You've done them all: Palouse Falls, Rocks of Sharon, Liberty Lake Loop, Bowl & Pitcher, Tubbs Hill...and you're starting to think finding peace and quiet in nature just isn't going to happen. Parking near the trailhead is unheard of. In fact, you've been adding an extra mile to your hikes just with the distance from your car to the trail. It's great that our community has decided to opt outside, but when you want to become one with nature and not your neighbors, you may need to look a little harder to find the perfect escape.
Here are my top five (somewhat) secret hiking trails around the Inland NW that have yet to become well-known weekend destinations.
Location: Davenport, WA (MAP)
Distance: 5 mile Loop
Dog Friendly: YES
This hike really has it all. A waterfall, places to stop and fish, a quiet beach, wildlife, caves and views well worth the drive out of town. Plus it has all the amenities of home - bathrooms, camping, picnic tables and a very large, paved parking area.
The trail starts as a fisherman's trail, winding along the banks of the turquoise blue waters of the creek as it makes its way to Lake Roosevelt. Once you reach the beach, cut down and follow the sand for about two miles. We only saw a handful of fishermen up to this point and the beach was completely empty. Perfect to throw a stick or two to the pup.
At the end of the beach things get a little more difficult to follow. Head right onto the game trail and keep your eyes on the prize - the caves in the distance. Make sure you are wearing tall socks - the pup and I came home with quite a few burrs attached to anything they could stick too. And bring your bug spray. The still waters of the creek can result in some very hungry mosquitos.
Continue along the trail through the grasses (follow the deer droppings if you lose the trail) until you reach the plateau then head up to the caves. Stop for lunch and a few photos then head back down to the game trail and follow it through the canyon until you reach the old road along the barbed-wire fence. This road will lead you back to the fisherman's trail and the parking lot.
Don't forget to stop in the campground (which by the way is open year-round) to see the waterfall before you leave! And be aware of the wildlife. A very large owl was camping out in the cave we hiked to - he could have easily eaten my dog for breakfast. We also saw a family of deer and about half a dozen bald eagles. There was no shortage of wildlife on this hike! Makes me wonder what we DIDN'T see that saw us!
KAMIAK BUTTE: PINE RIDGE TRAIL
Location: Colfax, WA (MAP)
Distance: 3.5 Miles Out and Back
Dog Friendly: YES
The Pine Ridge Trail at Kamiak Butte is so spectacular that it's been added to the National Trails System. The ridge offers 360 degree views of the Palouse and depending on the time of year you visit, the colors will shift, fade and brighten. The dry side of the butte is your typical desert...sagebrush and a scattering of wildflowers. The north side of the butte has been taken over by lush forests...which means the wildlife is abundant as well. In fact, this park contains over 150 species of animals and vegetation...which equates to a very beautiful hike.
The first 1.5 miles take you up to the ridge. The trail is wide and the switchbacks are easily manageable. From here you reach that view. And you can meander the ridge about .5 miles to take in every angle. I managed to wander off the trail somehow, so my hike ended up being closer to 4.5 miles, but finding a rock to sit on right at sunset as the dust-filled skies of the Palouse turned hot pink made getting lost so worth it. I highly recommend staying for the sunset - just don't forget the park closes at dusk, so your hike down needs to be done in a timely manner.
Location: Spokane Valley, WA (MAP)
Distance: 5 Mile Loop
Dog Friendly: YES
Antoine Peak consists of 1,076 acres to explore on the northern edge of Spokane Valley. There are two trailheads: one on the east side of the mountain and one on the west. Either choice will take you along numerous trail options. The views are astounding in all directions: overlooking Liberty Lake, the Spokane Valley, and north to Mount Spokane and the Selkirk Range.
My route takes you from the west. It's the most direct route to the 3,373 foot summit and loops around the base of the peak so you can take in those breathtaking views. From the trailhead it climbs for just under a mile to an overlook to the west where you can see Royal Riblet’s Mansion on the Arbor Crest property. Follow the trail to the first intersection and stay right for the loop, for views of the east Spokane Valley all the way to Liberty Lake. This route is just about five miles.
I've hike Antoine Peak every season. Spring is by far my favorite as the wildflowers are abundant and the trails are lush and green. Make yourself a flower crown, find a nice warm rock and enjoy a little quiet time without the interruptions of the city below on this close to town, yet oh-so-far-away hike.
RIVERSIDE STATE PARK CEMETERY LOOP
Location: Spokane, WA (MAP)
Distance: 4 Mile Loop
Dog Friendly: YES
This trail has became my go-to for my half-marathon training due to it's intricate trail system that allows me to loop around basically at any point of my run. This part of the Centennial trail seems to be undiscovered by the local area and I managed to see only two people on this portion of the trail on a sunny, 65 degree Earth Day.
Start by parking at the Fort George Wright Cemetery parking lot. Start the loop by heading toward the military cemetery and down the Centennial trail. You'll follow the paved trail for about a mile and a half until you reach the intersection with Aubrey White Park Drive. Take the road right past the sign for the equestrian area then hop on Trail 25. Follow this trail until it intersects with Trail 100 which will lead you to the river. Head back toward the cemetery on this route and you will eventually reach the Centennial Trail again as it leads you back past the cemetery to the parking lot.
Want a longer adventure? Head left once you reach the river and you will eventually hit the busy Bowl & Pitcher area with even more trails to explore...but beware, you won't be alone on the trail anymore.
FARRAGUT STATE PARK: HIGHPOINT TRAIL
Location: Athol, ID (MAP)
Distance: 3 Miles Round Trip
Dog Friendly: YES
To get to the trailhead head past the visitor center, turn right on South Road and drive 1/4 mile. Follow the well-maintained trail and cross the wooden bridge into the forest. Once you reach the sign warning bikers not to pass, the trail becomes a lot harder to navigate as it heads up the rocky cliff. My pup and I meandered along the cliffside until we found a perfect spot to stop and take in the sights....although I'm not sure we were even on the designated trail anymore.
After taking in the views (Buttonhook Bay can be seen in the distance), carefully navigate the loose rocks and head back down to the trail to loop around to the trailhead.
Feeling adventurous? Continue to the Bernard Peak Trail and stay the night in one of Farragut's beautifully maintained campsites. Did you know this is also one of the most haunted forests in Idaho? So while it may be quiet and you may FEEL alone, you probably never really are...muahahaha!