The Inland Northwest is full of prime campsites worthy of a long drive. But when time is short and conserving gas a goal, there’s a surprisingly quiet, wooded alternative that can be reached from downtown Spokane in less time than it takes to drive to the North Division “Y.”
The campground at Liberty Lake County Park is often overlooked by those who think good campsites only exist at the far end of long, dusty roads.
The kids aren’t going to care that you didn’t have to dodge logging trucks to get there or that you’re only five miles from the nearest Starbucks and 10 miles from the Spokane Valley Mall. But the close proximity of those life-support centers can comfort adults who lack the camping gene – especially if a storm blows in or the DEET runs out. There are flush toilets and showers, too.
Despite heavy boat traffic on Liberty Lake, the campground is soothingly quiet – depending on the mix of campers, of course. It’s off the lake a bit, under the mixed forest of pine, fir, larch and spruce. Come nightfall, you’ll hear coyotes calling from up in the woods – nearly 3,000 acres of which were preserved by forward-looking county officials who created this park in 1966.
From the campground, hike the Liberty Creek trail. About two miles up you’ll come to a grove of old cedars. At three miles is a waterfall that’s impressive in spring.
Take a dawn or dusk walk on the elevated boardwalk that leads into the marsh at the head of the lake. Sip coffee while watching the acrobatic swallows and listening to the trill of the red-winged blackbirds. You might see a heron dropping into a hidden open patch.
Or take the kids and a fishing rod to the dock at the edge of the swimming area. Liberty Lake is known for its hard-to-catch bass, but young fishermen will be thrilled at the steady action from palm-sized bluegills that can be caught by dangling bait beneath a bobber. Adults need a fishing license; see state fishing regulations online at wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/2008 /2008sportregs.pdf.