Head West for Desert Riding at Beezley Hills

I had just finished loosening the last lug nut on my snow tires when the phone rang. It was Marty. “Let’s ride, buddy!” he said. It was early March and we had spent countless miles together over the winter riding our mountain bikes through Spokane’s ice, snow and mud. I was ready for a change. “Sounds good,” I said, “but let’s get out of town.” We both agreed that heading west to lower elevations and dryer land would give us the best chance of catching some good dirt. I quickly bolted my all-seasons to my VW, gathered my gear and headed out.

We set our sights on Beezley Hills, about 120 miles west of Spokane near the town of Ephrata. Situated among a 30,000 acre conservancy, this 4,800 acre preserve boasts over 20 miles of trails set within sweeping desert terrain. If we were to escape the grip of winter, this had to be our place.

Photo: Erik K.
Photo: Erik K.

After a few wrong turns, we finally found the southern trailhead on 18th Avenue, just off Basin Street. A brand new kiosk with a detailed map of the area, along with pocket-size maps, greeted us at the lot. Looking up into the rolling hills, we spotted miles of singletrack, verdant grasses, bountiful varieties of sage brush, hedgehog cactus and endless hues of wildflowers. We couldn’t wait to get the knobbies rolling.

Armed with our maps and plenty of water, we headed up into the unfamiliar network of trails with names like Schucks, Middle Earth, Stevie’s Wonder and Bean Dip. Over scree and shale, around tight bermed switchbacks and across well-groomed rollers, we eventually climbed our way up to a sizable boulder affectionately known as “The Couch.”  As the name graciously suggests, we had a seat and took a needed break. From here, at the crest of the hill, The Couch gives you a well-deserved vantage point overlooking Ephrata to the east and the colossal snow-covered peaks of the Cascade Range to the west.

Legs recovered from the climb and snacks polished off, we headed around the summit along the Rainier Trail and towards our eventual favorite, Bipolar Express. Wrapping us around the back of the hill, it revealed the true scale of the conservancy. As far as our eyes could see, there were no man-made structures, only vast rolling desert ripe for more trails. According to a local trail advocate, much of the surrounding area is privately owned with many of the owners open to the idea of expanding the current network onto their land. Regardless of how many miles are added, the massive swath of land on the west face made for a sublime, flowy descent back towards The Couch.

Photo: Erik K.
Photo: Erik K.

With nearly four hours of riding under our belts, we decided it was time for one final descent. Releasing the brakes, we grabbed onto gravity and charged down the Lazy Boy trail with streaks of wildflower colors in our periphery. Winding our way back to the car, Marty and I reminisced about the day, realizing that we couldn’t have asked for anything more, especially for March.

For those of you interested in making your way to “The Beez,” there are a few things to consider. Given the arid climate, the best times of year to ride are March/April and October/November. In late March, there is a cross-country mountain bike race, 10 years running, called the Beezley Burn. Coming up soon, on October 24, there will be a large group night ride called (brace yourself) Ephrata The Dark. Cost is $10 and includes post-ride food, refreshments and swag giveaways. More info: Wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/beezley-hills-preserve. // (Erik K.)

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