by Stuart Hopson
Spring is fast approaching and the sun has come out of hiding. It is almost time to put the ski and snowboard boots away and dust off the hiking shoes.
The Spokane area has a surplus of trails, ranging from easy to moderately difficult, and it is as simple as making a phone call to the University Recreation Center to get started. They rent backpacks, mountain bikes and all sorts of gear to get students outside and enjoying nature.
The U-Rec also has guided outdoor trips, but if exploring with your buddies is more your style, check out these nearby trails to satisfy your spring fever.
The Bowl and Pitcher, Riverside State Park
Easy |1.75 mile loop
Discover Pass Required
Riverside State Park is located on a stretch of the Spokane River that features a suspension bridge crossing where the rapids reach class III and IV levels during spring runoff. Once hikers cross the bridge, trails splinter off in many directions. Some of these paths take hikers near the water to see views of the raging Spokane River, and some farther into the park to explore the wide and well-maintained trails. Some trails are narrow, more difficult routes heading up the rocky crags. The Bowl and Pitcher is the hiker’s version of “choose your own adventure,” because of the immense variety; it accommodates running, mountain biking, fishing, dog walking and even picnicking.
To get to this Spokane landmark from Whitworth head south on Division to Francis and take a right, follow Francis until it becomes 9 Mile Road, then head south on Rifle Club Road. Riverside State Park will appear on your right after about 2 miles.
Rocks of Sharon, Dishman Hills
Easy to Moderate | 5 mile loop
Discover Pass Required
The Rocks of Sharon is a loop through Dishman Hills that is a rock climber’s paradise, according to the All Trails website. This hike features creeks, steep ascents, amazing rock outcroppings and breath-taking views of the Spokane Valley and the Palouse. The top tends to be windy, so come prepared for colder temperatures as the hills are the natural dividing line between the rolling plains of the Palouse and the forests of the Valley. Recreationalists use this trail year-round for snowshoeing, trail running, mountain biking and bird watching. Dogs are welcome if leashed. If hikers start counter-clockwise, the trail is most difficult at the beginning. Hikers must cross a small creek, and begin a steep ascent. It all pays off when you get your first open views of the Rocks of Sharon and the Palouse. Coming down offers more views of the Spokane Valley.
From Whitworth drive south to I-90 and head east. Take the Sprague exit and continue east until you reach Dishman Mica Road, then make a right. Follow Dishman Mica Road for almost two-and-a-half miles then take a right onto Schafer Road. Follow Schafer Road until you reach 44th Avenue, turn right. Make your next left onto Woodruff Road then follow it for a quarter mile. Turn right onto Holman Road and follow for .8 miles. There is a parking area before a hairpin turn. The trailhead is at the end of the parking lot.
Liberty Lake Loop, Liberty Lake Regional Park
Moderate | 8.9 mile loop
Discover Pass Not Required
The Liberty Lake Loop is the most diverse trail of these four as far as natural features. Wildlife is prevalent, with moose and deer sightings. The first few miles of this hike are very casual, taking hikers through lake wetlands where beavers inhabit much of the area, creating numerous dams. An area called “The Cedars” can be reached by following the trail over several bridges that cross a creek’s meandering path. Signs mark trail distance throughout the hike and provide convenient maps and location for easy time-management. Once you reach “The Cedars” at 2.2 miles, the choice can be made to either turn back to create a short easy day or attempt the entire loop. Crossing the bridge at “The Cedars” increases the difficulty of the hike exponentially, the path winds back and forth using switchbacks to gain elevation quickly. Near the top of the switchbacks hikers are rewarded with an extraordinary view of the entire lake and Spokane Valley. Continue on to discover the source of the creek, a roaring waterfall and beyond that, a Boy Scout built station at the top of the peak. Follow the markers down towards Liberty Lake, and hikers will have completed the Liberty Lake Loop.
From Whitworth drive south to I-90 and head east. Take the Liberty Lake exit taking a right on Liberty Lake Drive; follow it for a mile then take a left on Sprague Ave. After a mile, Sprague turns into Neyland Ave. Follow it for .8 miles where the road forks, stay right onto Lakeside road. After three-quarters of a mile take a right onto Zephyr Road. Follow Zephyr Road until it dead ends into a parking lot. Park, then head southeast through the park; you do not need a Discover Pass. The trailhead is at the southeast corner of the park.
Mount Kit Carson, Mount Spokane State Park
Moderate to Difficult | 9 mile loop
Parking: Discover Pass Required
Mount Kit Carson is the smaller mountain to the left of Mount Spokane hikers can see on clear days from campus. This is a more difficult hike than the previous three hikes because of its altitude, weather, wildlife and conditions. Nearly as tall as Mount Spokane itself Mount Kit Carson will retain its snow for as long as the ski/snowboard season endures and its real hiking season does not begin until June or July. This is a small obstacle to overcome as the U-Rec offers snowshoe rentals if hikers cannot wait. Much like the Bowl and Pitcher, Mount Kit Carson has several paths that will take you to the top all varying in difficulty and scenery making this a favorite repeat event of local hikers. Trails 100, 130, 140 and 160 all interweave around each other and are clearly marked with color coordinating tree markers. Your ascent will be rewarded with views of the entire Spokane area. Be especially cautious, due to this hikes austere location, wildlife is more prevalent. Observe warning signs at every trailhead concerning natural predators, Bear mace and Bear bells are recommended.
From Whitworth drive north on Highway 2 to Highway 206. Follow Highway 206 for 17 miles to Mount Spokane State Park. Park at the switchback parking lot, the trailhead is on the north side of the road.
All Washington state parks require the use of a Discover Pass that pays for maintenance and trails to be cleared of debris, while accessing these recreational areas..It can be purchased anywhere one can buy a fishing license or online at discoverpass.wa.gov. The pass must be displayed on the rearview mirror of the vehicle.
Always remember safety when hiking. Dress appropriately for the weather, bring plenty of water, wear good shoes or boots and have emergency equipment suitable for the hike you are attempting. At the bare minimum take the essentials: water, fire (lighter or matches), first-aid kit and a knife.
No matter your skill level, take a friend. This makes it a trip you can talk about, while staying safe in case of an emergency.
It does not matter whether you get out there this Spring Break or later in the term, just do not miss a chance to see what the Pacific Northwest has to offer.
Contact Stuart Hopson at email@example.com