Anchored by the cultural hub of Spokane, the Inland Northwest region has something for everybody, but most people come here for the spectacular outdoor adventures. Canyons, waterfalls, and calming lakes are just some of the many types of landscapes you will encounter in this eclectic area. If you’re thinking of moving to the Inland Northwest or just want to try something new with the family, explore these five special places.
Watch the Sunrise at Palouse Falls
One of the state’s most dramatic natural wonders, Palouse Falls is truly a must-see site. If you can manage to get there for sunrise, you’ll be rewarded for your early-morning efforts to see the pink sky illuminate over the crashing falls. Sunset is just as amazing, so if you don’t make it in time to see the sun come up, just come back later to see the colors play on the water. Enjoy the vista from one of three viewing areas in the park. Descend down the steps to get a direct view and a feel for the mighty power of the falls as they crash into the churning bowl below. Stroll along the interpretive trail to learn more about how the falls were formed over 13,000 years ago and get a higher view at the end of the path. Climb a little higher to the Fryxell Overlook for a panoramic vista that will take your breath away. Don’t forget your camera or your sketchbook to capture the moment. One of the trails is ADA accessible, making it easy for everybody to safely enjoy the view without taking a rigorous hike.
Just a couple of hours away from Spokane, Palouse Falls State Park offers tent camping and day-use facilities, including a picnic shelter, grills, and picnic tables, so you can enjoy the park for a few hours or a full day. Keep your eyes open for wildlife along the trail. Yellow-bellied marmots have been known to graze in the area, and rattlesnakes are also found in the region—so listen while you walk.
Fly Through the Treetops
If you want to get the adrenaline pumping by soaring through the trees of northern Idaho, you have two excellent options. Timberline Adventures starts the day in downtown Coeur d’Alene with some time to teach you about the gear you’ll be using. Once you’re comfortable, a shuttle takes you to a nearby location where you can coast down one of the zip lines, walk across a skybridge, and try your hand at auto-belaying. The experience also includes a stop in the treehouse for a spectacular view of Beauty Bay, lunch, and maybe even s’mores. Getting there is half the fun with an exhilarating ride on an all-terrain vehicle through the woods.
Just 30 minutes north of Coeur d’Alene in Athol, Tree to Tree Adventure Park also offers unique treetop experiences, including zip-lining, climbing, and rope swings where you can test your best Tarzan yodel. If you’re looking for a family challenge, try the obstacle course, which takes you across nets, wobbly bridges, balance beams, and tightropes. Each adventure is color-coded according to skill level, so people of all ages can have a fun and challenging experience. Each obstacle course is self-guided, so after you get trained on how to use the equipment, you can go at your own pace.
Bike the Hiawatha Trail
Go two hours east of Coeur d’Alene to get to one of the most stunning bike trails in the country. Running along a former train track, the Route of the Hiawatha bike trail is a beautiful 15-mile path that goes through 10 tunnels and traverses seven trestles, where you won’t be able to resist stopping to take in the view. This family-friendly trail is all downhill, with a shuttle at the bottom waiting to take you and your bikes back to your car. Bike rentals are also available, so even if you don’t want to travel with bikes, you can still enjoy this grand adventure. Bring some layers for even the warmest days because one of the rail tunnels is a refreshing 47 degrees year-round.
Along the trail, you’ll find interpretive signs that will help you learn more about the rich history of the area. Read about the Beast of the Bitterroots, a noisy, hand-cranked turntable platform used for turning locomotives around to take the return trip. See how the towering trestles were built with a contraption called “The Traveler,” a large rolling crane that required 25 people to operate it. Teach the kids about what all the railroad signs mean and how engineers used lights and whistles to communicate with one another. With 47 interpretive signs posted along the path, it’s easy to see how a 15-mile ride could take the better part of a day.
Start and end the day at Lookout Pass, where you’ll find a visitor center, restaurant, lounge, and bike rental shop. From here, you can also explore other hiking and biking trails, pick huckleberries when they’re in season, and find a local fishing hole.
Explore Historic Wallace, Idaho
It may be a tiny mountain town, but Wallace, Idaho, is packed with history. Best known for being the place that once had the highest-producing silver mine, Wallace is still an active mining community, but there’s more to explore in this Idaho Panhandle destination. In fact, this little hamlet makes the lofty claim of being the center of the universe. Look for the plaque that says so in the middle of an intersection downtown.
Observing this monument won’t take long, leaving you plenty of time to check out some of the nearby outdoor activities. The Historic Pulaski Tunnel Trail is a quick four-mile trail with a story to tell. To escape a forest fire in 1910, a team of firefighters hid in the old mining tunnel, and most of them lived to tell the tale. Look for markers on the trail with interesting facts about their harrowing endeavors.
Avid skiers will enjoy the Silver Mountain and Lookout Pass areas, where you can enjoy both alpine and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowboarding. If you enjoy motorized sports, bring the snowmobiles along or hop on the four-wheeler in the warmer months. Outdoor enthusiasts in the area can easily find opportunities to go kayaking, rafting, golfing, hiking, or mountain climbing. Put Wallace on your list for hunting season to see if you can snag deer, elk, and even moose.
Dive into Spokane’s Waterways
If water-based adventures are your passion, check out the many options in the Spokane area. The Inland Northwest may be landlocked, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of rivers and lakes to explore. The Spokane River gorge is teeming with opportunities to take a dip, skim the surface on a paddleboard, or hike next to a peaceful stream.
For a more mellow adventure, take a stroll along the Spokane River Walk. Stay in town to enjoy the shops and restaurants that skirt the Centennial Trail, or venture further out along the 40-mile path. Enjoy the rushing river for most of the walk, and save the best for last by ending at Riverfront Park, where you can perch on a suspension bridge above the powerful Spokane Falls.
Head north of the city to see a different part of the river at Riverside State Park. Here, you can go rafting on the Little Spokane River through the Bowl and Pitcher rapids, hike on the 40 miles of trails, and even go horseback riding on one of the equestrian-friendly trails. Take the family camping for a weekend, or just come for a day hike and a picnic overlooking the river.
Take a drive to Liberty Lake to enjoy one of the county’s largest parks, where the family can swim, play, camp, and barbecue. Bring the ATV or dirt bike for a day of riding on the off-road vehicle trails over 350 acres. Camping options are available for RVs and tents, and there are a few cabin rentals available as well.
The Inland Northwest is a beautiful area to visit and an ideal place for families of all types to live. Active couples who love outdoor activities will always be able to find a heart-pumping adventure, and children can play and explore in the many parks and recreation areas. If you’re thinking of building a new home in the Inland Northwest, check out the Adair Homes floor plans to see what layout works best for your family. Whether you need extra space in the garage to store kayaks or an outdoor patio to enjoy the weather, we’ve got options to match your vision.
Contact our local branch in Inland Northwest Washington to learn more!