47 Summer Adventure Ideas for the Inland NW

I remember being bored for a few summers growing up in the then-rural Spokane Valley. Back then, I was too young to adventure beyond the safety of sanctioned neighborhood boundaries my parents had outlined and too old to still find weeks’ worth of magic in our huge backyard and garden.

Since those days, I can’t recall more than a few fleeting moments, mostly during work and social obligations, where the notion of boredom occurred to me. If you love the outdoors and live here too, you know what I mean. There are so many amazing things to do at any given moment in our corner of the planet that a lifetime seems far too short to make the most of it.

Nevertheless, every now and then, during the long, increasingly hot days of summer, many of us still find ourselves wondering, “What should I do this weekend?” I hope our annual list of trip ideas helps you have one of your best summers ever!

  1. Explore nature at the Zumwalt Prairie Preserve: Hike the trails and appreciate the incredible native plants, wildflowers, and wildlife at this over 30,000-acre Nature Conservancy preserve in northeast Oregon’s Wallowa County. Scenic back road drives hug the Hells Canyon rim and rugged forest service trails nearby are waiting there to take prepared hikers into the deepest gorge in North America.
  2. Trail run or hike the Little Spokane River Natural Area’s Knothead Loop: This 7-mile roundtrip route in north Spokane County gains 1,000 feet, rising from prime riverside wildlife habitat to open pine forest with views up top. Be aware that dogs and bikes are not allowed on this trail system.
  3. Get your mountain biking or hiking in on a volunteer trail project: All of these trails we love don’t build or maintain themselves. Give back to your favorite trails by signing up for a trail work party with a local trails group like Evergreen East, Washington Trails Association, Pend Oreille Pedalers, or Idaho Trails Association.
  4. Go paddling on Lake Spokane: Start at Riverside State Park’s Nine Mile Recreation Area boat launch and campground (less than a half hour from downtown Spokane) and paddle your arms off or find a quiet place to bird watch or go fishing.
  5. Explore the best of the best paddling lakes around Spokane and North Idaho: Some of these lakes don’t allow gas motors, others may be quiet midweek and busy on the weekends, so plan accordingly. Then load up your SUP, kayak or canoe and go.
  6. Hike a trail you’ve never been on in Dishman Hills Natural Area: Take your pick from dozens of miles of trails on over 3,200 acres of protected hills and prime wildlife habitat in the Dishman Hills Natural Area, located in Spokane Valley.
  7. Learn about the geology of your favorite place: Pick up a copy of the “Roadside Geology” book for wherever your summer trips take you and learn something about the ancient geologic origins of the place where you’re hiking, biking, floating or camping.
  8. Ride Montana’s first shuttle bike park: The new Legacy Bike Park above Flathead Lake near Whitefish, Montana, opened in 2021. It has 13 downhill trails, camping and the shuttles that make it all possible on those burley downhill bikes.
  9. Take a North Idaho mountain bike road trip: These trails are all near Sandpoint, Bonners Ferry, or east toward Libby, Mont. Ride them all on one great road trip.
  10. Ride or hike Moscow Mountain’s 60+ miles of trails: Located near Moscow, Idaho, this legal trail system on private lands continues to grow thanks to the hard work of groups like the Moscow Area Mountain Bike Association.
  11. Take a paddling trip to Cranbrook, B.C.: A few hours’ drive north of Spokane takes you to the western slope of the majestic Canadian Rockies, which happen to host some great mellow paddling spots near the town of Cranbrook. Give Jimsmith Lake and St. Mary’s Lake a try. Learn more about Cranbrook-area paddling and whitewater kayaking adventure ideas.
  12. Paddle a stretch of the Pend Oreille River Water Trail: The water trail stretches across approximately 70 miles of the Pend Oreille River in northeast Washington with environmental and historical points of interests, picnic stops, and overnight campsites along the way.
  13. Take a cleanup hike along your favorite river: Hike, bike, or float along the Spokane River, Hangman Creek, the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River, Pack River, or another regional stream and bring your own garbage bag to help clean up along the way. Spokane River Keeper is also organizing summertime cleanups.
  14. Hike the Nelson, B.C., area’s rare Inland Temperate Rainforest: Just north of the border a few hours from Spokane, ancient old growth trees up to five meters thick make up the last-remaining Inland Temperate Rainforest on Earth. Caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, wolverines, and a diversity of native plants and animals still thrive here, and there are plenty of trails to explore. Don’t forget your bear spray and passport.
  15. Hike the trails at Pend Oreille County Park: Just north of Spokane and an hour or so west of Sandpoint, the over 7 miles of trails on 440 acres of wildlife-rich low elevation forest is the perfect place for a quiet day’s outing. Primitive camp sites are also available.
