Spokane may be a densely populated area, but a short drive in any direction from its booming downtown will land you in an outdoorsman’s paradise.
There are 16 conservation areas in Spokane County, as well as a number of parks, recreation areas and trailheads around the edges of the Lilac City. These hiking areas range in difficulty, size and proximity to the EWU campus.
Here is a look at four hiking locations in Spokane.
1. Trail 121 – ‘Waterfall Loop’
Just south of Palisades Park is Trail 121, also known as Waterfall Loop. With the rain this season, this location is sure to be a breathtaking adventure within 30 minutes of the EWU campus.
There are several entrances to the trail and paths to take, but entering on the side of Greenwood Road makes the most out of the short trail.
Hikers can either trek down and walk alongside the creek to the lower area of the waterfall, or walk around the upper area for an easier path. The hike is only about a mile long, but the scene of the waterfall surrounded by lush greenery is worth the trip.
The Palisades Park area is a Spokane city park and does not require a discover pass for parking.
2. Holmberg Conservation Area
Holmberg Conservation Area is located in north Spokane off of North Waikiki Road. There are 104 acres of land next to a city park with many different trails to make your own path.
I walked through a less-used trail with thicker brush straight to the top of the hill, where there are small rocks to climb up and overlook the rest of the area.
Although it is a state park, there is parking in the city and at Holmberg Park, so a discover pass is not required.
There are houses surrounding the area, but the trees in the upper area make it feel secluded.
One of my favorite moments was photographing a group of deer snacking on some bushes while I was coming down a trail on my way back.
3. The Bluff – South Hill Spokane
The Bluff is located on the South Hill overlooking Highway 195. Enter the trail on the corner of High Drive and 29th Avenue.
There is a series of thin trails that slalom down the side of the hill toward Hangman Creek, also known as Latah Creek, at the bottom. Be prepared for a calf workout if you take a quicker route up or down the steep incline.
Although dogs are allowed, I wouldn’t recommend taking a high energy furry friend on this trail because of how steep the sides of the hill are, paired with the thin trails.
As part of a city park, no discover pass is needed for parking.
This trail’s best assets are its proximity to the city and the views from the South Hill.
4. Palisades Park Loop Trail
The Palisades are located in west Spokane off of North Rimrock Drive, and is a great spot to get a scenic overview of Spokane’s downtown area.
The trail is straightforward, flat and the easiest of the four hikes featured in this guide.
It is not necessarily difficult or adventurous, but makes for a great place to run or walk a dog while still getting out in nature.
As part of a city park, no discover pass is required.
For a longer afternoon, hike out to the scenic overlook of Spokane and then head south down to Trail 121, also known as Waterfall Loop. That trail is featured on page 16.
Spokane’s nature connection
Spokane Park Operations Division Manager John Batelli said that the city’s funding and proximity with its conservation areas make for a unique situation.
“It’s the perfect combination of urban space that hasn’t been developed and funding to keep improving those areas,” Batelli said. “We have the opportunity to keep building a public park system in our local community.”
Spokane County parks are open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Batelli said that his favorite time to go is when the sun is dropping down the horizon in the late afternoon.
A park official’s hiking recommendations
Batelli recommended five parks for students to go out and see while in the area. Full information on each area can be found on the Spokane County website, with trail maps and directions to each location.
He recommended Antoine Peak, which is located on the northern edge of the Spokane Valley. There is 1,076 acres of land with a variety of trailheads, and a great view of the entire valley from its 3,373-foot summit.
Liberty Lake is located in the southern Spokane Valley. With 455 acres, it is significantly smaller than Antoine Peak. Batelli said there is a waterfall at the top of the loop trail that people should go out and see during the springtime while it is flowing strong.
The Dishman Hills conservation area is located in south Spokane and features one of the most popular trails in the area, the Rocks of Sharon. The 6.5-mile loop is considered to be moderately difficult and is one of the favorite places for the areas rock climbers.
The Saltese Uplands are slightly west of Liberty Lake with seven miles of trails. Batelli said the area features more of a desert-step habitat and a lot of mountain biking trails.
Lastly, Batelli recommended the Trautman Ranch located near Nine Mile Falls, north of Spokane. He said the area is great for bird watching with a lot of open spaces on the 275.8-acre conservation area. The ranch is in the middle of Riverside State Park, which has a lot more hiking and recreation opportunities in the over 11,000 acres in the Spokane area.
Recommendations from an EPIC coordinator
Madison Kinder, EPIC adventures outdoor program coordinator, agreed with Batelli that Spokane County is great to hike because of the proximity to is conservation areas.
“There are a lot of trails that make you feel super secluded,” Kinder said. “They are easy to get to, but you’re automatically emerged in nature once you get out there.”
Like Batelli, Kinder said that areas in Riverside State Park and Dishman Hills are some of her favorite. She enjoys rock climbing in both areas, including the Rocks of Sharon trail in Dishman Hills.
For hiking, Kinder said she often goes to the Bluff, located on the South Hill in Spokane. She said that she likes to run and hike in that area because it is close to where she lives.
Kinder recommended that students go out on hikes during a weekday they don’t have class to avoid traffic on the trails. She said the best time to go is in the morning to try and catch a breeze and beat the afternoon heat.