“What’s your favorite hike?”
Being a guidebook author who’s explored Inland Northwest trails for more than three decades, I’m regularly asked that question by hikers.
The answer is as difficult as naming your favorite child. But as all parents know, some of our children are a little more appealing, depending on the day and the mood.
I prefer certain hikes when the waterfalls are at peak flows, or mosquito season is over, or huckleberries are ripe or fall colors are peaking.
My top choice for an after-work hike this week might be the Saltese Uplands, one of a dozen great treks on the various lands protected by the Spokane County Conservation Futures Program.
Travel time to the Spokane Valley would be minimal to allow maximum time for hiking a 7-mile loop. From the high points of the trek, I’d enjoy views of Spokane Valley, Mount Spokane, Liberty Lake and Mica Peak.
Wildflowers are blooming in profusion and I’d be returning to the treeless, west-side trailhead in the full glory of sunset.
If you asked me about my favorite hike for the first weekend in May, I might say Steamboat Rock State Park, where bitterroots and other wildflowers are peaking as the geese rear their broods and before the heat is daunting and summer boating crowds have arrived.
Following are a few other ways I sort my favorites among the hundreds of day hiking options in Eastern Washington.
• Best place for a hiking base camp?
Sullivan Lake, where hikers can chose from a dozen trails, high and low, including jaunts into the Salmo-Priest Wilderness and Gypsy Peak, the tallest mountain in Eastern Washington.
• Best local wildlife hike?
Pine Lakes Loop at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, where courtship, nesting or rearing of trumpeter swans and other birds is on display.
• Best mountain circumnavigation?
Sherman Peak loop off Sherman Pass in the Colville National Forest.
• Trail most likely to be void of people?
Little Grass Mountain Trail 266 starting near the Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars northwest of Priest Lake.
• Best spring hike to impress altitude-challenged visitors?
• Best place to freak out your in-laws with rattlesnakes?
Escure Ranch or Northrup Canyon.
• Best wilderness workout loop?
Panjab Loop into the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, from the Tucannon River up to high, open plateaus and back.
So there, I’ve listed some favorites. But ask me another time and the answers almost surely will be different.