  16. Raft or kayak the Clark Fork River through the Alberton Gorge in Montana: If you don’t have your own gear and experience in class III/IV whitewater, then sign up for a trip with one of several local outfitters like ROW Adventures.
  17. Go paddle boarding or kayaking downtown Spokane: Bring your own boat and launch under the Division Street Bridge, or just show up in your paddling duds and rent the gear from Fun Unlimited and paddle up the mellow Spokane River toward No-Li Brewhouse and points beyond.
  18. Take a ride on a Wallowa Lake Tramway near Joseph, Ore.: Enjoy incredible views as you gain 3,700 feet of elevation on the ride up to the summit of Mount Howard high in the Wallowa Mountains overlooking Wallowa Lake, vast stretches of prairie, and distant peaks. Indulge in a snack or beverage at the mountain-top restaurant and stretch your legs on the hiking trails.
  19. Hike to remote swimming beaches along Christina Lake: Wander along the Deer Point Trail from the Texas Creek Campground to find your own hidden swimming spot at Christina Lake, B.C., one of the warmest tree-lined lakes in Canada that happens to be just north of the border from Kettle Falls, Wash.
  20. Take a mining history tour in Idaho’s Silver Valley: Mine tours, ghost towns, historic districts, mining museums, historic buildings and more await in and around Wallace, Idaho.
  21. Ride past lakes and wetlands on the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes out of Harrison, Idaho: Harrison is a cool lake town with plenty of fun to be had on the beach, docks, restaurants and bars in town. And the fact that the 70+ mile paved Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes runs right through town makes it even cooler. Bring your bike or rent one in town and pedal east past wetlands and woods often teaming with birds and wildlife for an out-and-back cycling adventure anyone can do. Or arrange a shuttle at the bike shop in town for a longer one-way adventure.
  22. Ride the Route of the Hiawatha Trail then check out one of these lesser-known rides near Wallace, Idaho: Learn more.
  23. Take a multiday whitewater rafting trip on the Salmon River: You’ll need your own gear and experience on this class III and IV wilderness river. You can rent rafting gear from the University of Idaho Outdoor Program, but you’ll still need your own whitewater skills. Or sign up on a Lower Salmon River trip with Spokane-based FLOW Adventures.
  24. Go river surfing in Missoula, Montana: Brennan’s Wave, a man-made river wave, provides year-round river surfing opportunities. Rental boards and lessons are available too.
  25. Get away from the crowds on a hike near Libby, Montana: Many well-known scenic hikes can get crowded on peak summer weekends these days, but there are still plenty of lesser-known trails throughout the Inland NW where you can find solitude. For instance, there are hundreds of miles of backcountry trails near Libby, Mont., where you may not see another human while you hike.
  26. Climb at a new-to-you bouldering area in the greater Spokane area:  A long-needed new bouldering guide to the Spokane area is now available thanks to the hard work of climbers and authors Nate Lynch and Shane Collins. Pick up a copy of Spokane Bouldering at Rambleraven Gear Trader and start exploring with your crash pad.
  27. Go to Spokatopia July 9 to ride your bike, listen to music and paddleboard: Spokatopia is a one-day outdoor adventure festival at Camp Sekani Park on the Spokane River put on by our magazine, Out There Outdoors. It’s like having a whole summer’s worth of outdoor fun crammed into one long day. Don’t miss it!
  28. Visit the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge south of Colville, Wash.: Bears, elk, moose, bobcat, deer, hundreds of bird species, and other wildlife on over 40,000 acres of public land at the LPONWR. What more could you ask for? Explore on a few trails and gravel roads and reconnect with the wild tangle of rock, trees, and feral life that we all sprang from way back when.
  29. Take the back road drive between Sullivan Lake and Priest Lake over Pass Creek Pass in northeast Washington: The highlight of this drive is topping out on the pass. Stop and take a hike, starting at the Pass Creek Pass trailhead (trails head north and south from the road) and pick a few huckleberries and watch for wildlife. Better yet, do it on your mountain bike and connect into some sick singletrack trails leading back down to Sullivan Lake.
  30. Hike, mountain bike or trail run the Independence Creek Trail northeast of Coeur d’Alene: Make it a long loop using forest roads or an out-and-back along Independence Creek Trail #22, through beautiful North Idaho forest along a cool mountain stream.
  31. Ride the acclaimed mountain bike trails around Helena, Mont.: Learn more.
  32. Run or fast hike one of the regions popular backpacking routes in one day: Many of the most scenic backpacking loops and out-and-back or one-way trails in our neck of the woods are getting more and more crowded. Enjoy the trails and views and limit your impact by doing the whole Salmo Loop, Seven Devils Loop, Kettle Crest Trail, or other popular routes all in one fast push. Go prepared physically and with all the essentials you’ll need to avoid paying a hefty evacuation bill.
