Spokane is one of eastern Washington State's loveliest cities, located along the Spokane River just an hour and a half south of the United States-Canada border. Visitors and residents can enjoy a plethora of outdoor recreation opportunities within easy day trip distance, including access to unique geological sites like Mount Spokane, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, and the one-of-a-kind Channeled Scablands. Major cities such as Seattle are also within easy driving distance, along with unique attractions like the wineries of the Walla Walla region or the scenic Route of the Hiawatha hiking trail.
1.Route of the Hiawatha
Route of the Hiawatha is a 15-mile hiking and mountain biking trail located near the city of Avery, Idaho, overseen by the Lookout Pass Ski Area. The route traverses the historic Milwaukee Road, which is commonly considered to be one of the American West's most scenic railroad route stretches. The historic railroad was the first American route to use electric locomotives during the early 20th century, extending through Idaho and Montana's Bitterroot Mountains region. Following the line's bankruptcy and abandonment in 1980, its route was purchased by the Lookout Pass Ski Area and converted into a passenger trail, named for the route's famed Hiawatha trains. Today, visitors can explore the route on foot or bike, which stretches between Avery and nearby St. Regis, Montana. 10 tunnels are located along the route, along with seven train trestles. After exploring, hikers can stay at the lovely skiing lodge at Lookout Pass, which showcases delicious restaurants and luxurious amenities.
P.O. Box 108, Wallace, ID 83873, Phone: 208-744-130
Kennewick is the largest community in Washington State's Tri-Cities region, located along the southwestern banks of the beautiful Columbia River near its confluence with the Yakima and Snake Rivers. The city serves as a great jumping-off point for exploring the famed Lewis and Clark Trail, which follows the route of the explorers' famed 1804-1806 journey through the newly-acquired Louisiana Territory to the Pacific Coast in Washington. Its downtown district is undergoing a rebirth transformation, home today to many specialty boutiques, art galleries, breweries and wine bars, and upscale dining destinations within its renovated historic buildings. Visitors can see Broadway musicals, big-name concert acts, and major sporting events at the Kennewick Three Rivers Entertainment District's Toyota Center. Other attractions include the fully-restored century-old Gesa Carousel of Dreams and the city's 9/11 Memorial, constructed with steel beams recovered from the World Trade Center wreckage.
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Nelson is a lovely city set within the Selkirk Mountain range, located along the extreme West Arm of beautiful Kootenay Lake in British Columbia's Southern Interior region. The picturesque city is known as the "Queen City," named as Canada's top small-town arts community for its high concentration of artists and writers. Visitors can explore the town's beautiful restored heritage buildings, which date back to the area's 19th-century silver rush, or explore its lovely art galleries as part of annual Artwalk events each month. During the summer and autumn months, several regular outdoor markets sell produce and artisan wares at the city's parks and downtown streets. The town is also known as a paradise for outdoor activities, ranging from hiking on the Nelson-Salmo Great Northern Trail to skiing at the Whitewater Ski Resort.
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Seattle is the Pacific Northwest's largest city, located along the banks of the scenic Puget Sound in western Washington State. The city is known throughout the world as a major mecca for technology, innovation, and independent music, launching the careers of internationally-recognized rock bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and the Foo Fighters throughout the early 1990s. Visitors can ascend to the top of the city's iconic Space Needle, a leftover of the 1962 World's Fair, or ride the Seattle Great Wheel, one of the United States' largest observation wheels. Cultural attractions include the unique Museum of Pop Culture, the family-friendly Seattle Aquarium and Woodland Park Zoo, and the historic Pike Place Market, known as the birthplace of Starbucks. Nearby, numerous park access points offer hiking experiences throughout the picturesque peaks of the Olympic and Cascade Mountains.
Sandpoint is a lovely city in northern Idaho, located along the banks of picturesque Lake Pend Oreille. The town was named as America's most beautiful small town by Rand McNally and USA Today, nestled at the confluence of three mountain ranges at the foot of the lovely Schweitzer Mountain ski resort. Visitors can enjoy year-round opportunities for skiing, biking, and hiking at the resort or swim at the lovely Green Bay swimming hole, which showcases crystal-clear waters and rock-lined shores. River floating experiences are offered along the Pack River, while a frisbee golf course is located within Farragut State Park. Other attractions include the Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society Arboretum and the Bonner County History Museum. Each year, the city hosts the eight-day Festival at Sandpoint music fest.
