Updated: Oct 31, 2019
Despite being the 2nd largest city in Washington, Spokane lives up to its motto ‘Near Nature, Near Perfect’ in spades. It was by no accident either, the city had the foresight to hire the Olmstead Brothers firm to help incorporate greenspace into Spokane’s neighborhoods in the early 1900s. That’s why 80% of Spokane’s population lives within walking distance to a park. Additionally, we have the largest and 2nd largest State Parks in Washington within our county. Plus, a little gem called the Centennial Trail spanning 37 miles to the Idaho border. So, there is ample opportunity to get outside and get some fresh air, and I’ll share with you my absolute favorite places to do just that.
Founded in 1903, this remarkable park contains 5 well-manicured gardens, a pond, and a flower conservatory. It lies on Spokane’s South Hill and is popular with people from all over the region. Manito Park is free to the public and offers plenty of opportunities to get in some steps while taking in gorgeous scenery. The sheer diversity of gardens and terrain sets Manito Park apart, you can hike dirt trails next to natural basalt formations, wander through the perfectly symmetrical Duncan Garden or sniff your way through the Rose Hill garden. If it’s a cold winter day, step inside the Gaiser Conservatory where it’s always in the mid-70s. Tropical, sub-tropical and desert plants can be viewed in the conservatory, which also has a waterfall feature.
Bowl & Pitcher
Along the Spokane River to the northwest of town sits Riverside State Park, the 2nd largest state park in Washington with over 14,000 acres of space. Riverside is a remarkable resource for all things outdoors, with an area for Equestrian use, disc golf, off road vehicles, camping, boat launches and plenty of hiking trails. Striking Basalt formations can be seen by hiking Riverside State Park’s Bowl & Pitcher section, named for its unique riverbed topography. The hike is easy, and the views are exceptional, with the main trail taking you across a swinging bridge for additional trails and to explore the boulders along the river. For an Eagle Eye view of the swinging bridge, hike up to the Bowl & Pitcher Overlook.
You can even find green space in the heart of downtown Spokane. Riverfront Park boasts a sizable waterfall, paths along the river, a through pines and 5 different pedestrian bridges spanning the river. In addition to the natural features, Riverfront Park showcases numerous art installations and offers an 80-foot viewing platform beneath the canopy of the Spokane Pavilion. Riverfront Park contains part of the Centennial Trail, so it offers an opportunity to launch a longer hike or run if you’re feeling ambitious.
For some of the best views of downtown Spokane, head west to Palisades Park. Specifically, head to the Rimrock Conservation Area for a level hike atop large basalt outcroppings. The loop is an easy 3 miles along a wide trail through Ponderosa Pine and wildflowers in spring. You’ll get great views of downtown and the valley, plus you’re likely to see a Marmot or two in summer months. Other wildlife sightings here have included deer, bobcats and an occasional moose.
Rocks of Sharon
For some of the best views of the Palouse area wheat fields, head South to the Stevens Creek Trailhead in the Iller Creek Conservation Area. The Rocks of Sharon are gigantic Granite boulders and the trail offers incredible views to the south. This moderate hike takes you through Ponderosa Pine woodlands while offering sneak peaks of views until you reach the first boulder. From there you’ll take in a sweeping view of the farmland to the south. For a short hike, you can head back down the trail or, for more of a challenge, keep climbing. During warmer weather you may come across rock climbers on the boulders. On a clear day you can see all the way to Steptoe Butte.
Spokane offers ample opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy beautiful natural surroundings. Whether you have 15 minutes or a whole day, there are plenty of choices for you to get outside and enjoy nature.