  33. Rent a boat on one of the region’s big lakes: Many lakes can get crazy on weekends, but bigger lakes like Lake Pend Oreille and Coeur d’Alene Lake in North Idaho, Flathead Lake in northwest Montana, and Kootenay Lake in British Columbia, offer more elbow room to spread out and do your own boating thing at your own pace. For a quick-access boat rental experience from Spokane on Lake Coeur d’Alene, check out Cdasports.com.
  34. Surf the world’s largest standing wave at Lakeside Surf in Chelan: Quite different than the ocean waves you may have surfed, this river-type wave where the water rushes toward you takes some getting used to, but it is a blast that anyone can get the hang of after a few sessions. After opening last spring, the wave at Lakeside Surf is quickly becoming an annual pilgrimage for landlocked Inland Northwest surfers.
  35. Take a ride over the Columbia River on the Palouse to Cascades Trail: This 289-mile cross-Washington rail trail goes from Cedar Falls to Tekoa, and with the newly updated Beverly Bridge over the Columbia River, riders and hikers can now cross the bridge without a vehicle shuttle detour. Grab your bike and go check out this section of one of our region’s greatest rail trails!
  36. Explore the waters and shorelines around Lake Roosevelt: This sprawling water body northwest of Spokane is a lake-lovers dream. Find great fishing, boating, beach camping, hiking, history and more along this 130-mile-long lake.
  37. Explore the backroads and trails along the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail: The Trail follows the route taken by many members of the Nez Perce Tribe in 1877 on their noble quest to dodge being forced onto a reservation. The 1,170-mile trail covers backroads and trails from Wallowa Lake in northeast Oregon to Bear Paw Battlefield near Chinook, Mont. Drive and walk part of the route and learn about the Nee-Me-Poo people’s tragic flight from pursuing white forces while you’re at it.
  38. Look down into the deepest gorge in North America from Hells Canyon Overlook: Safely tucked in the middle of nowhere southeast of Enterprise, Ore., along the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway, the overlook offers a rare, vehicle-accessible panoramic view of Hells Canyon.
  39. Go river rafting in Riggins, Idaho: The Salmon River, or River of No Return, is one of the longest un-dammed rivers in North America. Sign on with a local guide and spend a day splashing through class III and IV rapids and lounging on white sand beaches above and below the cool river town of Riggins.
  40. Spend a few days riding sections of the Ferry County Rail Trail in northeast Washington: This 24-mile rail trail that extends from near the town of Republic to the Canadian Border is big on scenery and rural charm. Find an overnight basecamp in town or at a local campground and check it out.
  41. Go fishing at Potholes Reservoir near Moses Lake: Great fishing for bass, walleye, and trout can be had via boat, paddle craft, dock, or from the shore on the vast waters of Potholes Reservoir. Choose between private resort, state park, or several developed public access areas.
  42. Ride the Columbia Plateau Trail: Or maybe just a couple sections of it if you don’t have several days on a fat bike to dedicate to the trail. The 130-mile rail trail that stretches between Pasco and Cheney, Wash., is known for some rough trail surfaces (dreaded ballast rock) and detours around gated, unsafe bridges. But the wild, off-road scenery is amazing in places and well worth the challenge. More info:
  43. Ride Spokane’s Children of the Sun Trail: This 10-mile, one-way paved path that parallels Spokane’s in-progress north-south freeway is a great afternoon or evening, close-to-home leg stretcher that runs between Hillyard and the Little Spokane River. The trail will expand along with the freeway and should eventually connect with the Centennial Trail.
  44. Ride the Centennial Trail from downtown Spokane to Nine Mile Recreation Area: Set up a shuttle in advance then enjoy the one-way, nearly 20-mile trip with a picnic and swim in Lake Spokane, or turn around when you’re ready and ride back home to double your mileage. Or reserve a campsite and make it an overnight urban bikepack trip.
  45. Explore some of the Inland Northwest’s remaining old growth trees: Big trees are cool and they provide plenty of benefits to people and wildlife, from harboring clean water and air to creating space for critters to live that need big trees. Check out these regional old growth groves.
  46. Look for birds and wildlife along the scenic auto tour loop at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge south of Cheney, Wash: Be sure to check out wildlife viewing sites, boardwalks, and hiking trails that lead off the loop into the forest, grasslands and wetlands. And look up and around for birds and other wildlife. Don’t forget your binoculars!
  47. Explore the Post Falls Community Forest: Hike through forest, canyons, and along the Spokane River or go rock climbing on the beginner-to-intermediate climbing routes, all accessed from the trailhead at Q’emiln Park (“ka-mee-lin”).

[Feature photo: Lake Pend Oreille is a paddle paradise. // Photo: S. Michael Bennett]

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