The first guidebook in my personal collection was a copy of Rich Landers’ 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest, purchased circa 2001, when hiking and backpacking were brand new sports to me. That initial copy was from a late printing of the 1987 book, and when the second edition came out in 2003 I wasted no time in picking up a new copy. Both are now bookmarked, dog-eared, heavily highlighted, and they spend more time on my desk or in my car than on my bookshelf. And I’m still only half-way through the list.
Rich Landers, of course, has completed all 100 hikes and then some, and is quick to point out that the appendix to the second edition includes another 31 hikes that are equally worthy, except he had to draw the line somewhere when narrowing it down to his top 100. But ask him to narrow it down a bit further to his personal favorites list, and he’ll respond with his own list of questions: Favorites for which season? For day hiking or backpacking? High elevation views or lush wooded valleys? Favorites for wildflowers, huckleberries, wildlife spotting, or good fly-fishing? The book has it all, and narrowing the options to just 100 of the best hikes our region has to offer was hard enough.
So, instead, Landers suggests picking up a copy of the book and asking oneself those questions about what variety of favorite is desired. There is a helpful “Trail Comparison Chart” in the appendices to the second edition, making it easy to narrow the choices.
A Few of Rich Landers’ Favorite Hikes
When asked nicely, Landers will eventually relent and offer up a few personal favorite Inland Northwest hikes.
Steamboat Rock (#2) and Northrup Canyon (#3), Central Wash.
These are stand-alone hikes, but illustrate a key point Landers likes to make. A good way to use the book is to create bigger adventures either by extending a hike by adding in adjacent trails or by combining nearby hikes. Each of these is lovely on its own, and spring can be the best season to see these trails known for their abundant wildflowers and bird habitat. A strong hiker can complete both in one day, or could choose to make a weekend of it by staying at Steamboat Rock State Park campground.
Columbia Mountain (#6) and Sherman Peak (#7), Northeast Wash.
These two are accessible year-round from the same trailhead at Sherman Pass (Highway 20), but the experience varies drastically by season. In the winter, Sherman Pass is a SnoPark equally loved by snowshoers and backcountry skiers. In the summer, they are lovely day hikes or backpack trips. Those who plan ahead at Recreation.gov can rent the nearby Snow Peak Cabin as an extension of the Sherman Peak loop.
Little Spokane River (#18), Spokane, Wash.
Located close enough for an after-work weekday hike for most Spokane residents, Landers loves this one for its plant and animal diversity along with its options for different versions of the hike. It can be enough to take the main trail as an out-and-back along the river, or it can be more of a challenge by completing the entire Knothead Loop. I can additionally vouch for setting up a kayaking shuttle by taking one car to the take-out and trail running back to St. George’s put-in site.
Anything on the Selkirk Crest* (#40-52), North Idaho
Rich called this land of rocks, alpine lakes, and big views his “favorite country in the world.” Enough said.
Lake Estelle—Four Lakes* (#54), North Idaho
This hike illustrates another goal of the book, which is to include as many side-hike or loop options as possible. It’s short enough for a day hike, but can also be an easy backpack trip, and the “options” listed within the hike description describe a more difficult off-trail scrambling possibility.
Oregon Butte* (#83), Southeast Wash.
This hike in the Blue Mountains is another that can serve as day hike from a nearby car-camping base or a backpack trip to campsites with excellent views. It can also be extended into a longer backpack loop by using nearby trails. The fire lookout on Oregon Butte is among the few that are still staffed during summer.
Lakes Basin Loop* (#90), Northeast Ore.
This is probably the most popular hike in the Wallowas and offers an excellent introduction to the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Landers notes that every backpacker should make the effort to see it at least once, as well as complete the moderately difficult side-hike to Eagle Cap itself. The views from both the Lakes Basin and the namesake peak are phenomenal.
St. Joe River (bonus), North Idaho
This hike is relegated to the bonus list because it is a long hike as an out-and-back and setting up a shuttle is difficult. But Landers was once able to secure a drop-off at Cascade Pass outside Superior, Montana, in order to hike from the headwaters near St. Joe Lake all the way to Red Ives near Avery, Idaho, doing a little fly-fishing in this world-class trout river along the way. //
*Since these trails are located at higher elevation, they are best saved for mid-summer into fall.
Holly Weiler works for Washington Trails Association and writes The Trailhead column for each issue of OTO. In her free time, she’s still chipping away at the 50 hikes she has yet to complete from 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest. The Selkirk Crest just got bumped to the top of the list for this summer!