Mount Spokane offers an extensive web of snowshoe and hiking trails. The Mount Spokane loop starts at the very bottom of the park and meanders through evergreen forests to the grandiose vistas atop Mount Spokane with a little side trip to Mount Kit Carson and its splendid views to the north and west.
|Rating||3.3 out of 5|
|Difficulty||Moderate (quite a bit of uphill hiking)|
|Duration||6:28 hours moving time (snowshoeing)|
|Elevation Gain||2,879 feet|
|High Point||5,879 feet (Mount Spokane)|
|Low Point||3,241 feet (Trailhead)|
|Water||Vista House if you time it right. A couple of brooks in the lower elevations|
|Administration||Washington Parks and Recreation|
|Conditions||Excellent, except for a few fallen trees|
|Permits||Discover Pass required|
|Camping||There are campgrounds in the state park. There are also two warming huts along the trail, CCC Cabin and Vista House.|
|Maps||USGS Mount Spokane|
|Trailhead||Take I-90 exit #287 and head north on Argonne Road for 8.5 miles (Argonne will turn into Bruce Road). At the roundabout turn right onto WA-206 Mount Spokane Park Drive and follow it to the trailhead (it is a few hundred yards into the park; there is parking on the left and right, with a pit toilet on the left). Alternatively, take the I-90 Sullivan exit and head north via Sullivan, Wellesley, Progress and Forker to WA-206.
Google Directions (47.887934, -117.126081)
|Squirrel Density||They’re out there! Dogs must be leashed though|
|Features||Mountaintop, Structure, Meadow|
|Date||March 4, 2017|
As a preamble to this hike I should mention that a couple of weeks prior I was viciously attacked while strolling along the Coeur d’Alene Parkway. I should also mention that I was properly leashed and didn’t do the least bit to provoke such an assault. The brutal assailant was bigger than I (they always are, cowards!), off leash, and just jumped on me. I winced and yelped and the Scribe extracted me promptly from the situation.
However, I admit that I have a bit of thing about going to the vet–it’s just not my favorite thing, let’s say it that way. So I didn’t tell the Scribe about my injury and onward we moved. The following weekend, Gone-Away Pup came home for a few days and she gave me a big squeeze and I couldn’t help but yelp! This, of course, led to a thorough investigation of yours truly, with not one hair on my body left unturned. Needless to say, the abscess on my back was brought to light. Immediately, it was off to the emergency vet, thanks very much, and that was followed by “bed rest”, as if I ever needed rest.
The reason I’m bringing all this up is that the Scribe promised me eons ago to take me up to Mount Spokane when the weather gets a bit warmer and the skiing lousier. I pointed out that after so much bed rest it surly was time for that trip and the Scribe acquiesced. And so there you have it, our trip to Mount Spokane.
It wasn’t quite as warm as the Scribe had hoped and not much snow-melting was going on yet. Nevertheless, he decided to wear his hiking shoes instead of boots, to keep weight at a minimum. His gaiters had been recently decommissioned and he was a bit concerned about that. I wear neither shoes nor boots (except when it’s icy) nor gaiters and I’ve always been fine, so what’s the big deal anyway?
As to the trail, the single-track commences next to the pit toilet and was fairly well trodded, so the Scribe seemed safe with his boots and snowshoes packed awy in his backpack. We made decent time (as always, the Scribe languished behind), climbing a couple of switchbacks, crossing an open area where a power lines ran through and reached the ridge dividing Burping Brook and Deadman Creek. The trail pretty much follows this ridge, paralleling Mount Spokane Park Drive. Shortly before the Sno-Park parking lot, the trail approaches the road closely, but then veers away to the left and crosses Burping Brook, a place with a pretty picnic area during summer, including a pit toilet, now deeply buried in snow.
The trail then crosses Kit Carson Loop Road, a wide road that you can snowshoe from the Sno-Park to Smith Gap if you’re not up to 3,000 feet of elevation gain. After the crossing, the trail shifts right (east) and heads reasonably steeply uphill to the intersection with trail #100 (via this trail we returned in the end) at around the 2-mile mark. With the proximity of the Sno-Park lot, this piece of trail gets a lot of usage, and was therefore very trampled and easily traversed.
Trail 110 continues through the forest and climbs quite steeply, but this is made fairly easy by many switchbacks. As we got higher and higher it became obvious that fewer and fewer people had used the path and the Scribe’s legs at some point disappeared in the snow. This happened twice and he assured me he’d put on his snowshoes if it happened again. Well, it didn’t, and we made it to the saddle between Mount Kit Carson and Beauty Mountain, the 4-mile mark.
