Come winter, the Spokane region’s scenic beauty is beckoning to be explored. Mountain vistas, lakeside views, soaring osprey and eagles…your hot cocoa is guaranteed to taste better after a jaunt into the great outdoors.
Take a quick walk on the stunning downtown Centennial Trail as it winds high above the river through Kendall Yards, under the Monroe Street Bridge and past the partially frozen Spokane Falls. Continue through the heart of Riverfront Park and across the river to Gonzaga University, or venture further all the way to the Idaho state line. Most winter days you will not need snowshoes on the trail.
Just south of I-90,on the western slope of the south hill, a wonderful maze of trails peers out over the Latah Valley and towards the rolling wheat fields of the Palouse. It’s easy to spend all day exploring the bluff trails that run north to south. There are many access points off of High Drive that lead to the upper and lower trails.
If you want to extend the High Drive Trails, try heading all the way north until the trail drops you down onto 7th Ave. Then proceed west toward the river and underneath the I-90 bridge where you will find another trail leading along the creek through Overlook Park. If you’re really brave, bring a set of disks to enjoy the disk golf courses on the other side of the creek.
The largest state park in Washington is only 10 minutes from downtown Spokane. Riverside State Park includes thousands of miles rocky river trails, pine forests, basalt cliff overlooks and lake side areas. You may be surprised with the abundant wildlife, even in the winter. Osprey, eagles, deer, moose, beavers and many more species are frequently sighted in the park.
Mt. Spokane is the premier snowshoeing destination in region. The vast state park covers the whole mountain and is a recreational haven for all types of winter sports. Start your adventure by finding the historic Vista House on the summit of Mt. Spokane. This amazing stone house is often staffed by a Mt. Spokane Ski Resort staff member serving fireside hot cocoa, snacks and more. It’s easily reached via the ski resort lifts (with the purchase of a lift ticket) or by hiking up the state park side to the summit and traversing a few hundred feet over.
If you’re are looking for a more secluded adventure on Mt. Spokane, try finding the fire lookout on Quartz Mountain, just south of the main summit. This five mile round trip hike is marked and completely accessible via the fire roads. Start by parking at the Nordic ski lodge, but be sure to stay off the Nordic trails with your snowshoes.
Enjoying Mt. Spokane State Park’s winter recreation is easy. Just make sure to purchase a snow park pass available at many local retailers, including REI, General Store, and Mountain Gear, or use the Virtual Ranger station at the Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park Selkirk Lodge: http://www.mtspokane.com/mt-spokane-state-park.
Check out the state park information for other passes like the Nordic pass, snowmobile permit and more.
Just thirty minutes from downtown Spokane, past the upper south hill neighbourhood, is one the best views in the Inland Northwest. There are three different natural areas, that all lead to a prominent ridge overlooking Spokane, Spokane Valley and the rolling canola and wheat fields (in the appropriate season) of the Palouse. The quickest way to achieve the view is to park at the Stevens Creek Trailhead.
Take the South Palouse Highway south (from the 57th and S Palouse Hwy intersection on the South Hill) toward Valleyford. Turn left on Stevens Creek Road, about three miles before Valley Ford. Roughly three miles up the hill, the road will dead end with a Spokane County Parks and Recreation parking lot on the left. Take the trail one mile straight up the switchbacks and towards Big Rock. For the best views, follow the trail that winds below and to the right of the main rock and continue to the top of the ridge. You will see the views to the south. This is a perfect time to start exploring all the vantage points along the ridgeline.
The Dishman Hills Natural Area and Iller Creek are also wonderful places for winter recreation and can all be accessed from the top of the ridgeline. But be careful how far you travel from your car, as it’s easy to keep wandering!
In downtown Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, right next to the famous Coeur d’Alene Resort, there is a fantastic hike that offers sweeping lake views called Tubb’s Hill. It’s easily found directly out of McEuen Park along Lake Coeur d’Alene. The trail winds around the lakeshore with beautifully maintained trails. Or you can take the upper trail to get a panoramic view from the summit. Bring a warm coat in case the wind blows off the lake and make sure you don’t forget your camera.
For more things to do in the winter click here.