ONE OF THE BEST PARTS about cycling in Spokane is how close we are to real rural riding. The city of Spokane is surrounded by relatively quiet rural area in every direction.

If you’ve not explored some of the outer edges of the county by bike, you’re really missing out on some great riding. In this column, I’m going to explain some of my favorite areas for exploration.

Before diving in, a great resource for finding new rides is to take a look at www.bikely.com. Search on Spokane and you’ll find a number of routes, with comments, that have been submitted by cyclists in the area. I mention many roads in this column. You can locate the areas I am referring to by searching the road names in an online map service. Finally, if you are looking to explore this area, the best map to have in your basket is the Spokane County Road and Recreation map. It’s produced by the Northwest Map Service (ISBN 1 885151 02 0).

SOUTHEAST – THE PALOUSE
Most road cyclists are familiar with the Palouse region. If you like wide vistas, rolling hills, and a pastoral setting, then you’ll understand why Valley Chapel Road, Hangman Valley Road, and the Palouse Highway are popular routes.

But if you are willing to explore a bit more, you will find a bunch of great county roads zigzagging across the region. County roads are gravel roads that are maintained reasonably well. If you’re ok with the occasional section of washboard, then the payoff for taking county roads can be great. Some of my favorite roads in this area are Sands Road, Dunn Road, and Big Rock Road. Big Rock Road is close to town, has a great climb, a great view and multiple spots to settle down for a picnic lunch.

SOUTHWEST – FISH LAKE, CHENEY, TURNBULL
Cheney is a great day ride. I like it because there are bunches of ways to get there: you can mix in road, multi-use path, single-track, and gravel road along the way. From Cheney, you are within an hour or so of a bunch of lakes. Badger Lake, Williams Lake, Amber Lake are all close by. The Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge is a wonderful place to pedal through on a cool fall day.

Again, if you seek out the dirt roads, you will be rewarded with some great rural riding. On the way back from Cheney, you can drop off the Cheney-Spokane road at Scribner and connect into the Latah area via Gibbs and Cedar road. Of course the Fish Lake Trail and the Columbia Plateau trail offer a variety of surfaces and no car traffic.

WEST AND NORTHWEST – WEST PLAINS, FOUR MOUNDS
My favorite way into the West Plains is by riding out Government Way, up Trails Road and connecting with Euclid Road. You’ll pass the Great Northern School House, which is about the coolest public school—actually, the coolest school district: it’s just one school—in the region, if not the state.

The Four Mounds area is a wonderful area to tool around for a day. Head north on the Centennial Trail and then go left on Seven Mile Road. You’ll hit Four Mounds Road after a nice climb. Once you get to the top of the hill, there are a bunch of roads to explore. Keep heading north and you’ll bump into Long Lake. Or head west and loop back to Coulee Hite Road for a nice descent back to Seven Mile.

NORTH – MOUNTAINS, GRANGE HALLS, AND MORE
There is so much great riding north of Spokane that it’s hard to capture it in a small space. I recently discovered the area just west of Deer Park and north to Loon Lake. The area is basically laid out in the old rural grid pattern. It seems there’s a small church or grange hall at every crossroads. That’s just cool. And what’s cooler is that the churches and halls are still in operation. Riding through this area on a Sunday is highly recommended. Take 395 to Monroe Road. Then get off Monroe Road and start exploring. Pop out in Deer Park or Clayton for lunch.

Going out north towards Chattaroy – Eloika Lake area is an area that I’d like to explore more. I know there are a bunch of secondary roads out there that parallel Highway 2, and the back road into Sacheen Lake is really charming. Mount Spokane State Park, with its world-class climb, is a great destination as well.

EAST – LIBERTY LAKE, NEWMAN LAKE AND SALTESE FLATS
Newman Lake is a good destination if you loop north over Peone Prairie. Temple Road is a nice dirt climb with a challenging descent into Newman Lake.

There are some nice sweeping climbs around Liberty Lake. Lakeside Road, Idaho Road, and Mouilter Road are all nice routes.

Saltese Flats is the area just west of Liberty Lake. It’s a quiet and lush valley. Linke Road provides a nice dirt climb out of the valley and into the Dishman-Mica area. From there, you can connect with Sands Road, which completes the circle around town.

John Speare grew up and lives in Spokane. He rides his bike everywhere. Check out his blog at http://cyclingspokane.blogspot.com.