click to enlarge You need not travel far to find incredible hiking in the Inland Northwest. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
You need not travel far to find incredible hiking in the Inland Northwest.

URBAN HIKE

There's nothing quite like experiencing the outdoors... from close enough you can be home for dinner (or lunch). Pack a backpack full of the urban essentials — water, city map (like, yeah, actually a map), bus fare — and see new places you never knew existed in your own city or town. For extra points, bring your phone or GPS receiver (yeah, still a thing) and add cool in-town geocaches to find (and leave behind). A quick online search for "Spokane Geocache" will list plenty of hidden treasures to find — and tutorials for the newly initiated hunters.

click to enlarge Riding the Hiawatha is popular for good reason. - DAN NAILEN PHOTO
Dan Nailen photo
Riding the Hiawatha is popular for good reason.

RIDE THE RAILS

Yes, the Route of the Hiawatha bike trail is very popular. Yes, it can be a little crowded on the bus if you take it from the bottom back to the top. And, yes, you must wear a helmet and dress warm for the 2-mile railroad tunnel that spans the Idaho-Montana border. Not convinced? You can do it in a matter of hours — plus drive time to the trailhead near Lookout Pass. But what's lost in time is more than made up for in views from high railroad trestles and new memories made for a lifetime. It's an Inland Northwest must-do for anyone visiting from out of town. And those who live here full-time. It closes for the season Sept. 22. Visit ridethehiawatha.com.

MEETUP TO GET YOUR... FEET UP?

There's something to be said about what the solitude of the outdoors brings. But just as important can be experiencing a stunning view or invigorating hike with a friend. Or a potential new friend. Hiking groups don't just happen spontaneously — they have to be organized. If you're new(ish) to the area or just looking to explore with new faces, try the Inland Northwest Hikers group inside the Meetup app. Download Meetup, and request to join the hikers group. You'll soon be connected with other like-minded people in the region who are just down to hike and enjoy the outdoors with you. Give it a try.

SUMMER LEARNIN'

Forget summer lovin' happening so fast. Summer learnin' can be a blast! (With apologies to Grease fans.) Classes from rock climbing to orienteering (i.e., how to use a map and compass when the Big One hits and iPhones are dead) are readily available from the city of Spokane Parks and Recreation department (my.spokanecity.org/parksrec). Or try backpacking basics and other outdoor topics from your friendly neighborhood REI (rei.com/Spokane).

ONE-STOP SHOP

Sure, maybe "Spokatopia" isn't as catchy a nickname as some other city favorites. (Ahem, Spokanistan, anyone?) But the annual gear and outdoor events fest is way more than a cute name. It's a celebration of everything outdoors in the region — with free events, fun, a trail run, and numerous paid events and lessons (paddleboarding, disc golf, rock climbing). It all takes place July 13-14 at Camp Sekani park in the Beacon Hill/Boulder Beach area. Visit spokatopia.com

click to enlarge Make Sandpoint your destination (or starting point) for summer fun. - CITY OF SANDPOINT PHOTO
City of Sandpoint photo
Make Sandpoint your destination (or starting point) for summer fun.

SPOKANE TO SANDPOINT (OR REVERSE)

The Spokane to Sandpoint relay is an annual team-running event every August that begins at Mt. Spokane State Park (or nearby this year with a route change) and ends in Sandpoint. In that spirit, consider your own route to do yourself, with your favorite partner in crime, or by dragging the kids along. Here's your itinerary:

Day 1

Camp at Mt. Spokane State Park. Sunset view from Vista House. (Yes, you can drive to it — or a hike from Selkirk Lodge.)

Day 2

• Early morning to afternoon: Stop in Green Bluff for a tour around local farms — visit greenbluffgrowers.com — and a visit to Big Barn Brewing.

• 1 pm: Picnic at Riverside State Park's Bowl and Pitcher (don't forget the Discover Pass!) and a quick stroll around the swinging bridge.

• 3 pm: Grab the bikes (or those godforsaken electric scooters) and meet at Mirabeau Park near the Spokane Valley Mall. You're getting in at least five miles on the Centennial Trail. Try for more if you can.

• 6 pm: Dinner in Coeur d'Alene with a hike around Tubbs Hill (because that's a required outing in Coeur d'Alene).

• 8 pm: Arrive at Farragut State Park and set up your tent (or check in to your rented cabin if that's more your speed).

Day 3

• Early: Take advantage of the cool morning air to get in a hike on any length of the park's 40+ miles of trail. Don't worry, you'll get to see the lake.

• 10 am: No trip to Farragut is complete without a round at its famous (or infamous) disc golf course. Nine holes are perfectly acceptable.

• Noon: Time for a dip in Lake Pend Oreille. There's more where that came from.

• 1 pm: Depart for Sandpoint — if you're driving, you have plenty of time. If you're experiencing the lake via kayak or canoe, well, you've got some paddling to do!

• 3 pm: Plenty to do in downtown Sandpoint — or chill at City Beach and take advantage of its stellar views. If you're adventurous, try the Mickinnick Trail just out of town — a steep and fast climb with a fantastic, rewarding view.

• 7 pm: Dinner on your own terms. There's plenty to do (and eat) nearby. Need a suggestion? MickDuff's Brewing Company or Laughing Dog Brewery are always good rewards after a hike (or just a long day on the beach).

Have fun. Be safe. Send a postcard. ♦

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