Guide: Where to hit the trails this summer

Pack your lunch, hop in your car, explore miles of trails located in Whitman County, beyond

The+Palouse+area+has+a+variety+of+trails+and+destinations+ranging+from+Kamiak+Butte+to+Moscow+Mountain.

PAIGE CAMPBELL | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

The Palouse area has a variety of trails and destinations ranging from Kamiak Butte to Moscow Mountain.

SYDNEY BROWN, Evergreen columnist

As we get closer to the peak of summer weather, spend some time outdoors and on local hiking trails. Here are some of the best ones — in my humble opinion, of course. 

Kamiak Butte County Park

Located about 30 minutes from Pullman, Kamiak Butte includes both steep hills and flat meadows that satisfy any nature lover’s needs. The view is honestly incredible if you have never seen it. 

Jaime Walker, Idler’s Rest Nature Preserve communication and development coordinator for outreach and wellness, said Kamiak Butte offers both easy and difficult routes for hikers. The park also has great restroom facilities, she said. 

“Now is definitely the perfect time to get out there,” she said. 

Vassar Meadows

Oddly enough, I did not know I had been to this hiking spot until Walker herself mentioned it as a sort of hidden gem in Idaho. It’s hard to map yourself, but if you drive a few miles out of Deary you will start seeing signs for the Saint Joe National Forest — Vassar Meadows is right on the edge of the forest. 

Meadows, which Walker said are good for dirt-biking and mushroom hunting, are surrounded by dense forestry and opportunities to do more advanced hiking. The trails in Vassar are easy, and I would say you go more for the scenery than hiking. 

“It’s a really different ecosystem than heading right out into the forest,” Walker said.

When a friend and I went, we packed an easy lunch to eat in the meadow and were able to walk along the edge of a newly thawed creekbed. The lack of people meant we saw more than a few animals around. On our way back, we found an old rusty water pump along the trail that still pumps out refreshing, cold water. Before we got back to Moscow, we drove right through Deary and stopped at the Pie Safe Bakery & Kitchen. Let me just say it was a great day. 

Mary Minerva McCroskey Memorial State Park

Right on the Latah and Benewah county lines is the McCroskey State Park, which provides that rich forest ecosystem. Built to honor frontier women, the park stretches over 5,000 acres of cedar and ponderosa forests. 

Walker said the park always has trails no matter where you are, and it is easy to spend an entire day up there hiking in long loops. 

The park overall provides fantastic scenery and photo opportunities and is about an hour from Pullman.

Palouse Falls State Park

The Palouse Falls is the Palouse River that slices right through a cataract in the earth, creating the waterfall we see today. It is a bit further than I originally thought, so prepare for about an hour’s drive from Pullman. The view definitely makes it worth it; the waterfall is a really refreshing thing to see when you’re surrounded by wheat fields during the entire dry summer. 

I recommend taking a camera and obviously packing a lunch with you, as this is probably more of a day’s trip than the other hikes. 

Moscow Mountain Corridor

I always saw Moscow Mountain when I drove to and from Moscow, but it’s definitely better up close. Moscow Mountain is large enough that you can do almost any activity you want up there. People use the mountain in the winter for skiing and then camp out in the summer. 

The trails have a wide range of easy to advanced, and Walker said the trails are especially great for mountain bikers. 

Idler’s Rest

This nature preserve provides a lot of its own trails, and the breadth of Idler’s itself is impressive. You can walk through creekbeds, cedar growth and open meadows within one trip. The main trail is about a mile and a half, but Walker said you can easily loop around and turn it into a five-mile hike. 

Idler’s Rest is located about five miles northeast of Moscow at 1187 Idlers Rest Road.

Walker said anyone looking for more hiking resources should look at the Latah Trail Foundation, the Moscow Area Mountain Bike Association, or the University of Idaho and WSU outdoor recreation services. These organizations work to give information about the best trails and outdoor opportunities, she said. 

Safety Precautions

Walker pointed out that it is easier to get lost hiking than some may realize. That’s definitely true. I would always recommend texting a friend in town to tell them where you are going — even if you have a hiking buddy with you, which you always should. 

Proper preparation is also important. Even if you are not planning on being gone a full day, bring water, some snacks and your phone and charger with you. Walker said it’s also a good idea to bring a raincoat or some sort of jacket. We all know how that Palouse weather can get. 

Another thing Walker mentioned is that some sharp nettle plants are growing at this time of year so, “be careful where you squat,” she said.