The days are finally longer and warmer, meaning summer is here! For many, including myself, once the clock strikes five, there’s a mad dash to find the nearest back porch BBQ, newest hiking spot, or local lake for a quick dip. I will be the first to admit that as soon as the weather brightens up, I'm ready to end my gym membership and turn to the great outdoors for my weekly workouts. I'm a true lover of the Pacific Northwest and all its beautiful hiking trails. This summer, I want to tackle as many as I can. If you're ready to take a trek, all you’ll need is a comfortable pair of shoes and plenty of water. After that, grab a friend, a loved one, or four-legged companion and go explore! If you’re like me, perhaps take a cold local craft beer to enjoy once you get to the top…a nice reward to accompany the breathtaking views. To give you a jump-start, here’s a list of my favorite hikes thus far.
Iller Creek/Rocks of Sharon
My boyfriend and I love this five-mile loop. We live so close that we often do this for a weekend “walk” with our wolf pack (our three dogs). Located in Spokane Valley, right off Dishman-Mica Road and Appleway Boulevard, you’ll find a small parking lot and south entry to Rocks of Sharon. This hike is full of mountain bikers, trail runners, hikers, and climbers. The top has gigantic granite monoliths that climbers can be found belaying down. The fun isn’t limited to those in harnesses though: my favorite part is to scramble to the top of the rocks that are climbable without gear and watch the sunset while toasting with a chilled mason jar full of Spokane craft cider or IPA. This hike has various trails to the top, some of which include more difficult terrain, including a 1,200 ft. gain in elevation. Don’t be intimidated though. I've seen entire families with children of all ages, down to those tough moms toting their babies upon their backs. No matter your skill level, challenge yourself as these views are definitely worth a little sweat.
Liberty Lake Loop Trail
Another favorite of many Spokanites is a 7.5-mile trek out at Liberty Lake. This one full of cottonwoods, ponderosa pines, Douglas firs, and cedars. In addition to the great views of Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake, the trail eventually levels out and reaches a gorgeous waterfall, which is a great spot for a photo-op, quick snack, or resting point. This hike is great for summer as shade trees provide coverage to keep you cool the majority of the way. The climb can be tough at times, with a 2,800 ft. elevation gain, but the beauty of the trail and natural discoveries along the way will distract you from the strenuous portions. Also, do remember that since this is a county park, there is a two-dollar usage fee, so bring cash!
Riverside State Park/Bowl and Pitcher
This hike follows the Little Spokane River on an old railroad grade. When I moved here, my first thought when I heard Bowl and Pitcher was PICNIC. To my surprise, once I began this hike and peered across the swinging bridge, I saw two enormous rocks in the river shaped like a bowl and a water pitcher. In other words, no picnic, but since this hike is in Riverside State Park you can finish up with lunch at one of the many benches found along the journey. This hike is not very hard, nor does it change in elevation too much. During this adventure, you will enjoy the soothing sound of the flowing river, sights of rapids and anglers on the river. A great hike for the whole family including your dogs--as long as they are on a leash.
Mount Spokane State Park
Did you know that winter cross-country trails make for some of the best hiking trails? Steep incline plus a nice quad burn equals one great cardio workout and hike. Mt. Spokane is enjoyable all year long whether you're skiing or snowshoeing, hiking through the fall colors, or following the huckleberry dotted trail during August. Don’t get too distracted by those purple gems, the view is worth seeing too. Along this climb, you will pass through alpine meadows and rocky slopes before reaching the summit. Here, enjoy a few more huckleberries and views of Chattaroy’s mix of timber, farmland, Selkirk Range, and the sweet fresh air. I love seeing what the terrain is like on a naked ski mountain. When winter’s blanket of snow melts, summer reveals a marvelous new landscape.
Dishman Hills Natural Area
This is a great four-mile out-and-back trail that's located in Spokane Valley. Most hikers love the options when it comes to Dishman Hills, as there are different routes all clearly marked. This area is unique; it's a special woodland that's tucked away in a residential area. The Dishman Hills Natural Resources Conservation Area is over 530 acres and a reminder to all of the value of grassroots conservation involvement in keeping commercial buildings out of protected natural areas. Wildflowers such as grass widows, wild rose and ocean spray, combined with ponds, giant rocks, caves, and rare wildlife, make it an adventure for the whole family. Leaving the parking lot to begin your hike, stay to the left to experience a challenge and veer right for an easier level and open excursion. I would definitely say this is more of a light hike and could possibly bore those who are more vigorous hikers. However, as I said, this is a great family hike and is perfect to allow your kids to see large boulders, colorful wildflowers, and small animals courageous enough to peek out and say hi.