Spokane Kids No. 3: Iller Creek Conservation Area
Iller Creek Conservation Area is 966 acres of preserved open space owned by Spokane County that is totally new to me. And now I’m feeling utterly obsessed. I did a little Googling to read a little about it’s history and I learned two things:
1. This area goes by a million different names. Iller Creek Conservation Area, Stevens Creek Trail, Big Rock Trail, Dishman Hills Conservation Area, and Rocks of Sharon Natural Area. Plus, it’s right next to Tower Mountain, so that confuses the issue too.
2. It’s “new”. You can read the full timeline here, but I’ll summarize it for you — the purchase of the land started in 1994 and happened in bits and pieces, trail work finally started in 2008, and just last year the trail head parking lot was finally completed. This area has been a dream of the Dishman Hills Conservancy since 1966 and they’re not done yet. They hope to eventually unite the many conservation areas in the Dishman Hills to provide a “conservation corridor for wildlife and recreation.” I’m excited at the thought! But for now, I’m so pleased to have all these new trails to explore.
I took the hike with my friend Lanette. She’s a South African expat who married an American and is currently living here in Spokane. We met on Instagram and she is living proof that you can make real connections with amazing people on the internet. She is fun and silly and has the cutest accent. So basically, a perfect hiking partner.
The hike is up is moderately hard, but the view at the end is spectacular. The wind blows, birds soar, and the rocks are steady underfoot. I really, really think you need to experience it for yourself.
The gigantic granit outcroppings are popular with area rock climbers. Luckily, there are many opportunities for us non-climbers to get up on the rocks too. And you should, because the view is always better when you have to work a little for it.
I can’t get enough of those damn rocks. Once upon a time, I was on course to go into geology, so this trail makes my heart go pitter-patter. Maybe I’ll have to be a geologist in my next life.
I’m not sharing my very best pictures, because I was absolutely stunned at the beauty Spokane has been hiding from me all these years and I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you!
When: Iller Creek Conservation Area is open year round , and while there are no posted hours please be aware that camping isn’t allowed. I hear it’s beautiful in winter, but be prepared for ice (duh).
Price: $0. Can’t beat that!
Age Range: Due to the steep nature of the trail and outcroppings, I’d hold off on taking the young ones to Iller Creek Conservation Area. You might have noticed I didn’t take the boys with me. I’d recommend this hike for kids 6 and up who have proven themselves to be happy hill climbers in the past. Or just leave the kids at home and instead bring along your favorite 20-something South African. It worked out very well for me.
Danger Factor: Medium-high. The hill is steep, cell service is spotty, and the only guard rails are in the parking lot. The master plan is for this area to function more like a wilderness, so don’t expect any amenities to be cropping up anytime soon. To be safe, use the same procedures you would if you were headed into the wilderness: Tell someone where you are going and when you are planning to be back. Use common sense in regards to climbing the rocks. Pack it in pack it out. Totally geek-out that you’re like 5 miles from downtown Spokane, but feel like you’re on the top of the world.
Before you go: Pack water and a snack because the hike isn’t long, but you’ll be tempted to stay out longer than you expect, because it’s so damn pretty. Wear supportive shoes and dress in layers because it’s windy at the top.
While you’re there: Enjoy yourself. Living in the Pacific Northwest, with all its natural wonders, makes you very lucky. That you are out taking advantage of it all makes you very smart.
After you go: Pat yourself on the back for getting in some really fun exercise. Eat a big dinner. Plan on going back again soon!
Have you been to Iller Creek Conservation Area or is it a new discovery for you too? I’m just blown away that those rocks have been sitting there this whole time, and I just now got to see them! And tell me what you think about including video. Was it worth my extra time?