Winter is in full force in the Inland Northwest, and residents of the Lilac City have been celebrating the season. After last year’s non-existent snowpack, the taller hills and mountains around the greater Spokane region have turned white with glorious powder, giving snow enthusiasts reason to explore. As the snow piles up, so do the local adventure possibilities. Whether heading into the Selkirks, or exploring the backcountry along the Idaho-Montana border, eastern Washington and northern Idaho have some amazing winter destinations.
To best explore the greater Inland Empire, you really should stop by and stock up on the best gear at Spokane’s Mountain Gear. The staff is extremely passionate and experienced about the region, and they strive to get people outdoors. You can take classes here in climbing, kayaking, backcountry cooking, and how to layer clothing. The store is complete with an indoor climbing wall and pool, helping make it not just your go-to destination for great gear, but also a fun place to explore on the bad weather days. Mountain Gear has a huge selection of great gear, including the latest Osprey backpacks. For most trips, the Osprey Mutant Series will give you plenty of space and comfort for all levels of snow, wind, and ice. Perfect for attaching an ice axe or your snowshoes, these packs will help ensure that your adventure goes as smooth as a powder filled meadow.
Besides helping you find the right pack, the staff at Mountain Gear can provide great recommendations for outdoor fun. One area in particular, the backside of Lookout Pass, is a favorite suggestion. It’s a 90-minute drive along Interstate 90 from Spokane, and has a gorgeous ski and snowboard area for snow lovers. The region also has an incredible nordic area, perfect for cross-country skiers and snowshoers. The ridiculously deep powder and incredible views will leave you wanting to come back every weekend.
Less than an hour east of Spokane, along the Coeur D’Alene River, rests the small town of Kellogg. Once a booming town, the city now has just over 2,000 residents living around the bottom of the mountains. South of town, the Silver Mountain Resort has the world’s longest gondola to get you into the backcountry. The best part is that you don’t need to be a skier or snowboarder to use the gondola. If you purchase a roundtrip ticket, you can take your snowshoes or cross country skis up to the top, and head out on a stunning three-mile snowshoe trail. If that isn’t enough for your winter wandering, a short drive west of Kellogg gets you to nearly 20 kilometers of groomed nordic trails at Fourth of July Pass.
If you are hoping to cure your winter wanderlust with snowy peaks and fantastic views, head northeast of Spokane near the Slekirk Range of Idaho. Here you’ll find two popular and easily accessible regions. Twenty five miles northeast of Spokane, the always gorgeous Mount Spokane has a fantastic downhill and nordic ski area that the locals love. If you are more interested in snowshoeing, the mountain is also open to snowshoers, so you too can access the 300 inches or so of snow the area sees each year. This developed ski area provides miles of trails for all levels of snowshoers and skiers, and has fun spots you can ski to like old cabins or the cafeteria at the mountain’s summit. While you probably won’t find solitude, you will find soul-nourishing, panoramic views, and soft, gorgeous powder.
A closer option to town is the local favorite, Mica Peak, that has stunning views of Spokane, and the gentle rolling hills of the Palouse. Standing at 5,205 feet, Mica Peak’s summit should remain nice and snowy throughout the winter months, which makes it a perfect destination for snowshoers and cross-country skiers. At the top of the mountain is an FAA Radar station, but don’t let that deter you. In the winter, the roads leading up to the summit provide solitude and desired isolation despite their close proximity to town.
Finally, if you are wanting to trek through the snow to an amazing panoramic view, look no further than the local favorite Mickinnick Trail near the town of Sandpoint, ID. Always breathtaking, this seven-mile, round-trip trail follows a series of switchbacks past gigantic rocky outcroppings before leading to snowy views above the shimmering Lake Pend Oreille. The views here are worth the 2,000-foot elevation gain, and will leave you in awe over the sheer splendor and beauty of eastern Washington and northern Idaho.