“A hike that traverses the length of the High Drive Bluff area. Mostly flat with great views in the middle.”
— Phil Larkin
River/Creek · Views · Wildlife
This route has bathroom access at P.J. Park during off-winter months. At mile 3.0, you can hike a short trail up to Rocket Market for more refreshments and a restroom.
From urban to rural, this route takes you through nearly the entire length of the Bluff park system. You'll see a conventional park, golf course and miles of quiet, flat trails. There is just about everything in this area: views, water, parks and wildlife! These trails follow the most common, and flat, route through the hill.
The Bluff parks have been described as a choose your own adventure book, where you can pick a new trail nearly every time you come out. There are 30 miles of trails built by intrepid mountain bikers and hiking fans over the years. While this may seem daunting, after a bit of exploring you'll find that this area is pretty easy to navigate. Don't worry about getting lost. A main road is above you and the creek below. If you feel lost: just hike up!
Need to Know
This area has never had the benefit of a cohesive trail plan or guide. This is a benefit if you enjoy taking the trail wherever it leads. In fact, this is a really fun way to experience the Bluff. There are many side trails for you to explore.
But if all the forks in the trail have you confused and you feel lost, don't worry! You really are always within at least a half mile to a road. In most places you can just keep taking trails that lead you up hill. You can quickly get to the main High Drive route and head back to your vehicle.
Park at Polly Judd Park and get some water or slide the slide! Beyond the park, you'll start to follow the general location of some power lines. You'll see these power lines at a few spots during this journey. They might help you in orienting yourself to the geography of the Bluff.
Within the first mile, you'll have some amazing views to the south as the trail closely follows the edge of the hillside. After just one switchback, you'll be at a main grade. You'll be on this easy grade for another three miles. Between mile 1-2, you'll experience some of the best views of the valley. At mile 2.4, you'll drop slightly and enter a thicker tree canopy. Generally this forest style will dominate the remainder of the route.
At mile 2.8, be sure to pay attention to the burnt vegetation. This fire ripped up the hill in 2014. Stop and listen for birds. This is a great spot for viewing birds. At mile 3, you enter a gulch that has some really impressive trees. There are a few monster Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine. If you want a break, head up the hill to Rocket Market.
At mile 4, you'll spot some power lines again. This marks your descent into a flat region of the park. This is a peaceful area that is popular with surrounding neighbors. You'll make a big loop here and start to head back north at mile 4.75. As you round the curve, you'll start the section of the hike that is much more dominated by the creek and golf course. If you are quiet, during the fall and spring, you might catch a glimpse of moose near mile 6. Great views of the creek pop up between mile 6-7.
The remainder of the hike is similar to the first few miles, but you are a few hundred feet lower than when you started. Around mile 9, you'll hit the trail you started on. Your trip back to the park will be mostly down hill from here.
Flora & Fauna
During fall and spring, you might see a moose near the golf course. Keep an eye out heron near the creek! Spring is a wonderful time to hike as you'll be surrounded by balsam root. Miles 2-3 provide for awesome pictures during this time of the year.
History & Background
At the turn of the 20th century, city leaders hired the Olmstead brothers to draft a plan for parks in Spokane. This area was mentioned by the park planners way back then. It provided citizens with solace and a commune with nature then as it does now. Another historical tidbit is that the golf course used to be a horse racing track.