6.Colville National Forest
Colville National Forest is a beautiful United States National Forest in northeastern Washington, located adjacent to the Kaniksu and Okanogan National Forests in Colville. The forest, which spans over 1.1 million acres, is a veritable camper's paradise, offering primitive camping experiences throughout its stunning dry ponderosa pine and high-country subalpine fir forest habitats. Visitors can set up camp along the banks of the beautiful streams of the Kettle Range or choose a place to pitch their tent within the picturesque Salmo-Priest Wilderness Area. 28 developed campground areas are also offered closer to the city center of Colville. Interpretive trails throughout the park tell the tale of logging and mining activities within the forest throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, while preserved archaeological sites near the Pend Oreille River showcase the culture of the region's indigenous people. Visitors can enjoy excellent opportunities for fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling throughout the year at the forest.
Colville, WA 99114, Phone: 509-684-7000
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Dry Falls is home to the remains of the world's largest waterfall, which once tumbled down three miles of cliffs and flowed with the power of more water than all of the world's rivers combined. The 3.5-mile basalt chasm showcases a drop of 400 feet, which has been dry since the final flooding of the last Ice Age. It is located within Washington State's Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park and serves as a stop along the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail. Visitors can observe the chasm from the historic Vista House Overlook and imagine how impressive the falls must have looked when they were rushing with water millennia ago. Next door, the Dry Falls Visitor Center showcases exhibits related to the region's Ice Age geology and early human history. Throughout Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park, visitors can enjoy opportunities for boating, golfing, wildlife watching, and hiking along more than 15 miles of trails.
34875 Park Lake Road NE, Coulee City, WA 99115, Phone: 509-632-5214
8.Crawford State Park Heritage Site
Crawford State Park Heritage Site is a lovely 40-acre day-use park that is anchored around stunning Gardner Cave, originally hailed as one of the Pacific Northwest's great natural wonders when it was first surveyed in 1911. The cave, which is one of Washington State's longest caves, stretches for approximately 2,072 feet in length and runs 295 feet across. Inside the cave, visitors can observe one of the Pacific Northwest's most unique cavern landscapes, home to impressive stalagmites, stalactites, rimstone pools, and flowstone. Guided tours are available for up to 25 participants, detailing the history and geology of the 500-million-year-old cavern. 10 day-use picnic sites are offered at the park near the cave's entrance, including sites along the United States-Canada border.
10381 Boundary Rd, Metaline Falls, WA 99152, Phone: 509-446-4065
9.Grand Coulee Dam
Grand Coulee Dam is an impressive architectural feat along the Columbia River in Washington State, originally constructed between 1933 and 1942 to create hydroelectric power and provide irrigation water. Today, its three powerhouses have brought its production capacity up to 6,809 megawatts, making it the largest power station in the United States. Visitors can observe historical photos of the dam or view turbine models and geological samples at the dam's visitor center, which is open to the public daily throughout the week with the exception of major holidays. Guided shuttle tours of the dam's third powerplant are offered periodically, lasting approximately one hour. Since 1989, the dam has presented a free nightly laser light show on its walls every evening throughout the summer months.
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10.Idaho Panhandle National Forests
Idaho Panhandle National Forests protect three national forest sects within Idaho's Panhandle region, created as a unit of the National Park Service in 2000 to oversee the administration of the Kaniksu, St. Joe, and Coeur d'Alene National Forests. Together, the three forests stretch over a 3.2 million acre sect of land, extending into nearby Montana and Canada at some points. Visitors can view native wildlife like grizzly and black bears, timber wolves, mule deer, river otters, elk, and moose, along with many native and migratory bird species. Beautiful evergreen forests blanket the region, home to quaint forest villages, soaring mountain peaks, and some of the Pacific Northwest's most pristine deep blue lakes. Visitors can explore abandoned mining towns, hike along backcountry trails, or enjoy some of the world's best fishing opportunities at areas like Priest Lake, Lake Pend Oreille, and Lake Coeur d'Alene.
