- Paula Siok
- Lion's Club train rides, left, are ending this fall.
Autumn Colors Train Ride
Imagine riding the rails on rugged train tracks hugging steep cliffs high above a river. Throw in a couple of tunnels, trestles and wooden bridges, and you have an experience that gets your heart racing, as the historic train on which you're riding makes its way across all of these. If you're in the open-air car, the fun increases, especially as the fall foliage bursts forth on the trees surrounding the tracks. This autumn color train ride has been drawing riders every fall for 35 years, but sadly, fall 2016 will be the last year for the train rides. The North Pend Oreille Valley Lions operates the trains, which depart from Ione, Washington (less than two hours from Spokane) every fall. All aboard for this final ride!
Tickets: $15 adult/$10 child. lionstrainrides.com
Hiawatha Bike Trail
Take 15 miles of former Milwaukee Railroad passages, winding high through the mountains of North Idaho, add 10 train tunnels and seven "sky-high trestles," and navigate it all on your bike. Oh, and travel more than a mile-and-a-half through one of those tunnels, with a sloped floor, in absolute darkness, save for the pathetic glow emitted from your bike lamp (trust us, it barely shows up). Sounds like an adrenaline rush waiting to happen, and that's before you get to the scariest part: the bus ride along a one-way road, carved from the side of the mountain, from the end of the trail back to the parking lot.The Hiawatha is open all summer, but in the early fall, the month of September is the prime time to embrace this adventurous ride. Trail pass, $10 adult/$6 child; shuttle, $9 adult/$6 child; bike rentals, $22-$38; tagalongs and Burley trailers also for rent. ridethehiawatha.com
Apple Festival at Green Bluff
Caramel apples, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, hay bales and the famous pumpkin donuts, more in-demand than elephant ears at the fair. Put 'em all together and you've got the annual Apple Festival at Green Bluff. Nothing kicks off the fall like this beloved festival. Sure, the parking is impossible, the lines are long and the prices might empty your wallet, but there's something so
nice about this annual fall event. Exploring local farms, picking your own apples and pumpkins and walking along the country roads. It's adventure in the slow lane, and that sounds perfect! greenbluffgrowers.com
In the spirit of all things creepy and frightening celebrated during Halloween, it's time to take the fear factor up a notch this fall and truly cause yourself to panic. We have great respect for the trembling fear and great horror brought on by your classic haunted houses, or even a trip to Scarywood, Silverwood's month-long transition into a horror theme park. But sometimes, the simpler the fear, the greater the rush. The popularity of online room escape puzzles has spilled over into the real world, with the chance to be locked in a room and try to escape with the help of interactive puzzles and riddles. Sounds simple, but the ticking clock (with 60 minutes on it) keeps your heart racing and your nerves frazzled. Tickets: $20 per 60-minute adventure, up to eight people per session. claustropanic.com
- Cat skiiing, above, on Schweitzer Mountain.
Eagle Viewing Days
Perhaps they just like to fly against the grain and differ from the crowd, but while local snowbirds are flying south to warmer weather during the winter months, bald eagles are settling in for the season. From mid-November to early January, the eagles arrive in the panhandle during their annual migration southward, and a restful travel break for them turns into an incredible viewing opportunity for us. The only catch? It's cold! But so worth it to see these majestic birds in actions. On December 7, 2015 alone, 126 eagles were spotted. If you're looking for a great perch from which to see the birds, bundle up and head 7 miles southeast of Coeur d'Alene, with three prime viewing areas: Higgins Point, Mineral Ridge boat ramp, and the Mineral Ridge trailhead. blm.gov
Our city has a mountain named after it, so as Spokanites, doesn't it seem like it's our civic duty to take advantage of all that Mt. Spokane has to offer in the winter? Hiking in the summer is great, but really, this mountain was made for winter adventures. With Nordic/cross-country and downhill skiing, as well as tubing and a terrain park, what could be missing? Perhaps a historic granite stone and timber frame house, built in 1933 by the Civil Conservation Corps atop the mountain? We've got that, too, with the Vista House. Getting to the top of the mountain to visit Vista House takes some skill, so maybe you should ease into your time on the mountain. Start with a ski lesson or a fun day of tubing. If all else fails, there's always the lodge for a hot drink. mtspokane.com
Evening Snowshoe and Dinner
Dinner and a movie? Eh. Dinner and snowshoeing? Now you're talking! Much like a rabbit chasing the proverbial carrot, we admit that we're motivated by food. So while a snowshoe trek sounds invigorating, the addition of dinner to the mix ups our interest. The addition of moonlight officially makes it perfect. Moonlit snowshoe hikes, paired with a hot dinner, are becoming popular adventures, through the Spokane Parks Department as well as local adventure companies like Flow Adventures. Considering all the pairs of old snowshoes people have on the walls of their cabins and their houses, giving off the Northwest décor vibe, how many have actually put a pair on and hit the trails? Burning between 420 and 1,000 calories per hour, snowshoeing is demanding, but rewarding. That's what the dinner is for! my.spokanecity.org/recreation/outdoor/ or flow-adventures.com
Imagine climbing the mountain in a snowcat, an enclosed-cab vehicle on tracks that takes you to upper portions of mountains not reached by most skiers, putting you waist-deep in untouched powder where you can literally make your mark. Perfect as an adventure for those who live for adrenaline pumping through their veins, and whose knees don't knock at the whisper of danger, cat skiing is available on the backside of Schweitzer Mountain through Selkirk Powder Company. Drive a bit further north to Canada, and you'll find more cat skiing operations, but the proximity of Schweitzer is hard to beat. The beauty of cat skiing is found in the solitude and the scenery; the adventure comes both in the ride up the mountain, and the clear run down it.
