It took almost a decade of living within a couple of miles to successfully navigate the eastern side of Spokane’s South Hill. Streets run in all directions and then suddenly dead-end. Little gravel connectors appear at random. Before you know it, you’re GPSing your way around, and that shortcut to Trader Joe’s wasn’t such a great idea after all. But it’s arguably the coolest part of town in its architecture, social diversity and rocky landscape.

To the west is the iconic strip of turn-of-the-century mansions along Rockwood Boulevard and Manito Park beyond. Up the hill to the south is 29th Ave., the main thoroughfare along the top of the South Hill. The focal point is the South Perry neighborhood, an area that celebrates its vibrant identity that ranges from socially conscious professionals and tenacious 60s hippies to recent immigrants and everyone in between.

I start my run at The Shop, a popular coffee and sandwich joint that also hosts the Perry Street Farmers Market on an adjacent parking lot every Thursday afternoon from late spring through fall. My intent is to join the running group that meets weekly at The Lantern Taphouse just up the street, but I haven’t done it yet, so today I’m going solo. I lace up, loosen up and head south on Perry Street past the trendy shops, restaurants and brewery that have put the neighborhood on the local social map.

This is a tougher run than the one I wrote about in the March issue of Out There. At five miles, it’s a couple of miles longer, plus that first mile is a steady uphill along Perry and Southeast Boulevard. Three-quarters of the way uphill, I detour for a quick loop around the pond in rustic Upper Lincoln Park before continuing.

Where Southeast Blvd. meets Rockwood, I take a right. At first, the houses are less impressive, but within about a mile of rolling hills, they give way to those classic Rockwood mansions, and the road slopes downhill for three quarters of a mile before I head back upward. Driving this street is always a treat but running it is quite taxing. Rockwood provides a rare opportunity to soak up relaxed urban running with few intersections and no stoplights.

At 10th, I turn east, past the tempting waft of grilling beef from local dining treasure Wisconsin Burger. A few blocks later, I’m loping across the grass of Grant Park and back to The Shop, where I sit back and savor a drink in one of the Spokane neighborhoods that defines so much of what makes urban running here so challenging and rewarding.

 

Easier South Hill Run Routes

If you’re looking for a more relaxed run with a shorter option, here’s the flattest, simplest and most rewarding three- and five-mile urban runs I’ve found in Spokane. For a 3-miler, drive 29th Ave. west to its terminus at High Drive. Hang a left and pull into the first small turnout on your right, within just a few hundred feet. From there, it’s 3 miles out-and-back to Latawah Street (a few blocks before the stop sign at Grand). You’ll enjoy stellar views of the Latah valley to the south on the way out, and the Selkirk Mountains to the north on the way back. For a 5-miler, keep going past Latawah Street and take a right on Hatch at the Rocket Market. You’ll run past a pleasant tree-sheltered stretch by the Manito Golf and Country Club. Turnaround at the first black mailbox that’s on the left (east) side of Hatch just past 54th Ave., at the end of the golf course. //