convenient object to see during the afternoon programs. Night time programs offer a wide range of night time viewing.
The afternoon programs are then taken back into the auditorium where they are given some safety tips about how to observe and how not to observe the sun using a telescope. After making sure that everyone understands that proper safety measures need to be taken in order to view the sun - with a telescope or not - a live image of the sun is then shown on the television screen from the secondary telescope at the observatory.
The afternoon programs are also treated to the scattered sundials that are around the facility. There are a number of different types, including ones that indicate the solstice and equinox as well as the time of day.
The solar imaging is not available, obviously, after the sun goes down but that certainly doesn't stop the evening programs from having fun with the night sky.
The web site listed below is the official web site of the state parks. However, a number of other web sites exist that feature this observatory and have useful information about it, including:
Goldendale Observatory operated by a small engine repair shop in Yakima.
There is a Friends of the Goldendale Observatory but their web presence has been removed from the place it used to be.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
- Museum Visits
808 East Simcoe Drive, Goldendale, WA, 98620
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Families
This definitely seems to be the place to go for food when you are close to downtown Goldendale. There are other places around - especially out by Highway 97, but the prices are very good for the portions served, and it is well worth getting a bit off the highway.
Despite it being somewhat out of the way and not having a bar, there were quite a number of people in here eating on a Saturday evening. This seems to be a pretty good sign that people were willing to come here rather than the places closer to the highway, even though the rest of downtown Goldendale is shut down by early evening.
I had the crispy noodle stir fry in the vegetarian section of the menu, which is available for around $7, and this is quite a meal for the price.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
Goldendale Warnings and Dangers
Many county roads are dirt, which may be very rough in dry times, BUT be careful in wet weather. If roads are dry (hot summer time) they should be hard. If it has been raining or snowing most of these roads are impassable (unless frozen hard) and tow truck operators may not come close enough to put you out. If they need two trucks to get you out of the gumbo, the cost is over $350.00 Most paved roads are safe, but if weight restrcitions are in effect, watch for potholes. Neither the county nor state has a good budget for road repairs.Related to:
- Road Trip
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