Raging Roadie Routes: Early Season Road Riding in Spokane and North Idaho

Ask any roadie and they will tell you the Inland Northwest offers top flight cycling. There are so many great rides and such great scenery that choosing just a few to showcase doesn’t begin to tap the potential. Each of the following options for road riding throughout the region are typically light on traffic while sporting fantastic scenery and the occasionally well-maintained roadway.

Spokane’s South Hill

My favorite ride from the South Hill is the Valley Chapel loop, a roughly 30-mile route with 2,700 feet of climbing. One can ride clockwise or counterclockwise, with either Valleyford or Freeman a good launch point.  Riders new to the route might better appreciate riding clockwise because the seven miles between Freeman and Rockford along State Route 27 are more down hill and the wind is more likely to be at your back. Clockwise the climbing is easier as well. Riding counter-clockwise means climbing 600 feet over two miles that will test your fitness and legs. After climbing out of the valley, the views are of farmland swathed in seasonal greens or gold with Mica Peak rising in the east.

Photo of bike riders on paved trail
Photo courtesy of Jason Duchohotography

North Spokane

When riding out of North Spokane, the route known as Chase the Sun is what North Division Bike shop mechanic Greg Welton calls a “heck of a fun ride.” Starting from the Whitworth neighborhood, the route follows Waikiki to North Nine Mile Road to the Little Spokane River and up north along Hazard and Austin Roads before turning on Wild Rose Road and heading back to Spokane on North Saddle Mountain Lane before hitting Hatch Road, North Regina, and finally North Whitworth Drive. There are a number of points where the 25-mile loop could be shortened or lengthened, such as turning right on Half Moon Road or crossing Hatch to Perry. The one climb of note is around mile 4, with 500 feet over about three miles.

North Idaho

Hayden Lake Loop is a challenging 24 miles with over 1,900 feet of climbing. Mountain View Cyclery owner John Bowman says that the Hayden Lake loop is two distinct rides with great riding and views of the lake no matter the direction. It is also one of the “best rides in the region”  and for some visitors “the nicest ride they’ll ever go on.” The loop has three significant climbs when riding counter-clockwise and two when riding clockwise, but the challenge is the constant up and down of short and steep. Bowman says most intermediate riders complete the loop in about two hours.

In Sandpoint, the premier ride, according to Brian Anderson at Greasy Fingers Bikes, is the Bottle Bay Loop. From Sandpoint ride the Sagle Bike Path across Long Bridge to Sagle before turning onto Bottle Bay Road. Like the Hayden Lake loop, Bottle Bay offers about 24 miles of pavement with a good bit of up and down. Depending upon the direction, the one significant climb is both reasonably short and steep, with 500 feet of elevation gain in just over a mile or a mile-and-a-half in the other direction. While there is no shoulder for cyclists, Anderson says that riding during non-commute hours means a minimum of traffic. //

Bradley Bleck wrote about early season road rides for the March issue of Out There. But for a handful of commutes to his teaching at Spokane Falls Community College over the winter, he has done the bulk of his riding so far on the indoor trainer.

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