On those grey winter days in Spokane, find a dose of vitamin D by heading for Mount Spokane State Park. When everything is obscured by cloud and fog below, the park’s summits are generally bathed in light. Print a copy of the snowshoe trail map, pack your thirteen essentials, and head for the hill to improve your mood.
At 5,282′, Mount Kit Carson is the park’s second tallest peak and boasts a better view than the summit of Mount Spokane. What’s more, this hike can be done as a loop, traveling from deep forest to alpine meadows and back again with nearly 1,500 feet of elevation gain (then loss).
From just inside the trailhead gate (across the road from the parking lot), bear slightly right and head uphill on trail 100/110. At the trail merger in approximately 100 feet, bear left and keep your feet dry while crossing the Washington Trails Association volunteer-built footbridge over Burping Brook. At the next trail merger, bear right and begin a steady climb for just under 1/2-mile, where you will need to bear right and continue climbing on trail 110 (as trail 100 exits to the left across a second bridge).
The farther uphill the trail ascends, the more the trees and understory change. Depending on the depth of the snowpack, you may be able to note bear grass and huckleberry replacing the denser brush of the lower trail. Overhead, the trees open up, letting in more light. Continue approximately 1.7 miles to Saddle Junction, where numerous standing snags provide wildlife habitat and create an eerie landscape.
From Saddle Junction, bear left and continue climbing on trail 160. This portion of trail is shared use with snowmobiles, and the summit of Mount Kit Carson is a designated off-trail snowmobile area, so listen for the sound of approaching motors. From the rocky summit of Mount Kit Carson, the view encompasses everything from Newman Lake to the south, to the Selkirk range to the north.
After soaking it all in, return to Saddle Junction and gage your level of fatigue. The fastest route back is to return the same way you came, but to prolong the adventure, take trail 140 downhill instead. Not only will the views be different, but this route down gives snowshoers the option of stopping by the new snowshoe hut at Smith Gap.
Built over the summers of 2013 and 2014 by volunteers with the Friends of Mount Spokane State Park and with the help of a grant from the Johnston-Fix Foundation and generous donations from the community, the hut boasts hand-made furniture and historic signs and can be kept toasty-warm this winter due to the instillation of a wood burning stove. Please remove snowshoes before climbing the stairs. Pack-it-in, pack-it-out, and leave the place better than you found it. After taking a breather at the hut, complete the hike by continuing down hill on the Lower Mount Kit Carson Loop Road.
This route is best for hiking if it’s snow free, or snowshoeing, cross-country and backcountry skiing with snow on the ground. Dog friendly with leash required. It’s approximately six miles roundtrip.
From I-90, take the Argonne exit and go north. Pass through Millwood, go up the Argonne Hill, and continue north as Argonne turns into Bruce. At the round-about, bear east on SR 206 to Mount Spokane Park Drive. Continue approximately two miles beyond the State Park entrance to the Lower Mount Kit Carson Loop Road trailhead, with parking inside the switchback. Cross the road to enter the gated trail system and begin the hike/snowshoe/ski.
Mount Spokane State Park requires a SnoPark permit for winter use. The Lower Mount Kit Carson Loop Trailhead requires a regular SnoPark permit, but splurge for the Special Groomed Trail Sticker if you Nordic ski or snowmobile. If you opt for the day pass rather than the annual permit, note that a Discover Pass is required in addition to your day-use SnoPark pass.
Download free printable maps and a snowshoe brochure at: Mountspokane.org. //