Inland NW Trail Runs Worth Traveling For

Although our Spokane area is abundant with trails, there are some hidden gems of the Inland Northwest that deserve a road trip to run or hike. There’s the sage-studded Ancient Lakes area, with nearby views of the Columbia River. There’s the basalt formation known as Steamboat Rock, providing sandy trails that rise high above Banks Lake. There’s a great trail above the rolling fields of the Palouse, and trails that shoot up into the pines. Each of these trails have great food or tourist stops in neighboring towns. If you travel to central Washington, bring water and consider tackling the trail in the morning or evening, as the area is exposed and heat can be extreme. Take this summer to explore new territory!

Trail with lake in the distance.
Trail in the Lake Lenore Caves area. // Photo: Lisa Laughlin
  • Headwaters Trail (Moscow Mountain, Moscow, Idaho)—You’ll find well-maintained singletrack surrounded by pines and moss on this 3.7-mile loop. This intermediate-level trail has a few climbs and switchbacks, with smooth trails and variety. While you’re in the area, visit Kamiak Butte just outside Pullman, for a quick 3.5-mile loop. An island of pine trees, the Butte’s 900-foot elevation gain offers stellar views of the Palouse.
  • Ancient Lakes Loop (near George, Wash.)—You’ll be able to cover at least 12 miles at this scenic desert area spotted with lakes, sage, and mule deer. Keep an eye out for a waterfall as you toe along the basalt plateaus. This trail is close to Potholes Trail and Dusty Lake Trail, which connect to the Gorge Amphitheatre Trail, a 4.2-miler leading to its namesake’s concert venue. You’ll find beautiful drop-off views of the Columbia River.
  • Steamboat Rock State Park (near Electric City, Wash.)—Located on Banks Lake, this geological oddity was carved by Ice Age floods in the heart of the scablands. You’ll find 13.1 miles of trail leading to Northrup Lake among the sagebrush, basalt, and wild grasses. Post-run/hike, you’ll have easy water access and camping options. If you’re looking to cross-recreate, you can also do some granite bouldering here.
  • Devil’s Gulch (Mission Ridge, Wenatchee, Wash.)—You’ll need to shuttle or run up a connecting forest road for this one. Devil’s Gulch, snaking to the side of Mission Peak, is heavy in switchbacks and creek crossings. For something less nefarious-sounding, make a 4-mile loop on Squilchuck Trail #1200 and stop at tamarack-lined Clara Lake. You’re in apple country, so search for a fresh Honeycrisp in town when you’re done.
  • Lake Lenore Caves and Beezley Hill (Soap Lake/Ephrata, Wash)—The great thing about running uphill in a flat place is that it doesn’t take long to achieve panoramic views. Beezley Hill, home of the annual “Beezley Burn,” provides soft dirt tracks through sagebrush and open, sunny skies. The nearby Lake Lenore Caves area has an admittedly short and rocky trail, but you can poke around naturally-formed caves.
  • Trail 79 (Caribou Ridge, near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho)—My favorite trail running app, Trail Running Project, rated this trail “black diamond” (difficult)—and it didn’t disappoint. This trail has narrow and bumpy paths over mineral-streaked rocks, but the peek-a-boo views of Lake Coeur d’Alene make this challenging singletrack worth it. You’ll cover 2,000 feet of elevation in five miles, but you’ll be rewarded with soft, pine-shadowed portions of trail.
  • Icicle Ridge Trail (Leavenworth, Wash.)—This trail begins with a steep climb and offers a view of the epic peaks around this Bavarian tourist town. Near the 2-mile mark, you can diverge for Icicle Ridge Viewpoint, then continue along Icicle Ridge for at least 25 miles. Post-run perks include access to artisan meats and cheeses, and downtown wine, beer, and distillery tasting rooms.
  • Farragut State Park (near Athol, Idaho)—Nestled near the south point of Lake Pend Oreille, you can catch some classic Northwest pine-covered trail. Check out Bernard Peak Trail, which features a couple of switchbacks and creek crossings on the way to a view of the surrounding mountain ranges.
  • Gold Hill Trail (near Sandpoint, Idaho)—You can clock near-marathon distance on the Gold Hill to Garfield Bay route. Start along Bottle Bay road at the side of Lake Pend Oreille and etch your way across various ridges to Garfield Bay. Close by is Mineral Point Trail #82, offering 4 miles with stunning lake vistas. //

[Feature photo “Author Lisa getting lost in the cedars at the Headwaters Trail” by Molly Beu.]

Share this Post

Scroll to Top