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Wild Horses Monument

Central Washington > Yakima
46.9646, -119.9643 Map & Directions
0.4 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain
150 feet
Highest Point
1,300 feet
Calculated Difficulty About Calculated Difficulty
  • Wildflowers/Meadows
  • Rivers
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Witness up close one of the most frequently viewed public artworks in the state of Washington, while admiring a broad view of the Columbia River and the tiny hamlet of Vantage. Continue reading

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Hiking Wild Horses Monument

The road sign calls it Wild Horses Monument, but the real name of this artwork is Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies. And despite being begun in 1989, it’s still not complete!

The trail itself is unremarkable, but after reading the history of the sculpture, you may agree that it’s worth the stop, and the short hike to see it up close.

The sculpture was designed and created by Chewelah sculptor David Govedare. He envisioned a 36-foot tall woven basket made of steel, tipped up by Grandfather (a symbol of the Great Spirit), to allow the 18 horses within to run free.

The sculpture was to be completed and then presented as a gift during Washington’s Centennial celebration in 1989. The state ceded the land to Grant County for that purpose, but fundraising from private donations fell short and there was never enough money to complete the project. The 15 life-size galloping horses that were installed are a beautiful sight, regardless of the original plan. The sculpture as a whole is best seen from a distance. If you choose to take the short hike to the hilltop to see the individual horses, you’ll be rewarded with a nice view of the Columbia River and surroundings.

From the far end of the paved parking lot, set out up the obvious trail heading up to the left of the sculpture. There are other faint trails visible, but please stay left on the main trail to minimize further erosion.

The way is moderately steep, with sand and loose rocks; a hiking staff or trekking poles are helpful. A mere two tenths of a mile later, you are on top of the plateau featuring fifteen wild horses frozen in mid-gallop.

The individual horses are best viewed in profile. The rust that has formed does not detract, but graffiti sometimes does. There is plenty of room to wander among them for a whole new perspective, offering a variety of options for the photographer. View the horses in profile from the back side, with the Columbia River (actually Wanapum Lake) providing a sparkling backdrop. Or, if you can time it right, capture the horses in silhouette before a brilliant sunset.

Hike Description Written by
Ken Giesbers, WTA Correspondent

Wild Horses Monument

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 46.9646, -119.9643 Open in Google Maps

Before You Go

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WTA Pro Tip: Save a copy of our directions before you leave! App-based driving directions aren't always accurate and data connections may be unreliable as you drive to the trailhead.

Getting There

From Ellensburg, drive east on I-90 past Vantage. Shortly after crossing the Columbia River and before reaching the Gorge, take exit 139.

Turn right and follow pavement 0.5 mile to the parking lot, which accommodates about 25 vehicles and a couple of buses. No parking pass is required. As of this writing, the parking lot features no amenities. Interpretive signs have been vandalized.

Note: There is no corresponding exit for westbound traffic. The Vantage and Gorge exits (136 and 143 respectively) can be used to loop around.

More Hike Details


Central Washington > Yakima

Grant County

Guidebooks & Maps

Best Desert Hikes: Washington (Bauer & Nelson - Mountaineers Books)

Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Priest Rapids

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Wild Horses Monument

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