Motorcyclists: Roam the Roads in Spokane

The Spokane area is blessed with great motorcycle riding opportunities with a wide range of terrain from mountain lakes and rolling Palouse fields, to mountain switchbacks and sandy hill climbs. Whether you are on a Sportster, a 1200GS, or a 250CRF, motorcycle rides around Spokane have something for you. Here are a few of my favorite Spokane area rides that’ll get your motor running:

Spokane to Steptoe Butte

Steptoe Butte is a unique geologic feature that juts above the green rolling hills of the Palouse 52 miles south of Spokane. To get there from Spokane, you’ve got several options, from a straight shot south on Highway 195 to country backroads that will add miles to your ride and make you glad you have a GPS app or map. Friendly farming towns of Spangle, Rosalia, Steptoe, Oakesdale, and Garfield offer food and fuel along the way.

The road up Steptoe Butte spirals around from the Palouse lowlands to the 3,612-foot summit, with tighter turns the closer you get to the top. The quartzite rock making up the butte is over 400 million years old, making it some of the oldest exposed rock in the Pacific Northwest. Interpretive signs at the summit touch on the area’s natural history and point out surrounding mountains that are visible all the way to British Columbia, Idaho, and Montana. Bring your camera and try to time your ride for either early morning or sunset. You’ll be blown away by the views and your friends will be equally impressed with your photos.

This ride is suitable for any motorcycle that can handle highway riding, though if you choose to take remote gravel backroads, you’ll want some real tread on your tires.

Steptoe Butte is a Washington State Park Heritage Site, so a Discovery Pass is required.

Google Maps

Credit: Nicolas James

A Loop Around Lake Coeur d’Alene

This road was made for motorcycles, with twists and turns that challenge the Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina. Driving it is an invitation to getting car sick. But on a bike, it’s heaven. The loop ride is 148 miles long and a fantastic way to spend a day on two wheels.

From Spokane, head east on I-90 through the Spokane Valley and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to the exit for Idaho 97. The ride along Lake Coeur d’Alene is beautiful. With the lake on your right and forested hillsides on your left, you may want to stop off the road to take it all in.

After miles of counter-steering and shifting through the curves, Harrison is a great stop for lunch. Eighteen miles south is the lumber town of St. Maries, at the bottom end of Lake Coeur d’Alene, where food and fuel are available.

The ride continues along the lake, offering beautiful views. A unique aspect of this area is the St. Joe River that flows out of the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana. The St. Joe (or simply “The Joe”, as locals call it) flows into Lake Coeur d’Alene. The river has built up riverbanks that extend into the waters of the lake, forming a river within a lake — an interesting phenomenon.

Heading back to Spokane, the ride takes you through Plummer, Idaho on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation, through the northern end of the Palouse region, and through the country town of Rockford, Washington. If you find yourself hungry or thirsty, a stop at Fredneck’s Saloon and Beanery. You’ll recognize the place by the number of motorcycles that are typically parked out front.

Google Maps

Free Ferries Across Lake Roosevelt

The mighty Columbia River doesn’t flow like it used to. The Grand Coulee Dam slowed the river’s flow when its gates were closed in 1941 forming Lake Roosevelt. There is much to see and appreciate along the reservoir — especially for motorcyclists.

One of my favorite day-rides from Spokane is a 230-ish mile loop, crossing Lake Roosevelt on two free ferries operated by the Washington Department of Highways and the Colville Confederated Tribes.

From Spokane, head west on Highway 2 to Wilbur, then north to the ferry landing on Highway 21. The road dropping down to the reservoir is a fun one with several hairpins that will keep you clutch hand and left toe busy.

The free ferry runs from 6:00 am to midnight, seven days a week. After the 10-20 minute crossing of Lake Roosevelt on the S/V Sanpoil (time depends on the water level), you can choose between riding up the beautiful Sanpoil River 53 miles to Republic, then over Sherman Pass —the highest year-around highway pass in Washington — and back to Spokane through Kettle Falls, Colville, and Chewelah.

Google Maps

An alternative (the ride I recommend most) is to ride about 17 miles north from the ferry landing to Bridge Creek Road. Turn right and head east across the mountains of the Colville Indian Reservation. The 26 miles across the mountains provides lots of curves and corners, with expansive views of the forests of northeast Washington and the Colville Reservation.

Dropping down from the mountains, you’ll ride by Twin Lakes and into the Inchelium-Gifford ferry landing. This smaller ferry runs every half hour from 6:30 am on the Inchelium side, with its last run at 9:45 pm from the Gifford side. Note that the ferry is closed annually for maintenance during school spring break.

After crossing Lake Roosevelt to Gifford, Highway 25 will lead you south to Hunters, where you can ride east to Springdale and Highway 395 and back to Spokane, or ride Highway 231 south from Springdale through Ford, and back to Spokane along the Spokane River on Highway 291.

Highway 395 Google Maps

Highway 291 Google Maps

For an extra adventure, cross the Spokane River and turn left on Devil’s Gap Road. This scenic ride takes you back to Spokane through Nine Mile Falls.

Devil's Gap Road Google Maps

More Miles and More Moto Experiences

Those are just three of the special rides available from a motorcycle basecamp in Spokane. Other notable rides to discover for yourself include the twisty ascent to the 5,856-foot summit of Mt. Spokane, with incredible views of the city and surrounding mountains — clear into Canada and across Idaho.

A visit to the Seven Mile ORV area at Riverside State Park gives dirt or dual sport bike riders access to 600 acres of hill climbs, double and single-track trails, deep sand washes, and challenging slalom riding through a Ponderosa pine forest. A large paved parking area allows you to park your truck or trailer while you are exploring the terrain. A Discovery Pass is required.

And for Harley-Davidson riders, the Spokane Valley is home to Lone Wolf Harley-Davidson, one of the largest dealerships in the country. Besides drooling over their new and used bike offerings, you can hit up their parts and service departments, or book new rider training at their Riding Academy.

When you want to explore new areas on two wheels, set your sights on Spokane. Here you’ll find an incredible variety of riding, with historic towns, incredible views, supportive bike shops, and loads of camping and lodging to suit any rider. And if you see me on- or off-road, drop me a biker wave.

More Things to Do in Spokane

About the Author

Rick Hosmer

Rick Hosmer

Rick Hosmer is a dual-sport rider living in Spokane. He has put over 20,000 miles of pavement and dirt under his tires, mostly on motorcycle trips started from home. Riding a vintage 30-year-old KLR 650, Rick has explored much of the Pacific Northwest on two wheels.