Summer is the perfect time to explore everything Spokane and the surrounding areas have to offer.
Take advantage of lazy summer days to get outside, enjoy nature and see something new. Even if you don’t have time for a full-fledged vacation, these day trips will satisfy your need for an adventure.
1 Mine for garnets at Emerald Creek Garnet Area
You probably won’t strike it rich, but you will be able to bring home a sparkly souvenir when you mine for star garnets, the Idaho state gemstone. This gem is found only in two places in the world: the Idaho Panhandle National Forests and India. Guests are allowed to keep up to 5 pounds of garnets with their daily mining pass.
Allow 2 to 4 hours to mine, or make a day of it with a picnic lunch to enjoy in the national forest. Make sure to bring plenty of water; mining is hard work. Serious rockhounds can stay at the Emerald Creek Campground 4 miles east of the garnet area and try their hand at mining two days in a row.
If you go: About 32 miles southeast of St. Maries, near Clarkia, Idaho. Open 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Fridays through Tuesdays through Labor Day, $10 for adults, $5 for children 6-12, and free for children 6 and younger; www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/ipnf/recarea/?recid=6927
2 Feed the buffalo at the Win-Tur Bison Farm
Ranch owners Jessie Turney and Andrew Winter moved their small herd of nine bison from Wisconsin to Springdale in December 2012. The couple has been running their small agrotourism business ever since.
Each visit includes a short informational presentation on the history of the farm, bison facts, a Q&A, and of course, an opportunity to meet and feed the herd of bison.
If you go: 4742 Highway 231, Springdale, Washington; Tours noon and 2 p.m. Friday-Sunday through Sept. 16; $6 for adults, $5 for children and seniors, free for children younger than 2; (509) 258-6717, www.winturbisonfarm.com
3 Bike along the Hiawatha Trail
Once the route of the Milwaukee Railroad, this bike path has been called “the crown jewel of rail-to-trail adventures. It boasts 10 train tunnels and seven trestle bridges, so riders can truly experience the historic railroad route. The path traverses the Bitterroot Mountains with stunning views of tree-lined mountain peaks.
The trail is all downhill, making it a great option for all ages. Additionally, there is a shuttle service available to transport you and your bike back to the top. Rentals are available at the Lookout Pass Ski Area.
If you go: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through Sept. 23; $11 for adults, $7 for children 6-13, shuttle passes and bike/equipment rentals also available; (208)744-1234, www.ridethehiawatha.com
4 Admire Dry Falls and take a soak in the mineral-rich waters of Soap Lake
Thousands of years ago, Dry Falls was the largest known waterfall on earth, about four times the size of Niagara Falls. Today Dry Falls is bare, hence the name, but still stunning. There are many activities in the surrounding Sun Lake-Dry Falls State Park. At the visitors center, guests learn about the geology and history of the area. Then, visitors can go for a hike along one the park’s trails, boat in Park Lake or kayak in Deep Lake. Those who want a longer stay in the park can camp and enjoy a night under the stars.
After your time at Dry Falls, drive 20-minutes drive to Soap Lake, known for the healing powers of its mineral-rich waters. Relax and take a swim or walk along the waters edge; look out for the signature foam along the shoreline. This lake also has historical significance. Judging from the variety of Native American artifacts found in the area, Soap Lake was used by indigenous peoples for healing. Conflicting tribes even temporarily made peace with each other as they were relaxing in this special place.
Dry Falls: 34875 Park Lake Road NE, Coulee City, Washington; visitor center open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, Discover pass necessary for parking, $10 for one day, (509) 632-5214, www.parks.state.wa.us/251/Dry-Falls
Soap Lake: www.cityofsoaplake.org
5 Take a ride on a railroad bicycle along the Pend Oreille River
You could be one of the first to experience a ride up the railroad tracks on special four seated, pedal-powered, railroad bicycles. This activity, new in 2018, starts at the Lions Depot in Ione and takes a 12-mile scenic route along the Pend Oreille River, through lush pasturelands, and all the way up to the Box Canyon trestle.
While you are in the area, take a 40-minute drive north to Crawford State Park, which houses the Gardner limestone cave. Dripping in stalactites, this 500-million-year-old cavern is the 3rd largest in the state of Washington. Visitors to the cave must have a tour guide, so it might be necessary to call ahead to be sure to snag a spot; only 25 people are allowed in at one time.
Rail Riders: 101 Railroad Ave., Ione, Washington, rides depart at 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m. July 27-29, Sept. 1-3, Oct. 5-7, and Oct. 12-14, $22 for 12 and older, $12 for 11 and younger, (844)724-5743, www.lionsrailriders.com
Gardner Cave/Crawford State Park: 10381 Boundary Road, Metaline Falls, Washington; tours at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., Thursdays-Mondays; Discover Pass required for car parking, $10 per day, (509) 446-4065, www.parks.state.wa.us/492/Crawford
6 Tour the Sierra Silver Mine and the Oasis Bordello Museum
In historic Wallace, visitors will get a firsthand experience of silver mining at the Sierra Silver Mine, including a tour with a retired miner, and a look at the tools used to mine silver. The tour also includes a trolley ride to and from the mine, and a short history of the town of Wallace.
The Oasis Bordello museums shines light on the darker corners of the history of this little town. An operating brothel until 1988, this museum was largely undisturbed before it was purchased and became a museum in 1992. The building itself is remarkable as well: It dates back to 1895 and is one of only a few buildings to survive the 1910 fire in Wallace.
Sierra Silver Mine: 509 Cedar St., Wallace, Idaho, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, tours depart every 30 minutes; $15.50 for adults, $13.50 for seniors, $8.50 for children 4-16, free for 3 and younger; , (208) 752-5151, www.silverminetour.org
Oasis Bordello Museum: 605 Cedar St., Wallace; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, tours depart on the 1/2 hour; $5 per person; (208)753-0801, zjdarrah.wixsite.com/oasisbordello
7 Getaway to Sandpoint
Cozy Sandpoint is known for sweeping views of Lake Pend Oreille and Schweitzer Mountain Resort. With a charming small town feel, this perfect place for a weekend getaway will not break the budget. Rent paddleboards on the lake, take a bike ride or hike at Schweitzer, or simply relax and enjoy a beer at one of Sandpoint’s craft breweries.
If you go: www.sandpointidaho.gov