Following the Cheney Spokane Road from southwest Spokane will take you through a scenic corridor filled with Ponderosa pine, lakes, farms and railroad tracks. You’ll see turn offs for Fish Lake, the Columbia Plateau Trail and eventually, a ‘Welcome to Cheney’ sign made of dark brown logs. Stores begin to show through the farm fields as the transition from country road to small town is slowly made. Join us as we take you on a tour of Cheney, Washington for the day.
Cheney is a small farming town first and a college town second. There are wonderful elements of both communities woven into their downtown historic district. Buildings built in the 1800s with modern storefronts cheerfully wave the Eastern Washington University flag. Huge grain silos stand as a reminder that you are well into the greater Palouse grasslands. There is ample opportunity to experience both a sense of community in Cheney and refreshing solitude depending on what you’re seeking. Either way, a day trip to Cheney invites you to slow down, explore its history and take in the subtle beauty of the countryside.
The Mason Jar
When starting off the day in Cheney, you have several solid spots to choose from for breakfast and friendly banter. The Mason Jar is an amazing bakeshop and bistro in the heart of historic downtown. Adorned with mason jar chandeliers, an ornate gold ceiling, and natural bricks breaking through in patches, it’s the perfect blend of farmhouse meets contemporary decor.
They serve one of the best local roasters in Spokane county, Roast House Coffee, and on a hot day their cold brew is not to be missed. You’ll see enticing piles of fresh baked pastry to choose from, baked by local Alpine Bakery Company. The Mason Jar offers a full breakfast menu with breakfast sandwiches, egg dishes, French toast and cinnamon rolls. Lunch options include sandwiches, salads and soup.
After properly fueling up for your day you have several options for interesting morning activities. Cheney’s Farmers Market takes place on Saturdays starting at 10am during the summer and additionally takes place on Tuesday afternoons for most of the year. It’s located downtown on 1st Street in front of Marketplace Bakery.
Eastern Washington University has a gorgeous campus just 3 blocks north of downtown and makes for a wonderful walking tour. They offer free admission to their art gallery where you can take in modern works by advanced students. Quarterly, they hold opening night receptions for viewing the latest installment, but generally their hours are 9 a.m – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you find yourself parched, stop by the Thomas Hammer coffee shop location on campus. They’re a superb local roaster with drink options like a vanilla cardamom cold brew or a charcoal honey latte.
Fish Lake Regional Park
If you’re feeling like taking in nature or taking a swim, head over to Fish Lake Regional Park. It’s a wonderful resource for hiking, boating and swimming, and as such it’s very popular during warm weather months. There’s a boat launch, swimming docks, a small sandy beach, boardwalks and even a playground. On the east side of the beach is a tall basalt bluff that offers great views of the entire lake and wildflowers in spring and summer.
When visiting Cheney, a must-see is their Amish country store, Marketplace Bakery. Not only do they offer locally made Amish goods like jams, pickles, pasta, baking mixes and soaps, but they have an amazing deli where you can grab food to go for a picnic or have a relaxed lunch in their dining room. They offer sandwiches featuring Boar’s Head meats, fish & chips and chicken tenders. I highly recommend picking up some sandwiches and heading over to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge to the south of town.
Turnball Wildlife Refuge
Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge is an 18,000-acre wildlife oasis that has some of the best bird viewing opportunities in Washington. It offers a mix of ponds, wetlands, pine woodland and grasslands, and is home to animals like beaver, moose, coyote, chipmunk and even flying squirrel. The best times for viewing wildlife are morning and evening, but with a little patience you might get a viewing at any time of day. Therefore, it’s the perfect spot to have a picnic and observe your surroundings.
There are numerous trail heads throughout the park, plus a 5.5-mile driving tour loop through the middle section of Turnbull. Binoculars, a camera, sunscreen and water are all important things to bring along. During the spring and summer months you see plenty of wildflowers along the trails and roadside. Turnbull is so large that you can easily spend an entire day here, but a few hours will afford you plenty of views, a few hikes and the 5.5-mile auto loop.
Columbia Plateau Trail
If you’re up for more walking, the Columbia Plateau Trail has a trail head in Cheney and is a very popular resource for those seeking a hike. You’ll come across multiple ponds and a great view of Fish Lake. The Columbia Plateau Trail extends 130 miles to its southern end in Kennewick. It’s an exceptional resource for experienced hikers and cyclists, though the middle section is not well maintained so it’s not recommended for the inexperienced. Fortunately, the Cheney trail head is very well maintained and friendly to hikers of all levels and experience.
Cheney Historical Museum
After getting your fill of Turnbull, head back into town for some vintage and thrift shopping. Historic downtown Cheney has some fun shops to check out like Ree Creations, the Man Cave and Cottonwood Creek Boutique. There are also some very fun murals along College Ave. between 1st and 2nd Ave. to check out.
If shopping isn’t your thing, consider visiting the Cheney History Museum. This volunteer run organization offers a window into Cheney’s past with a special emphasis on its Pioneer days. The museum also includes the history of surrounding cities like Four Lakes, Marshall and Amber. They are open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays for the time being but can be open by appointment as well.
Barrelhouse Pub & Pizza
To finish off your day trip to Cheney, stop into Barrelhouse Pub & Pizza for some of the best pizza in the area. It’s a family friendly spot with plenty of seating and a welcoming staff. Known for their great pizza, they also have delicious appetizers, 16 beers on tap and some very tempting desserts. On warm days their outdoor patio is the place to be, with shaded seating overlooking College Ave.
It’s been a long day of exploring Cheney and all that this small eastern Washington town has to offer. I hope that you’ve enjoyed coming along for the ride and that this inspires you to plan your own visit soon.