Pedaling Public Land

My wife, Lynn, and I moved to Spokane in 2012. Having emptied the moving truck the previous night, I went on a morning constitutional on the longboard around Browne’s Addition to take a closer look at the neighborhood where we had landed. I discovered a trailhead leading down to Latah Creek—a discovery that set the process of unpacking back by a couple months.  

Within a few weeks I had discovered trails down both sides of the river into Riverside State Park that were mostly or completely rideable, plus connectors to the South Hill Bluff and Palisades Park. With each turn of the pedals, it seemed I’d find myself someplace new with a spectacular view, a swimming hole, or both. I’d return home giddy with the residue of adventure dripping off of me, also giddy that I had failed to talk Lynn into moving to Pittsburgh like I’d wanted when we were done getting rained on in Portland. 

After eight years of exploration, I still have no shortage of that sensation local cyclist and Team ODZ rider Jason Mower calls a WHERE-THE-%&$!-AM-I moment. And you don’t need to be turning triple digit miles to experience that on a regular basis here. Pat Bulger, local rider, racer, and host of the legendary The Packfiller Podcast, has been cycling here since the early 80s when Spokane was under consideration to become the training center for the U.S. Olympic cycling team.  

He says, “Every so often I think I’ve ridden every square inch of Spokane’s cycling opportunities. But then I find myself on a dirt road less than 30 minutes from my front door, and I realize, I have far more roads to explore.” 

Illustration of mountain peak with Vista House building on the summit, and cyclist sitting on the mountain, next to bike, with flying kite in hand.
Vista House at Mt. Spokane // Illustration: Justin Short

It seems like all the precious pearls of public land in and around Spokane are strung on a golden thread of trails and gravel roads to be enjoyed at a pace and topography that fit your spirit of adventure. Other memorable excursions include a gentle ride up the Fish Lake Trail to Turnbull Wildlife Refuge, a crank bender up the gravel side of Mount Spokane from Green Bluff, and a bushwhack down through Inland Empire Paper land (permits available at White’s Boots) to the McKenzie Conservation Area on Newman Lake. The Inland Northwest has a mind-boggling amount of breath-taking public land, pedal-turning options.  

For routes, ride reports, and resources, check out the GASUP (Getting Around Spokane Using Pedals) Facebook page or the new Gravel Braintrust Facebook group, Instagram account, YouTube channel, and website. The website needs a little help, OK, A LOT of help. But if those goofballs ever stop riding long enough to fix it, there will be a database of Ride with GPS links as well as a forum for your own golden nuggets of adventure and ride beta. If you’re not on social media, and hooray if you can pull that off, just go to literally ANY bike shop and ask where the rides are, or invite them where you’re going, and we’ll see you Out There!

Justin M. Short has spent the COVID quarantine season turning pedals through our delightful public lands in preparation for the 2020 Cross-Washington Mountain Bike Raceif it happens. 

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