New guidebook delivers maps, instructions and perception on routes from Spokane to Cd’A | SWX Proper Now
Public roads promote the local economy. That alone could be a reason to build and promote hiking trails, even if they are not that useful, healthy and environmentally friendly.
When real estate agents list a home these days, they take the opportunity to see if it’s easily accessible, for example, on the Centennial Trail, which runs along the Spokane River 63 miles from Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho to Riverside State Park in Washington extends.
Routes for hiking, biking, and other types of leisure travel are also selling points for business and industry recruitment.
The Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area is just hours away, rich in national forests, shelters and even wilderness areas. The region’s reputation for recreational hiking is also bolstered by extensive networks in Mount Spokane and Farragut state parks.
Hiking trails in and around the city are just as important. These are the routes that are ripe for a short morning break in nature, a traffic-free commute to work, a regular lunchtime exercise session or an afternoon break for parents with a child in a jogging cart.
The benefits of walking near home or near work may not be particularly important when we head out on the High Drive Bluff Trails on the south side of Spokane, the Ben Burr Trail to downtown, or along the Little make Spokane River on the north side. Most of us “go on our way” just to clear our heads, freshen our lungs, revise our heartbeat, and leave the problems behind.
Hiking trails are a haven to appreciate blooming wildflowers, fall colors, soaring hawks, and the occasional moose. Drumheller Springs City Park is only a modest mile of hiking trail, but it winds its way through 12 acres that are still exploding with colorful camas, biscuit roots, bitter roots, and other wild plants. The springs and wild foods created an oasis that has attracted Native Americans for hundreds of years. The park was named after Daniel Drumheller, who developed the springs for a pig farm around 1880.
Even so, Spokane’s ancestors paved the way for trail awareness. In 1898, cyclists persuaded the city council to approve a tax on the construction of cycle paths. Over the next decade, the city’s business people realized that creating attractive neighborhoods and parks in the growing border town would improve their quality of life, let alone the value of their real estate assets.
Parks became an integral part of the region’s culture. While researching my latest hiking guide, Todd Dunfield of the Inland Northwest Land Conservancy provided some impressive data on our quality of life as we walked the suggested route from Rimrock to Riverside, which could eventually connect Palisades Park to Riverside State Park. “Most parks have some type of walking path,” he said, “and 83% of Spokane residents live within half a mile of a park.”
The recently published book Urban Trails: Spokane-Coeur d’Alene, co-authored with Kootenai County’s hiker David Taylor, contains more than 60 areas of remarkable trails that are convenient for residents of both cities. Some headliners like Tubbs Hill draw visitors from near and far; Other parks and trails mainly serve their neighborhood.
16 of the trail systems described in the book are ADA-accessible and 16 are served by public transport.
Others are out of the way, kind of close to home.
The book contains maps and directions for short and long hikes. While mobile apps may tell you where you are on a trail, Urban Trails provides additional information about the history of the trail and land ownership, as well as hints about who to thank for maintaining the trail and how to get involved.
The appendices are packed with contacts for land managers, hiking and nature conservation organizations, as well as an excellent index and brief guide to the region’s typical wildflowers. I took the 24 wildflower photos (and many more) while hiking the trails described in the book.
Taylor and I also photographed a variety of wildlife while exploring these trails, including ospreys, bald eagles, deer, wild turkeys, waterfowl, reptiles, marmots, and moose. We also spotted enough bear and cougar tracks to justify our decision to wear bear spray on some hikes.
Many public bodies are responding to the demand for hiking trails by integrating them into infrastructure projects. One of the best-known examples is the Children of the Sun Trail, which is linked to the north-south highway project. It is completely constructed with special bridges and underpasses. More than 7 miles is covered on a 14 mile route from the Wandermere area that connects to the Centennial Trail near Greene Street Bridge.
Trail partnerships are seen as win-win deals. For example, the village of Riverstone in Coeur d’Alene promoted its “Live, Work, Play” marketing concept with a donation to build the city’s Prairie Trail. The route follows an abandoned railroad from Riverstone Park Company to residential areas and joins the North Idaho Centennial Trail.
The Spokane County Conservation Futures program, funded by a voter-approved property tax levy, has used state, state, and private funding to preserve approximately 50 public conservation areas totaling approximately 9,000 acres of incredible beauty and value to date. They are adored by locals who crave muscle-powered escapes with deer wandering around, owls screaming and coyotes howling.
“Urban Trails” celebrates the volunteers who stepped in to do something good by building, maintaining, connecting and signing paths through these nature reserves.
Paul Knowles, Spokane County Parks planner who is creating a boom in trail development, says at least 13 miles of new single-lane trail have been volunteered on county parkland since 2016. Even more impressive is how a combination of land acquisition, development of trailhead parking lots, voluntary trail building and signage has combined double and single lane vehicles into impressive “trail systems”.
For example, Mica Peak Conservation Area has a 14.8 mile trail system, Antoine Peak has 10.8 miles, Glenrose has 5.6 miles, Iller Creek has 7 miles, and McKenzie has 6 miles. The list goes on.
The Spokane Mountaineers, Washington Trails Association and Dishman Hills Conservancy have organized thousands of hours of volunteer trail work to clear the way for the following parade of hikers and bikers.
Some of these volunteers, including Mountaineers’ Lynn Smith, have developed the professional skills necessary to design sustainable trails and special projects, such as building the new footbridge over the creek in the Cedars Conservation Area in Liberty Lake Regional Park.
Evergreen East mountain bikers have also dug their way into the local effort by designing and building enlightened routes for hikers and cyclists on the 7.3-mile network of trails in the Saltese Uplands.
Of course, the ability to develop and use paths would not be possible without the supporters who secured the open spaces in the first place. Too many to name them, Urban Trails offers them all a simple tip by reading the memory book of Diana Roberts, founder of Spokane’s Friends of the (High Drive) Bluff, and Scott Reed, Coeur d’Alene’s watchdog , dedicate for Tubbs Hill and other public places.
The guide is small enough to take a hike with you so you can follow the maps and find out about the area. For example:
- The footbridge over the Spokane River at Bowl and Pitcher is the only suspension bridge in Washington State Parks. The 216-foot span was built in 1940-41, renovated in the 1950s, and renovated in 1997. The stairs on the south side were built in 2012.
- As you walk along Medical Lake, you can see that the rock formations on the east side of the lake are made of basalt, while the rocks on the west side are made of granite. The book explains how this happened.
- The 518-acre Post Falls Community Forest is a haven for hiking along the Spokane River, thanks to environmental regulations that required the city to create a recycled water reuse area.
- Mirabeau Point Park is located on the site of the former Walk in the Wild Zoo. The seasonal waterfall pours over a rock face where Bengal tigers once sat.
- Indian Canyon Park, dominated by Ponderosa pine (Spokane’s official tree), is home to the largest documented Douglas fir in Spokane County.
- The Haynes Conservation Area was designated in just a few signatures as 103 homes along the Little Spokane River in lieu of a 97 acre forest park with river access and 3 miles of hiking trails.
Efforts to create more open spaces are still urgently needed to offset the onslaught of development in this region. The COVID-19 era has given us a glimpse into the future as people looking for an escape flock to parks and nature reserves in unprecedented numbers this year.
Urban Trails notes that efforts have been made as of press to secure the superb wildlife habitat and nearly four miles of hiking trails along the Little Spokane River in Waikiki Springs.
Just last month, the Inland Northwest Land Trust announced that it had purchased 95 acres of the area for conservation.
This is the kind of progress that we need to balance the five-star quality of life in our region with the other kind of progress.