The West Branch Little Spokane River Wildlife Area is popularly referred to as Rustler's Gulch. The property is a relatively new acquisition for Fish & Wildlife, which purchased the 2,772 acre property in two phases in 2008 and 2009. Trailhead signage is improving, making it easier for visitors to locate the correct access points, but it is still a work in progress, so visitors need to come prepared with navigation tools.
The Holly Road access point is one of three designated trail heads for the Wildlife Area. The trailhead is located at a high point on the property, just west of Fan Lake (a non-motorized lake that's great for a post-hike swim).
Begin the hike by descending down a hill for approximately one mile on an old roadbed. Over the course of that one mile the trail passes through three distinct ecosystems. Initially, it's all pine trees with an open understory, blanketed in wildflowers in the springtime. In the middle section there's still some pine, but Doug-fir becomes the predominant tree. By the bottom of the hill, it's a lush cedar forest. It's also a wetland, and the mosquitoes may be fierce depending on when hikers visit.
At the bottom of the hill, there's a single-track trail that breaks off to the left of the old roadbed and crosses a small stream. There are no trail markers, so keep careful watch for it. (Note Pruffer Barn across the wetland, as this is the landmark to watch for on the return portion of the loop.) This trail goes slightly uphill toward Horseshoe Lake for about a mile and a half. It's the prettiest section of the hike since it's all single-track, gorgeous forest, and wildflowers in season. It also boasts some seasonal muddy spots, so waterproof shoes are advised.
At approximately the 2.5 mile mark, the trail comes out on Horseshoe Lake Road. To complete the loop hike, hikers need to hike the road for a few hundred feet to the West trailhead for the property, where there's a wide parking area along the road (an alternate access point for this loop), and a kiosk with a map of the property. The loop then continues on an old roadbed. There are some intersecting roadbeds and no trail signage, so this next part is a little trickier, but the trail here is basically an old farm road that gradually descends the wetland, roughly parallel to the single-track trail up the wetland. The roadbed has good views of the wetland, including an active beaver pond. Eventually, hikers will come to the old barn. From there, return to the intersection with the single-track trail and retrace the route of the first mile, ascending the roadbed back to the trailhead.
Since this is a Wildlife Area, hikers need to be aware of various hunting seasons throughout the year, as hunting is a permitted activity on this property. This is also a popular equestrian area, so hikers who arrive in passenger cars should take care in how they park at the trailhead in order to allow trailers to turn around with ease. Improvements to parking at Holly Road are currently being planned. Camping is not allowed.