Joseph is a charming city in Wallowa County, originally established in 1880 in honor of Nez Perce indigenous Chief Joseph. The region is best known for its connection to American indigenous history, home to the adjacent Nez Perce National Historical Park and Monument, which was established in 1965 to honor and protect sites associated with the Nez Perce indigenous people and the famed resistance of Chief Joseph in 1877. Visitors can explore the park's 38 historical sites, which include the sites of the Battles of Bear Paw, Clearwater, and White Bird Canyon and the former Camp Chopunnish site. Nearby, newly-established Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site preserves 62 acres that once belonged to the Nez Perce. Visitors can also ride the Wallowa Lake Tramway aerial cable gondola lift, said to have the steepest vertical lift of any four-passenger gondola in North America.
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Leavenworth is a picturesque Bavarian-style village located in central Washington State within the stunning Cascade Mountain range, known for its unique German heritage and culture. The town was known as a center of logging at its founding in the 19th century, but following the departure of railroads from the area, it reinvented itself due to its setting mimicking that of beautiful Bavarian German towns. Today, it has fully embraced its German style, home to a plethora of lovely Alpine-style buildings. Visitors can enjoy German beer and food options along Front Street or view the exhibits of the delightful Nutcracker Museum, which displays thousands of historic nutcrackers made throughout Europe and the United States. Each year, the city hosts a famed Oktoberfest celebration, Christkindlmarkt, and Christmas Lighting Ceremony. Outdoor recreational opportunities abound at nearby Waterfront Park and Stevens Pass Mountain Resort, including amazing white water rafting experiences on the Wenatchee River.
13.Little Spokane River Natural Area
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Little Spokane River Natural Area is a beautiful protected natural area just outside the city of Spokane, known as a haven for naturalists and wildflower enthusiasts throughout the year. The natural area is home to one of the United States' most diverse populations of bird species, stretching along the route of the lovely Spokane River. Visitors can enjoy excellent opportunities for paddling along the river near the Spokane Fish Hatchery and Painted Rocks or hike along the natural area's many nature trails, including its popular 1.7-mile stretch between Painted Rocks and Nine Mile Falls. More serious hikers can enjoy the seven-mile loop trail that ascends to Knothead's highest-elevation point, showcasing three granite overlooks above the Little Spokane River along the way.
Spokane, WA 99208, Phone: 509-465-5064
14.McLellan Conservation Area
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McLellan Conservation Area protects 410 acres of stunning Ponderosa pine forest near the banks of Long Lake, preserving public access to over a mile and a half of lake shoreline. The conservation area, which was originally developed in 1995, has been identified as one of Spokane County's most important wildlife habitat sites by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. Visitors can view a plethora of native wildlife throughout the conservation area, including black bears, deer, moose, and osprey. A horseshoe-shaped hiking trail system is open to the public, traversing through Ponderosa pines, Douglas fir trees, and younger trees that were established following the region's 1991 firestorm. Day-use picnic sites are also offered, along with cross-country skiing and equestrian trails.
N McLellan Rd, Nine Mile Falls, WA 99026, Phone: 509-477-4730
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Missoula is an inviting city within Missoula County, Montana, located at the confluence of the Clark Fork, Bitterroot, and Blackfoot Rivers at the convergence of five mountain ranges, earning it the nickname the "hub of five valleys." The city is best known as the home of the University of Montana, which presents regular sporting games by its noted Grizzlies football and basketball teams. Visitors can explore the city's 400 acres of lovely public parks, 5,000 acres of conservation land, and 22 miles of nature and hiking trails throughout the year, which offer opportunities for excellent white water rafting. Cultural and historical attractions include the Missoula Art Museum, the handcrafted Carousel for Missoula, and the restored 1877 Fort Missoula military fortress. Nearby, the beautiful Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness offers opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing.
