Last July’s Watermelon Hill fire, sparked by target shooters using exploding targets, charred over 13,000 acres on the Fishtrap Recreation Area and surrounding land. As destructive and terrifying as it was last summer, the wildfire also provides hikers an opportunity to watch the area’s recovery this spring. Most of the largest ponderosa pines survived, aspens are already sending up new shoots alongside charred standing snags and visitors can expect better-than-usual wildflower blooms now that the competing understory shrubs have been burned away. May should be prime time for observing the area’s regeneration in the wake of the burn, as well as comparing sections of the property that were spared from the fire.
From the main parking area on Fishtrap Road, begin the hike on the open grasslands above the lake on an old roadbed that has been converted to a hiking trail. The trail is a mix of double and singletrack throughout. Although the route runs parallel to the lake, the best access to the shoreline is the farthest point out at Farmers’ Landing. For most of the hike the lake is either hidden from view or located far below the basalt bluffs.
At Farmers’ Landing visitors can choose to retrace their steps on the return route, or you can create a slightly longer loop by continuing toward the Farmer’s Landing Trailhead and connecting trails that lead near the ranch house before returning to the main trail. Much of the extended trail escaped the fire’s path, but this also makes navigation slightly more difficult. Be sure to pack a map and compass.
This hike is approximately 6-7 miles and is open for hiking, mountain biking and equestrian use. The area is dog-friendly with a leash (watch out for rattlesnakes). Printable maps are available from the BLM website: Blm.gov/or/resources/recreation/files/brochures/fishtrap_kiosk_101711.pdf.
Getting there: From I-90 west of Spokane and Cheney, take the Fishtrap exit #254. The parking lot is located just before the Fishtrap Resort on Fishtrap Road.
Give Back to Our Trails! Join Washington Trails Association for a day of trail maintenance at Liberty Lake Regional Park, May 2, providing much-needed maintenance to a trail built in the 1970s that was nearly abandoned due to lack of repairs. Signup online at Wta.org/volunteer/east.