There are few types of recreation that can even come close to offering as many rewards as hiking at such a low cost point. Most everyone already owns all the equipment necessary to enjoy hiking, at least at an introductory level. Additionally, the Spokane area offers such a variety of hikes, you don’t need to travel far to get to great hiking.
The rewards of hiking are everything from escaping the modern world and enjoying the peace and tranquility of nature to wildlife observation and panoramic views. The Indian Painted Rock Trail just minutes from town, offers all of these rewards with an emphasis on the panoramic views. The hike takes you to a ridge overlooking the Spokane River with a spectacular view of Lake Spokane, also called Long Lake.
Like most hikes that reward you with spectacular territorial views, the Indian Painted Rock Trail hike has a fair amount of elevation change. It is a moderate 6.3 mile hike with almost 1,000 feet change in elevation that can be completed in about 4 hours.
Most of the hike is on state parks land. There is less than a mile of it that is on private land. You will be hiking on easements and should not leave the trail. There are no dogs, bicycles or camping allowed on the loop.
With much of the trail shaded, it is a good option for a summer hike, but I would recommend hiking in the morning and bringing plenty of water.
The trail head for the Indian Painted Rocks trail loop is just north of the Little Spokane River on Rutter Pkwy. Parking in the parking lot requires a Discovery Pass. There are restrooms at the parking lot. The parking lot is also used by kayakers on the Little Spokane River. The parking lot can fill up by mid-morning on the weekends when the weather is nice.
From Nine Mile Rd just south of the Nine Mile Dam, take Rutter Pkwy east about a mile and a half to a “T” intersection. To stay on Rutter Pkwy, you will need to take a left and travel north, where the road winds down to the Little Spokane River. Just after crossing the river, you will see the trail head parking lot on your left.
From the Whitworth area you can take Waikiki Rd north. At the roundabout, keep left to stay on Waikiki. Waikiki Rd winds around a bit and will soon cross over the little Spokane River. Shortly after crossing the river Waikiki Rd becomes Rutter Pkwy and fallows along the Little Spokane River’s north bank. After a couple of miles, just before the road crosses back across the river you will see the Indian Painted Rocks trailhead parking lot on the right.
The namesake of the Indian Painted Rocks Trail is a series of historic pictographs painted on the rock cliffs by the local Native Americans centuries ago. These can be viewed just steps west of the trailhead parking lot. For many years these rock paintings were protected from the elements be the natural shape of the terrain. After being vandalized and being restored by the state in recent years, they are now protected by a fence.
To start the hike you exit the parking lot on the north side and walk parallel to Rutter Pkwy for a short distance. Soon the trail will become more of a jeep trail and meander up a draw. Roughly a mile and a half up the road you will leave state park land, there will be a sign that indicates this. At this point you will see trail marker posts pointing to the left. If you take this trail you will actually parallel the edge of the state park land just inside the state park.
By staying on the jeep trail your ascent will be easier. The jeep trail ascends up the draw about another half mile then takes a sharp left. You will continue your assent heading south. Less than a half mile in the new travel direction you will be back on state park land. This is marked and you will also see the alternate trail, discussed before come up from the left.
The jeep trail continues about another half mile to the top of the ridge where you will see a bench on the left side of the trail. There is a nice view from the bench but a short walk to the small knoll will yield a much more spectacular view.
On the decent I found the trail a little more ambiguous and not well marked. You fallow the jeep trail roughly a half mile down from the summit and then veer off to the left while the jeep trail continues down the draw to the right. It is not marked but you will stay on the more traveled hiking path. You will continue about another half mile on your gradual decent where you will encounter switch backs in the trail and a steeper decent.
Soon you will be at the bottom of the steeper, more rugged decent and the terrain will level out for a while. The trail will take you across a small paved road, down a draw and then across the same road a second time. You are now done with your decent; the trail will take a left and head east. It is now an easy mile and a half hike back to the trailhead. You will be walking beside the Little Spokane River, keeping the river on your right. This part of the hike is very scenic with the Little Spokane meandering through the valley and abundant wildlife. You will likely see kayakers floating down the river.
Because this hike is a loop, you can go in either direction. I described the loop in a counter-clockwise direction because that is the way that I walked it. When I go on this hike the next time, I will do it in reverse. I would rather walk up the steeper, more treacherous terrain than walk down it. I find it easier to find stable footing when walking uphill.