The plan was to do little side trips to Mount Kit Carson and Day Mountain, so we set our sight on Mount Kit Carson trail #160. There were tracks, yes, but it looked as if just one person had braved the trail, so I sniffed for squirrels while the Scribe donned his snowshoes.
The trail moved uphill and the tracks were downhill, meaning the stride was much bigger than the Scribe’s. I chose to run ahead while the Scribe huffed and puffed behind me. We approached Kit Carson from the north and curled around the peak for a bit, then emerged onto a completely untouched clearing against a cloudy wild sky and a strangely veiled sun. I felt something primeval inside me and it made me want to howl!
The Scribe pressed further westwards to the apex, where he took in the views and I marked the outermost edge of the cliff with my scent. Got to do what you got to do.
Then we backtracked and the Scribe seriously considered Day Mountain. The trail (#130) looked like not even deer or elk had traversed it in the last six months. It was a disaster waiting to happen. I convinced the Scribe to skip it.
We returned to the saddle and chose trail #140, which moves northeast while the snowmobile trail heads southeast. The first five steps were great, because we walked in someone else’s tracks. Then it became clear that our predecessor had turned around. The snow was so deep that the Scribe decided to attach the extensions to his snowshoes, but even with those added the going was still tough. The Scribe prompted me to run ahead. I made one jump and found myself completely buried in snow. Not good. I took another tentative step, and again I was buried up to my shoulders. As I said, you got to do and so on and so on. I played the I’m-still-sick card and got in line behind the Scribe.
The going was much easier then, but I got terribly bored. The untouched trail led uphill, the snow was deep, and the Scribe made one slow-motion step after another. The process almost hypnotized me into a trance. I had to do something. And as I saw the black shell of the snowshoe extensions slowly rise before my eyes I had an idea. As the extension started to emerge from the snow, I gingerly put a paw on it. The Scribe, suddenly held back by an invisible force, tripped. Yes, it was working! I repeated the process with the other extension and tripped him again!
The game was quite entertaining. I made sure to step on the extensions randomly so that the Scribe didn’t know what was coming. But eventually I got bored again, until a new idea hit. I pressed on the extensions a bit harder so that snow piled up on the plate, then I slid off and as the Scribe tried to catch himself the snow launched as if flung by a catapult and hit the back of the Scribe’s head. Not the first time, of course, but I had plenty of opportunity to fine-tune my work.
As we smelled the smoke coming from the CCC cabin (built in 1934, and rebuilt in 1998), the Scribe had enough of my bombardment and we cut across the snowmobile trail and entered the cabin. I sniffed every corner while the Scribe replaced his soaking-wet shoes with boots. Then we moved on, skipping the rest of trail 140 in favor of trail 130, which was compacted and easy to walk. It contoured along the side of Mount Spokane to the closed campground on Bald Knob, around mile 6.5. This stretch offered pretty views, which was nice since the weather had cleared a bit.
Then we took the winter ascent to Mount Spokane, which doesn’t follow a specific trail. That didn’t really matter, since everything was buried underneath five feet of snow anyway and no trail could be discerned, even with my superb olfactory organ. Anyway, it’s straight up, up, up, just shooting for the antennas at the top of the mountain. The snow surface was very windswept and hardened, which made things easier for the Scribe.
A fierce winds whipped the top of the mountain and wrapped the trees in a thick coat of frozen snow. We made our way north to the downhill skiing area, in hopes of refilling our water bottles at Vista House, but arrived there too late (it closes at 2.30 pm, open weekends/holidays only). I ate snow and the Scribe scowled.
Then it was time to retrace our steps. The downhill part was a lot of fun, although the Scribe didn’t run quite as fast as I had hoped. We moved past the campground on Bald Knob in the direction of Selkirk Lodge and at the 9.5-mile mark were once again on Mount Spokane Park Drive, only to shift right and uphill immediately to catch trail #100.
Trail 100 contours along the mountain, mostly following old logging roads, in a westerly direction. At the Deadman Creek crossing the Scribe stopped and filtered water. After that, the trail steadily lost altitude and about at the 11-mile mark we were back on trail 110 and headed back to the car the way we’d come up.
Enjoy this hike? Let us know in the comments below!
- To lengthen the hike, include Day Mountain (trail #130)
- To shorten the hike, start at the second Sno-Park parking lot or the snowmobile parking lot near Selkirk lodge. During the summer you can drive all the way to the top of Mount Spokane
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