by Harley McAllister
There is a travel brochure for Spokane that describes our town as "Near Nature, Near Perfect." And indeed, one of the things we love about living here is that a short drive from our house in most any direction will provide us with places to be outdoors. This Spring we plan to review some of our favorites - all the nearby State Parks, Conservation Areas, Natural Areas, County Parks, etc. that we can go and play in. And the first of these is the Saltese Uplands Conservation Area.
Just this past weekend I found myself alone with my youngest son because all the other boys had activities. The weather was nice for February and so the mountains called. I only had a couple hours to get out so I immediately thought of this nearby retreat.
This area is roughly 550 acres of rolling hills that overlooks the Saltese flats below to the west, Liberty Lake to the east, with views of Mica Peak and the surrounding mountains above. There are 7 miles of trails that gently rise and fall with the terrain making it a great destination for hikers, dog walkers, hikers, bird watchers, and mountain bikers alike. The pictures will show you what it has to offer, and all of this is located but a 5 minute drive south of the Barker exit of I-90 in the Spokane Valley. Perfect for a quick getaway.
One thing to keep in mind when visiting here is that there are no trees on this parcel, so consider that on a hot day. But for that same reason we love to visit on bluebird days in the Winter and Spring so we can soak up the sunshine. The mountain bike trails here are well maintained, and the boys and I patrolled them a number of times last year. And we almost always see a raptor or two out there, and occasionally a whitetail at dawn or dusk.
cont'd with map at the bottom...
So if you live anywhere near the Spokane Valley, you owe it to yourself to check this place out. See the map below.
By Abby McAllister
Let me start out with the campground itself. Nestled in the trees on a hillside rising above Coeur d'Alene Lake is Hawley's Landing campground. Boasting a horeshoe pit, it's own dock, showers, flush toilets, 42 electrical hook-up sites and 10 tent sites, this campground is a sweet little spot. There are a few other overnight stay options (info here) but I'm just going to review Hawley's for now. Even though the campground is just off the "main" road, it seemed much more remote. Instead of car noise, we heard the honking of geese and the chatter of other waterfowl. It felt private and close to nature.
The sites themselves were well spaced, clean and each had a level spot for your tent, chairs, a picnic table and fire pit. There were water spigots scattered around in most areas to make for easy access to potable water. We were camped in the loop that was the farthest up the hill, the furthest from the lake. Still, it only took moments to walk down to the waterfront where our kids enjoyed throwing rocks in the water, walking out on the docks, and trying to identify waterfowl from sight and sound. Oh, and all those trees make for great hammock hanging!
One of the main attractions of the campground for many people is it's proximity to the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. The Friends of the CDA Trail have this to say about it: "The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes bike path follows the Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way from Mullan, a mountain mining town near the Montana border, to Plummer, a town on the prairie near the Washington border. More than 71 miles of paved path takes you from high mountain splendor, through the historic Silver Valley, into the chain lakes region, along the shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene, over the Chatcolet Bridge to Heyburn State Park, and finally climbs to the Palouse prairie: an adventure for the entire family!" Now we only did the section from the parking area near the Chatcolet Bridge to Harrison, ID but we agree that it is fun for the whole family!
You can get on the trail right out of Hawley's Landing campground but we chose to shave off two miles each way by driving the bikes to the parking area in Chatcolet. From there we headed out on the path toward an intimidating looking bridge. Because the path is along a former train route it is mostly flat. This bridge is the only part that deviated from the norm. It is intimidating to approach but it was constructed with an ingenious method of rises and rests that make it managable. If you find it to be too steep to ride, you can always dismount and walk to the top. Other than that it is smooth sailing along the banks of the beautiful Lake CDA. We rode the approximately 7 miles to Harrison on a gorgeous, sunny early spring day. The promis of an ice cream stop in Harrison spurred us on when we felt tired (mostly that just refers to me, as my boys never seem to tire out!).
To summarize: Hawley's Landing in Heyburn State Park (Idaho) is a great place to take your kids camping. Attractions like water, docks, bike paths, grassy play areas, wildlife, waterfowl, and nice campsites make this a place your kids will enjoy. And we all know, when the kids are having fun, mom and dad can relax and have fun too!
Harley & Abby McAllister
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