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Mount Spokane is Spokane County's highest summit, reaching an elevation of 5,883 feet above sea level. The mountain, which was originally known as Mount Baldy until 1912, is located just northeast of Spokane and is one of the tallest mountain peaks within the Inland Northwest region. Visitors can explore more than 100 miles of hiking trails throughout the surrounding lushly-forested Selkirk Mountain range, including trails to the summit of Mount Spokane and neighboring Day Mountain. Atop the mountain, the historic Vista House offers panoramic views of the Spokane Valley and the nearby Idaho Panhandle and Canada landscapes. Over 79 miles of mountain biking and equestrian trails are offered, along with 37 miles of Nordic ski trails throughout the winter months.
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Odessa is a charming community within eastern Washington State's Channeled Scablands region, a geographically-unique area that has been the center of important controversies related to earth science for decades. The formerly barren lands were flooded immensely throughout the Last Glacial Maximum, creating unique unique lowlands with irregular channels and eroded basalt rock basins. Today, the channels serve as Earth's best analogue to the Martian outflow channels, known for their unique, erratic design. Visitors can stay in downtown Odessa as a jumping-off point for exploration of the region's natural areas and can enjoy annual special events like September's Deutschesfest, April's Spring Fling, and the city's annual Christmas Fest. Other attractions include the BLM Pacific Lake Trail, which offers hiking and horseback riding opportunities throughout the year.
18.Palouse Falls State Park
Palouse Falls State Park is a lovely Washington state park spanning 94 acres throughout the state's eastern Palouse region, named in honor of its picturesque 200-foot waterfall of the same name along the Palouse River. The park, which was originally opened in 1951, is the site of significant indigenous legends connected to the mythical Big Beaver creature, a story that tells of the creation of the river's canyon paths. Visitors can view the stunning falls, which were once known as Aputapat, from three separate overlooks throughout the park, including the high Fryxell Overlook, which offers panoramic views of Palouse River Canyon. Sheltered picnic sites are offered throughout the remote park, along with primitive campsites and an ADA-accessible hiking trail to the region's beautiful plateau.
Palouse Falls Rd, LaCrosse, WA 99143, Phone: 509-646-9218
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Post Falls is known as Idaho's "River City," located in Kootenai County near the cities of Coeur d'Alene and Spokane. Visitors can enjoy a plethora of family-friendly activities throughout the city, including popular Falls Park, which offers a children's fishing pond and stunning overlook views of the majestic Shoshone Falls at Avista Dam. The beautiful falls extend 212 feet higher than Niagara Falls, known as one of the most astounding falls sites in the Pacific Northwest. The 78-acre Q’emiln Park is home to a public beach and a network of 12 interconnected hiking trails, along with geocaching sites and natural rock climbing walls. Visitors can enjoy excellent opportunities for boating, kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding at Snake River Canyon or fish at Dierkes and Bass Lake. Delicious restaurants and bars line the city's downtown district, perfect for relaxing after a day of outdoor recreation.
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20.Riverside State Park
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Riverside State Park is Washington's second-largest state park, located approximately 10 minutes northwest of Spokane's downtown district in the city of Nine Mile Falls. The lovely park covers more than 11,000 acres along the banks of the beautiful Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers, home to the Nine Mile Recreation Area, the Little Spokane River Natural Area, and the Bowl and Pitcher Area. Visitors can explore exhibits on the region's indigenous and pioneer history at the Spokane House Interpretive Center or view the restored Spokane House fur trading post. 37 miles of hiking and biking trails are offered along the Spokane River Centennial Trail, while a 600-acre off-road vehicle riding area offers opportunities for dirt biking and snowmobiling. Other popular activities include fishing, swimming, boating, canoeing, and kayaking.
9711 W Charles Rd, Nine Mile Falls, WA 99026, Phone: 509-465-5064
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21.Sierra Silver Mine
Sierra Silver Mine was an historic mine that was discovered around the turn of the 20th century in Wallace, Idaho, initially believed to be rich in silver and lead. Throughout its early operations, the mine was mined by hand, but after the development of more advanced technology, a sinkhole entrance was developed to lead directly down into the mine. Upon this development, miners realized that the mine dining not contain enough silver and lead to warrant further mining operations, so the mine was converted into a mining lab for area high school students. Once the area's mining operations were shuttered in the late 20th century, the mine was converted into a nonprofit organization, offering guided tours for visitors throughout the year. All tours meet in downtown Wallace and travel by trolley to the mine, descending into its shaft for approximately 45 minutes. Experienced miner guides take participants through the mine's main drift, elaborating on mining practices and history in the area.
