Rob Fischer has hiked throughout the West, from the Grand Canyon to the Chugach Mountains of Alaska. But the Spokane Valley resident hikes three to five times a week year-round, so his go-to trailheads are about as close as the nearest health club.
“I love being outdoors,” Rob said. “I’ve never been a gym person. I’d rather endure the elements any day, so I can go rain or shine.”
Here are five of Rob’s recommendations from his rotation, all located within the greater Spokane Valley.
1. Iller Creek
Rob says: “Iller Creek is one of my favorite places right now. The reason is there is such a huge network of trails there. I typically hike either a 4-mile loop or a 5-mile loop, and they both have different challenges. The 4-mile loop is actually steeper and has higher elevation gain than the 5-mile one, and the 5-mile one I can stretch to 6 if I want to.”
Among the highlights, Rob says the Iller Creek hiker is rewarded with a spectacular view of the Palouse on the 5-mile hike at the Rocks of Sharon (also known as Big Rocks). The hike also offers great signage, occasional wildlife sightings and the option for a beautiful out-and-back walk along the creek for less ambitious hikers.
Iller Creek is part of the Dishman Hills Conservation Area. The trailhead is in southwest Spokane Valley (Ponderosa area) at the end of Holman Road. The Rocks of Sharon can also be accessed from the south via the Stevens Creek Trailhead on the Palouse side.
2. Liberty Lake Loop Trail
Rob says: “There’s several neat features on that trail. It starts out low along the creek and follows it upward and pretty soon you come to a stand of cedars. The hike up to the cedars is not difficult, and a lot of people choose to turn around there and just go back the same way. If you keep going, you get on some switchbacks, the trail narrows, and you begin to get some views, at one point looking back at Liberty Lake.”
Hikers who take on the full 8.4-mile loop are rewarded with a waterfall in the spring, trails veering off toward Mica Peak and other destinations for experienced hikers, as well as a Boy Scout shelter, Rob says.
The trailhead is accessed from Liberty Lake Regional Park on the southeast side of Liberty Lake.
3. Dishman Hills Natural Area
Rob says: “Definitely more for someone who is not an aggressive hiker would be the Dishman Hills. … The trails are not well marked, but it’s fairly contained. … My wife asked once, ‘Are we lost?’ And I said, ‘We’re not lost. I just don’t know where I am.’ And we always get out. … Dishman Hills is quite extensive, and there are some pretty hikes in there.”
Reviewers of Dishman Hills Natural Area (which, along with Iller Creek, is part of the broader Dishman Hills Conservation Area) tend to like the family friendliness and accessibility of the 530-acre natural area.
The trailhead is probably the easiest to find in the area, located on high-traffic Appleway Avenue just west of Argonne.
My wife asked once, ‘Are we lost?’ And I said, ‘We’re not lost. I just don’t know where I am.’Rob Fischer
4. Saltese Uplands
Rob says: “You’ve got your choice of some good elevation gain on this hike or none at all. … It’s not a good hike in the heat of summer because you’re so exposed, and if there is any wind, it’s going to be windy on that hike, but the advantage of that place is that because it’s so exposed, the trails dry out faster.”
Because of this, Rob trends toward early spring hikes on Saltese Uplands, when many other trails – “especially Iller Creek” – can be incredibly muddy. In all, 7 miles of trails cross the property, including a 3.6-mile loop known for wildflowers and views of the Saltese Valley and Liberty Lake.
The well-marked trailhead is accessed from Henry Road southeast of Greenacres.
5. Antoine Peak
Rob says: “On Antoine Peak you have a lot of choices. There’s a nice 5-mile loop that I would usually take, and you can extend it to 6 miles by adding a side trail to it. But there’s also a very moderate 3-mile loop that’s fun that my wife likes to go on with me as well.”
Part of the choices provided by this 1,066-acre conservation area is where to launch out from, as two trailhead choices are offered, one approaching Antoine Peak from the west; the other from the east. Rob prefers the eastern launching point. He has seen moose as well as a rare elk sighting while hiking through this area.
Rob’s preferred trailhead can be accessed from Otis Orchards by heading north on Campbell from Trent and turning left on Lincoln.
Two Bonus Hikes!
Have time and ambition for more challenging hikes outside of Spokane Valley? Rob has two recommendations for you: Mount Spokane State Park (especially the Mount Kit Carson Trail) and the Scotchman Peak Trail, about a 2-hour drive away near Clark Fork, Idaho.
Rob’s hiking tips
An author of more than 20 books, Rob even wrote a memoir of his childhood adventures — mostly set outdoors in Minnesota — called “Becoming Tarzan.”
Interestingly, Rob, who turns 68 in 2020, has always loved life outdoors, but didn’t become an avid hiker until a repetitive motion injury forced him to hang up his running shoes after 30 years.
Looking for an outdoor workout, he took up hiking and never looked back. Thinking of giving hiking a shot yourself, or simply want to improve your hiking experience? Here are four tips to make the most of the experience.
Invest in good equipment: If you are going to make hiking a year-round lifestyle, the equipment is worth the investment, Rob says. Outdoor clothing, good boots with ICEtrekkers (like tire chains for your boots to use in slippery conditions) and trekking poles are all parts of Rob’s ensemble. He said the poles are more for an improved workout than for balance. “It really pays to get good equipment,” he says.
Bring a friend: While Rob normally hikes alone, some of his best memories are spent “rousing another guy” on a weekend, whether it’s to invest in a young person or challenge a “Comrade in Arms,” which is the title of a book Rob wrote about friendship and accountability among Christian men. “The reason I love to disciple men out on the trail like that is they feel the freedom to be transparent out there,” he says. A hike is a majestic setting for conversation, escaping surface issues and opening a gateway toward meaningful interaction.
Fearful? Go when there’s a crowd: In all of the places he has hiked, Rob has had his share of wildlife encounters, including the time in Alaska when he made for a tree to avoid a testy moose. “But that’s so rare, and I’ve never felt endangered by a moose around here,” he says. He does take precautions — carrying water, his pocket knife and bear spray on every hike — but the best option for people who want to hike but feel fearful is to explore the nearby trails “when you know other people will be there. A Saturday mid-morning, all of those trails are going to be well used, almost under any conditions. During the week, probably in the afternoon you’re going to run into other people.”
Take out the ear buds: “I love music,” Rob says, “but I don’t need to listen while I’m out there.” Not only does he prefer to stay keenly aware of his surroundings, listening for other hikers and wildlife, but he believes hiking isn’t just a visually stunning experience (the wildflowers, the animals, the scenery), but it’s best experienced by all of his senses. One autumn Alaskan hike in particular stands out: brilliant colors, “the air permeated by the sweet scent of berries, and … it was almost like you could hear the fog, but I think what was happening was fog has the ability to deaden sounds, and I think what I was hearing was the deadening of all sound. It was just an exhilarating experience.”
Rob Fischer has been married to Linda Fischer for more than 45 years and has three married children and 10 grandchildren. An author, publisher and writing coach, follow his work at fischerpublishing.net and check out his blog at skillsforfollowingjesus.com. All photos courtesy of Rob Fischer.
For this conversation, Rob chose the meeting point, and since I was adamant about staying indoors at a coffee shop, Forza Coffee Company, 325 S. Sullivan Road in Spokane Valley, was the next best thing. Why? The firepit, which coupled with an oat milk latte to keep me warm during Rob’s stories of icy hikes.
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