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Trip Report

Little Spokane River Natural Area - Knothead Loop — Saturday, Apr. 18, 2015

Eastern Washington
You know how sometimes you just don't feel up to doing something and you talk yourself into it and you're so glad you did it? That was my hike at Knothead Trail today. It ended up being a glorious day. I saw 1 wild turkey, a group of deer walking through the woods, and two more little deer families bedded down next to the trail about a mile apart. There were also multitudes of butterflies, small birds and a few bugs, but no mosquitoes yet. Weather conditions made this trail wonderful. Sheltered from the wind, this sunny day in the mid-60s made hiking in shorts and a t-shirt very comfortable. The 7 mile loop is not for beginners, with approximately 1,000 feet elevation gain (a guess). The first almost 2 miles from Painted Rock trailhead along the Little Spokane to the road are comfortably rolly, with one small hill that I generally don't count - it's a warm up hill. From there, the trail crosses the road and immediately starts gaining elevation. I call it 3 hills to get to the top, but some people might consider it 4 (it's easier for my brain to say "ok, one out of three done..."). Hill 1 takes you to through forest to the top of the road, which then crosses into "the real forest". A short flat area, then you're at hill 2, which goes up a lovely series of switchbacks the WTA and it's volunteers completed last year (I am proud to point out which section I helped with). Another short flattish area and then on to long Hill 3, which takes you to a beautiful overlook of the Spokane River/Long Lake, where you can catch your breath and have a snack on the bench at trailside. From there, it's about 2.5 miles of down, down, down. Take the side trail that looks like a bike trail leading off to the right of the main trail instead of staying on the wider old road track. They both end up at the same place, but the side trail feels more forest-trail-like, going down a series of switchbacks until it joins back up with the main trail to the right. None of these is marked by signage. From there, continue hiking down the old road until it meets another trailhead at the paved road. There is a short trail joining this trailhead back to the Painted Rocks trailhead where you left your vehicle. This is a great early season, "getting into shape for hiking" trail. It tests your cardio and leg fitness without being overwhelming. Take water - you'll need it. If you're quiet, you may get lucky and see wildlife. But if this is your first hike of the year or you are significantly out of shape, leave it for a bit later in your training. I ran into a family on the first section that were about 1 mile into the hike, intending to do the whole loop, and they were already wondering when it was going to end. I think they turned around.