On the hunt for your next easy hike to tackle in Eastern Washington? Find your next favorite day hike near Spokane with Explore Washington State contributor Molly Lindquist.
Near nature, near perfect. Spokane is comfortably nestled at the start of the Rock Mountain foothills, has one hundred lakes within an hour’s drive, contains Washington’s largest state park and happens to have some incredible smaller parks as well. The Spokane River is a force to be reckoned with as it cascades through downtown Spokane, and then peacefully meanders its way to the north. There are coniferous forests, basalt outcroppings, wetlands, historic parks, sweeping grasslands and mountains in abundance. As such, there are plenty of hiking options within a short distance. Come along as I explore some seriously gorgeous and ‘user-friendly’ hikes around the city.
With 51 acres of space, upper and lower sections, a pond, basalt bluffs and views of Mount Spokane, Lincoln Park is the perfect spot for an easy hike. Its lower section offers standard park facilities like a playground, baseball field and picnic areas. An old access road connects lower Lincoln park to the upper section and the road is currently only for pedestrian use. If you’re up for a workout, there are hidden stone steps that serve as a shortcut to upper Lincoln Park. As you ascend the trail towards upper Lincoln Park, you’ll see huge basalt formations and plenty of Ponderosa Pine.
From the top of the access road, there’s a paved loop that circles the pond and makes for a quick and easy hike. If you’re planning on exploring upper Lincoln Park, the parking area off Southeast Blvd. is a good launching point. Springtime is the best time of year to visit this park as the wildflower blooms are rather impressive. Balsam Arrowroot, Blue Lupine, Moonshine Yarrow, Common Camas and Sticky Phlox can all be viewed at this time of year. While you won’t get a direct view of the sunset, evening is a lovely time of day in Lincoln Park and the pond reflects the colors of the sky. There are turtles, ducks, fish and birds who call the pond home. The upper portion of the park is largely unshaded, so wear sunscreen and bring water if you’re there during the warmer months. Head down to the lower portion for lush, shaded picnic areas to finish off your hike.
High Drive Bluff Park
An exceptional hiking resource in an unexpected area, High Drive Bluff Park is a local favorite for a reason. Bordered to the west by the Latah Creek Valley, it offers sweeping views of the Latah Valley, as well as mountains to the north. With 500 acres of grasslands and Ponderosa Pine, it’s easy to see why this park is so popular. In springtime, wildflowers like Balsam Arrowroot, Bluebottle and Blue Lupine can be seen along the trails. Sightings of wildlife like deer, coyote, porcupine, western skunks and moose have been reported. High Drive Bluff Park offers a beautiful hike at any time of day but it happens to be an ideal spot for watching the sunset.
Many locals opt to take the paved trail that borders the park along High Drive, but I encourage you to dig a little further and take the hiking paths down the bluff. From the trail entrance at 21st and High Drive, you can stick to the trails while avoiding much elevation change as you hike south. But if you’re feeling like a workout, consider descending the switchbacks to the west.
High Drive Bluff Park offers 22 miles of trails in total, so you’re never short of options. The non-profit organization Friends of the Bluff maintains this park and they hold events throughout the year dedicated to its upkeep. More info can be found at www.friendsofthebluff.org
Manito Park pushes the limits of what a city park can encompass. With over 90 acres of space, five separate gardens, a conservatory, a pond and hiking trails throughout the property, it’s easy to spend an entire day wandering the park and taking in the different gardens. In summertime, the Manito Park Bench Cafe offers sandwiches, pastries, coffee and hosts live music on Friday nights.
Exploring Manito Park
Parking can be found throughout the park but snagging a spot by the Perennial Gardens will start you off in the heart of Manito Park. Stroll through the gardens to view over 300 varieties of perennials in spring and Ssummer. To the south lies the Gaiser Conservatory and Duncan Gardens. The conservatory remains in the mid-70s year-round in order to support tropical plants, cacti and flowers.
Outside, you’ll come across Duncan Gardens, a renaissance style garden with fountains, a gazebo and colorful flowers. For more subtle beauty, head east to wander the pine forests and soft hills portion of Manito Park. On the north side, Mirror Pond offers opportunities to view Canada geese and mallard ducks, with duckling and goslings in spring. Weeping Willows add character and beauty to the pond. Northwest of Mirror Pond lies the Lilac Garden, home to 23 distinct species of Lilacs, and May is the best month for viewing them in full bloom. Due west is the serene Nishinomiya Tsutakawa Japanese Garden, which is open to visitors from April to October. And from here, a quick hike east will take you to Rose Hill, an award-winning rose garden with 150 varieties of roses.
The Friends of Manito are a non-profit organization that helps to maintain the many gardens and sections of Manito Park. They’ve been in operation since 1990 and routinely hold events like plant sales where all the proceeds go to supporting the park. More information can be found at their website at www.thefriendsofmanito.org
Marmots speckle the huge Basalt outcroppings along the Rimrock Trail Loop in Palisades Park during warmer months. This hike winds through Ponderosa Pine forests and offers sweeping views of downtown Spokane, Mount Spokane and Mica Peak. With over 700 acres of available trails, Palisades Park is a great hiking resource and easy to access. Aside from marmots, there are ample opportunities to view quail, deer, coyote, osprey, moose and other wildlife.
The Rimrock Conservation Area Loop Trail is a user-friendly trail that offers rewarding views and a moderate workout. It’s roughly three miles in length with very little elevation gain. You’ll hike through Ponderosa Pine, grasslands and rocky terrain. Keep an eye out for Blue Lupine and Balsamroot in spring and early summer.
It can get quite hot during the summer months with only partial shade on the trail, so bring water and plan accordingly. With views across the valley, it happens to be a local favorite spot for sunset viewing, so an evening hike might yield exceptional views.
Palisades Park is in wonderful shape today thanks to a group of volunteers who hold clean up days and provide trail maintenance. The Palisades Association is a non-profit that assists with the upkeep of this tremendous resource. For more information on this extraordinary group, visit their website at http://www.palisadesnw.com
Riverside State Park
Northwest of Spokane, along the banks of the Spokane River, lies one of the greatest outdoor recreation resources in our county, Riverside State Park. It’s the 2nd largest state park in Washington with over 10,000 acres of land, offering camping, an off-road vehicle park, a disc golf course, an equestrian area and plenty of hiking opportunities. The Spokane River and Little Spokane River meet towards the northern border of the park, so kayaking, tubing and rafting are popular sports.
Bowl & Pitcher Spokane
One of the most popular hikes can be found at the Bowl & Pitcher section of the park. Famous for its huge basalt boulder formations, Bowl & Pitcher offers gorgeous views with little effort. The formations are due to the topography of the river bottom creating a bit of a ‘bowl’ and churning up the river. There’s a swinging bridge which was originally installed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and a stunning overlook to the northeast of the bridge.
The Bowl & Pitcher loop trail is roughly two miles with some slight elevation gain. You’ll cross the swinging bridge, stroll through a cool pine forest and return along the river and rock formations. It’s an ideal trail during the warmer months as the shady forest and river keep things a bit cooler compared to the surrounding area. Being a state park, parking here requires a Discover Pass which can be purchased for $30 annually, or $10 per day.