Also known as the Hanford Reach, this is one of the most striking areas of Washington state. High desert and rolling dunes rise away from the mighty Columbia River, and across the water are the reactors on the Hanford campus, relics of World War II.
But views are of so much more than the historic reactors. Rolling rivers, expansive skies, desert shrub and mountains of sand: it's a beautiful area, and well worth the visit.
From the trailhead near the boat launch, head north on a well-worn but unsigned footpath. Follow it through shrub steppe for 2 miles to the first dune. As you hike, see how much wildlife you can notice; the wildlife in the Hanford Reach area is plentiful and diverse.
Look for bald and golden eagles, osprey, raven, heron and red winged blackbirds in the marshy areas along the reach and arid animals like lizards and small mammals in the sandy areas along and on top of the bluffs.
For rock hounds, the white bluffs are a marvel in themselves. As the Columbia cuts through the prehistoric Ringold Formation, they carved away this rock and left strikingly bright cliffs. Tiny flecks of granite sparkle in the sand mix of the dunes.
The first dune is reached after 2 miles. It's a great stopping spot to take in the views and listen to the wildlife around you and river below.
There is a second dune another mile and a half along, but once up on the dunes there is no "trail". It's unlikely you will get lost, but do please keep in mind that some soils in the high desert of Washington are cryptobiotic -- a sensitive environment that take a long time to recover after being stepped on. If you decide to continue your wanderings, please watch where you step!