Palouse Falls Hike
New York may have Niagara Falls, but Washington has the Palouse Falls. What?! You've never been to Washington's official state waterfall? Well, lace up the hiking boots, put on your pack and grab your camera — this destination is worth all the work to get there. Located not far from Washtucna, Washington, in the Palouse Falls State Park, it's just under a two-hour drive to get there from Spokane, and requires a $10 parking fee if you don't have a Discover Pass. Prepare for 198 feet of water cascading over the side of the cliff. It's a sight to behold, especially when it offers such a sharp contrast to the surrounding stark beauty of the Palouse. The trip is worth it for the view alone; if you decide to turn up the adventure level and tackle some of the trails, be prepared for rocky, challenging routes that will have you watching every step.
Everybody golfs nowadays — retirees, businessmen and businesswomen, young protégées and office foursomes. They're all sneaking out the door early on Wednesdays, booking tee times, entering golf tournaments and talking best-ball versus scramble. All the chatter about being out on the course sounds relaxing, but when it comes to the game, sometimes you crave something a bit more fun-spirited. Embrace the perfect solution: foot golf, a sport that combines the culture and basic concept of golf with the sport and athleticism of soccer. Played with a soccer ball, your feet and a 21-inch-diameter cup, golf suddenly got an infusion of fun! The Fairways in Cheney and Eagle Ridge in Spokane are two local golf courses that have embraced foot golf, with players kicking on the same course where their comrades drive and putt.
Horseback Riding at Spokane Trail Rides
It seems so simple, and yet... have you ever actually been on a horse? Not so easy. For those who struggle to gracefully get onto one of the horses on the Looff Carrousel at Riverfront Park, you know that even that's tricky. It's not just climbing on that's challenging, though. These are living, breathing animals that sense your fear, and they can take off running with you stuck on top. Still want to ride? Of course you do! In addition to being slightly terrifying, horseback riding is one of the most unique ways to experience local trails, while also allowing you to experience the beauty of this majestic animal. Find a horseback riding facility that provides you with the proper safety gear, lessons and guidance, and you'll be ready to say "Giddyup!" $90 per person for a two-hour ride. spokanetrailrides.com
- Young Kwak
- Silver Streak Zipline Tours is located in Wallace, Idaho.
You're standing on a platform, 56 feet above the ground, on a spring day, looking out over a canopy of trees, with a network of cables running between them. You're attached to the cable. You look around; you jump. Let's stop right there, midair. Are your eyes shut and is your body curled back, horrified to envision such a scene, or are you on the edge of your seat, almost feeling the cool air as you dive forward? If you fit the first description, you should go back to the foot golf; if you're the second, you're an official adrenaline junkie and would not bat an eye on a zip line. While jumping off platforms and zipping through the trees is not for the faint of heart, it's a growing part of the local adventure scene, with four local companies offering courses with multiple lines. Are you daring enough to take the leap? $50-$145; see the zip line listings in this section for contact information.
Kayak/Canoe the Little Spokane
If you only picture rapids, rough waters and tumbling falls when thinking about the Spokane River, it's time to rethink the river. Though best known for the parts that rush through the heart of the city, or the rapids upon which people daringly raft, there's another side of the river to consider: the peaceful, meandering side. Smooth waterways that curl back and forth through grasslands and woods-lined banks are found on the slow-moving portion of the Little Spokane River. There's no better way to experience this than with a kayak or canoe float. A nature show is included, with paddlers often spotting deer, ducks, otters, beavers and other animals along the way. The Spokane Parks Department offers guided organized floats, complete with canoe or kayak rental. Try an evening float for the added bonus of the soft evening glow on the water.
$25-$30 per adult. my.spokanecity.org/recreation/outdoor/
Ride the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes
The 72-mile bike path that stretches from Mullan to Plummer, Idaho, is an adventure waiting to be embarked upon. For some, 72 miles is but a warmup; for others it eclipses their total previous lifetime mileage on a bicycle. No worries! Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, there's a manageable, custom-tailored ride awaiting you on the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. For those in tip-top shape, the whole 72 miles can be completed in "three to eight hours, depending on weather and ambition," according to the Friends of the Coeur d'Alene Trails website. However long you take, it's essential to stop in Harrison, at the Harrison Creamery and Fudge Factory, where every calorie you burned riding can swiftly be replaced with one of the biggest and best ice cream cones imaginable. friendsofcdatrails.org
Mountain Biking at Schweitzer
If your winters are spent hitting the slopes at Schweitzer, it's time to "change gears" and head up the mountain in the summer for adventures of the non-powder type. Gone is the winter wonderland, the snow-encrusted mountain you're used to, replaced with a mountain biker's dream come true. Turns out that lurking beneath the 277 inches of snow that fell in the 2015-16 ski season is a network of trails perfect for hiking, and for the more adventurous, mountain biking. The lift provides incredible summer views as it takes you to the top of the mountain, from where you can tackle the 1,700-foot descent leading to the Village at Schweitzer. Along with bikes and helmets, knee, shin and elbow armor are available for rent — because there's no soft snow to land on! Mountain bike lift tickets $25. schweitzer.com
Float the Spokane River
Yes, we love "the lake" here in the Inland Northwest, but don't discount the Spokane River as a respite from the heat during those long, sweltering days in late July. First of all, this adventure starts with a quick drive to downtown Spokane, instead of a two-hour schlep to your grandma's cabin at Priest Lake. ROW Adventures will shuttle you to the put-in at Peaceful Valley, pick you up about 5 miles downriver, and provide the necessary tubes and personal flotation devices. We're partial to the Happy Hour float, which includes a stop for cheese and crackers, and beverages. Cheers to that! $69 adult/$62 youth, late June-early Sept. rowadventurecenter.com