Saltese Uplands - hiking, biking, and riding close to town
This is a favorite escape early and late in the season when the temperatures are cooler and the evidence of the changing seasons are readily seen. The trails of this area are found on an exposed ridge that separates the Saltese and Liberty Lake drainages, and that makes for amazing vistas. In the Spring you can look out over the Saltese flats and see what amounts to an ephemeral lake, because this large plain does not have a natural drainage outlet. That's fine for the wildlife as it is common to see large numbers of ducks and geese using this area during the Spring nesting season.
Come fall, the views of the surrounding mountains are sublime, because you can witness the changing of the colors as they creep down the mountain, often capped with frosting of light snow on nearby Mica Peak. If the weather is good you can see a bit further east toward the mountains across the border in Idaho, with beautiful Liberty Lake in the foreground.
The parking lot is located at the northwest edge of the property, and it provides plenty of space and a porta-potty too. From here there are a number of trails that head up the ridge toward the highest point, and you can pick a path that climbs at a pace you like. The ridge climbs up a series of false summits and through a few saddles, but at each of these summits you'll have sweeping views back toward the Spokane Valley. You'll know you've reached the top when you arrive at the water storage tank and can look over the far side to see Liberty lake below and the mountains of Idaho beyond.
If mountain biking is your thing, then a different route offers a six mile loop with a moderate, steady climb punctuated with a fun downhill at the end. From the parking lot you will take the low road that parallels South Henry road and the fenceline. You will basically bear right and stay low for a couple miles as you flow up and down the lowest foothills. Eventually you go through a rocky creek bed and a small copse of trees, then start your first real climb. But it doesn't last long, and as you top out and bear left you soon come to a place where the trail bends left away from the road and starts to climb up the hill, eventually doubling back and arriving at the top of the ridge you started up shortly before. Take a short break and enjoy views of the Saltese Flats, then descend a few curves and start the long slow climb. It starts as single track and then joins an old dirt road, at which point the climb is steady. You will peak out and have a short downhill, then stay left as you go through some wet spots. The trail will continue left through a muddy section of a seasonal stream, and at this point you have a decision. You can stay left and leave the climbing behind you - you will contour the hillside and come out on the front face where you can then descend to your vehicle. But I'd suggest turning right. It is at this point that the trail starts to climb in earnest, with a series of switchbacks that take you steadily up toward the water tower. The higher you get the better the views of Liberty Lake, but you'll be thinking about your lungs and not about the views. Eventually you do hit the top and that's the time to take a well deserved rest and enjoy the sweeping panorama before you. It's also time to drop your seat and open your rear shock, because ahead of you lies a long, flowy, curvy descent that is a wonderful payoff for the work you put in. See the video below for more.
If you are ready to visit the directions are easy. From Spokane take I-90 to the Barker exit and head south. Turn left on Sprague then right on S. Henry road until you see the parking area on your left. If you are coming from the east (Idaho), take the Liberty Lake exit and go south back over the highway to the second light. Turn right on E Country Vista and go a mile or so before bearing left on N. Henry road. Go a few hundred yards and take your first left on S. Henry, then look for the parking lot on your left.