(PHOTO AND STORY: KHQ.COM)
Living in the Inland Northwest, we are blessed to have thousands of miles of hiking trails right in our own backyard. Whether you're looking for a place to hike that's five minutes from your home, or you don't mind driving a few hours to hike through the beautiful back-country, you have endless options.
Mineral Ridge: Mineral Ridge is a back country hiking area that has a 3.3 mile loop with incredible views of Lake Coeur d'Alene. There are also marked information stations along the way that describe some of the plants, animals and birds you may see. This is also a great place to watch for bald eagles in the winter as they come to feed on the spawning salmon.
Tubbs Hill: If you've been to Coeur d'Alene, you're most likely familiar with Tubbs Hill. This beautiful trail overlooks Lake Coeur d'Alene with an easy 3 mile loop. Because it's so close to downtown Coeur d'Alene, this is the perfect hike before or after enjoying lunch or doing a little shopping.
Chilco Mountain: This is a 3.6 mile trail in the Cd'A National Forest near Athol, Idaho with beautiful outlooks on 3 different trails.
Scotchman Peak Trail: This is a 5.7 mile trail in the Kaniksu National Forest near Clark Fork, Idaho. The views on this hike are breathtaking. This trail is great for bird watchers, but watch out for mountain goats, as they aren't afraid to attack people they feel are threatening them.
Gold Hill: This is a 5.8 mile trail in the Kaniksu National Forest near Sagle, ID. It's great for mountain biking and you can bring your dog!
Beehive Lake: This is a 7.4 mile out and back trail in the Kaniksu National Forest near Sandpoint, ID. The trail has incredible views, not just of beehive lake which is surrounded by beautiful granite peaks, but if you hike high enough on the ridge, you can even see Priest Lake. There are also a handful of campsites near the trail if you want to make a weekend out of it. Just be prepared, occasionally bear are seen in the area (but of course, when hiking, no matter where you are, it's always a great idea to have bear spray).
Harrison Lake: Another gorgeous hike that's also close to Sandpoint, ID in the Kaniksu National Forest. This is a 4.5 mile out and back trail offering a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also allowed on this trail if they are on a leash. See incredible views are of the mountains and lake. There's also great fishing here and there are lots of delicious huckleberries t enjoy along the way.
Mickinnick Trail: This is one of the closest hikes to the city of Sandpoint. It's a challenging trail that rises more than 2,000 feet in its 3.5-mile length but it offers incredible views as you climb up through big granite features in the open forests. During the spring-summer you can enjoy the beautiful wildflowers. The trail ends with a view of Sandpoint, the long bridge, the Cabinet Mountains and Lake Pend Oreille
Hog Canyon: Hog Canyon Lake is located just 30 minutes from Spokane, just east of Sprague, WA. The hike is about 5.4 miles round trip in the open Ponderosa Pine Forest and there's even a beautiful waterfall. Springtime is the prime time to take this hike as temperatures are comfortable and the area has beautiful blooming wildflowers.
Indian Canyon Park: Indian Canyon is a hidden gem right in the backyard of downtown Spokane. The beautiful Park sits right off Riverside Drive which is just a 5 minute drive from downtown. You can see the beautiful falls which at this time of year are majestic with all the run-off we've had. You can also go to the park for a short walk down the trail which takes you to the banks of the Spokane River.
Palisades Park Conservation Area: This beautiful area is just north of Indian Canyon Golf Course and technically includes Indian Canyon Falls. The trails include a mixture of converted roadbeds and single-track trails passing through seasonal wetlands and massive rock outcroppings. The trails also give views of Mt. Spokane.
Antoine Peak Conservation Area: This beautiful parcel offers over 1,000 acres to explore and nine miles of trails. It gives beautiful views of Liberty Lake, Spokane Valley, Mount Spokane and the Selkirk Range.
Iller Creek: These trails take you to the edge of Spokane Valley off Dishman Mica with incredible views of the Valley and the Palouse. There's a wide variety of wildflowers to see in springtime and an easy 5 mile loop that leads to one of the best rock climbing destinations in the area at the Rocks of Sharon.
McDowell Marsh Environmental Education Trail: This is a great place for kids to explore. It's in the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge Area and an easy 1.2 mile loop. The first half of the trail is wheelchair accessible with a boardwalk over a wetland. The trail then narrows and gains some elevation through a forested area. There are also 12 marked education stations describing the five distinct ecological habitats in the area.
Sherlock Peak: Sherlock Peak: This is a hike if you're looking for a challenge and want to get out in the wild, deep in the woods. Tucked away in the beautiful Colville National Forest at an elevation of 6,350 feet, it gives panoramic views of the Pend Oreille Valley and Columbia River. There are nearby campgrounds if you want to make a weekend of it. The trail can be steep and a little rugged but it's a great place to pick huckleberries when temperatures start to dip in the fall.
Abercrombie Mountain: This is Eastern Washington's second highest peak at an elevation of 7,310 feet. It's a 7.3 mile hike in the Selkirk Range. From the top you can take in hundreds of square miles of forested terrain. There are three different trails to take to the summit where a U.S. Forest Service manned lookout used to stand in the 1950's. It was demolished in the 60's and now, standing in its place is a rock shelter built by hikers
FIND MORE HIKES: If you're really enthusiastic about exploring the region, Rich Landers who writes an outdoor column for the Spokesman Review gives you plenty of options in his book, 100 Hikes In The Inland Northwest.
It's also important to mention that these trails wouldn't be available to us if it wasn't for local conservation groups and volunteers who do a lot to maintain the trails and fight for our local public lands. The Washington Trails Association, the Dishman Hills Conservancy, the Kettle Range Conservation Group and the Friends of Scotchman Peak Wilderness are some of the groups working to keep our lands protected and beautiful in our area.