509 Cedar St, Wallace, ID 83873, Phone: 208-752-5151
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Soap Lake is a charming city in Grant County, located along the banks of the picturesque lake of the same name. The beautiful desert lake receives over 320 days of sun each year, located at the end of a chain of area lakes in the Lower Grand Coulee region. Its unique mineral composition makes it similar to a hot springs, though its unusual groundwater sourcing makes it reportedly the most diverse mineral lake in the world. Many visitors claim that the lake has healing properties, smoothing skin and soothing aching joints and muscles. Visitors can enjoy mud baths at the lake or float on its waters due to its unique buoyancy conditions. In the city of Soap Lake, visitors can enjoy performances at the Masquers Theater, take walking tours along its historic Door Murals Art Walk, hit the links at the Lava Links Executive Golf Course, or stay in an indigenous-style tipi at Tipi Village.
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23.Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge
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Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge is a beautiful national wildlife refuge located approximately six miles south of the city of Cheney, along the eastern edge of the Columbia Basin. The wildlife refuge spans more than 18,000 acres throughout the unique Channeled Scablands geographical region, known for its unusual channel system created after flooding during the last Ice Age. Visitors can explore the refuge's diverse landscape, which is home to marshes, wetlands, and lakes, and view a variety of native waterfowl and migratory birds. Visitors can enjoy excellent conditions for deer hunting and nature photography throughout the refuge or participate in interpretive programming offered by rangers throughout the year, including nature walks and outdoor classroom activities.
26010 S Smith Rd, Cheney, WA 99004, Phone: 509-235-4723
Walla Walla is Walla Walla County's largest city, formerly best known for its production of sweet onions and its Washington State penitentiary location. Over the past two decades, the Oregon border city has reinvented itself as a major destination for wine tourism, receiving major international acclaim for wineries producing delicious Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet varietals. Today, more than 100 wineries dot the region's landscape, including Waterbrook Winery and Leonetti Cellar. Its charming main street was named as a Great American Main Street by USA Today, known for its lovely shops, cafes, and dining destinations. Annual special events include the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival, held each year in July.
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24 Best Weekend and Day Trips from Spokane, WA
- Route of the Hiawatha, Photo: Kim/stock.adobe.com
- Kennewick, Photo: jdoms/stock.adobe.com
- Nelson, Photo: Gregory Johnston/stock.adobe.com
- Seattle, Photo: Jamie & Judy Wild and Danita Delimont/stock.adobe.com
- Sandpoint, Photo: CascadeCreatives/stock.adobe.com
- Colville National Forest, Photo: digidreamgrafix/stock.adobe.com
- Dry Falls, Photo: Scott Bufkin/stock.adobe.com
- Crawford State Park Heritage Site, Photo: JOAN/stock.adobe.com
- Grand Coulee Dam, Photo: Will/stock.adobe.com
- Idaho Panhandle National Forests, Photo: Kim/stock.adobe.com
- Joseph, Photo: Jesse/stock.adobe.com
- Leavenworth, Photo: Stuart Westmorland/Danita Delimont/stock.adobe.com
- Little Spokane River Natural Area, Photo: Sam Judy/stock.adobe.com
- McLellan Conservation Area, Photo: Ondrej Hajek/stock.adobe.com
- Missoula, Photo: David Gilder/stock.adobe.com
- Mount Spokane, Photo: Sam Judy/stock.adobe.com
- Odessa, Photo: Alison Jones and Danita Delimont/stock.adobe.com
- Palouse Falls State Park, Photo: kanonsky/stock.adobe.com
- Post Falls, Photo: Sam Judy/stock.adobe.com
- Riverside State Park, Photo: Sam Judy/stock.adobe.com
- Sierra Silver Mine, Photo: farbled_01/stock.adobe.com
- Soap Lake, Photo: Jeff Larsen/stock.adobe.com
- Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, Photo: Sam Judy/stock.adobe.com
- Walla Walla, Photo: mikeby/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: RG/stock.adobe.com