Centennial Trail State Park, sometimes referred to as the Spokane River Centennial Trail, presents views of rapids and waterfalls on its 37.5-mile snaky run from the Idaho border through downtown Spokane to the rocky canyons west of town.
As its name implies, workers completed much of the on- and off-road paved trail between 1989 and 1991 during Washington State's 100-year celebration. Spokane served as a railroad crossroads, and the inactive rights-of-way and trestles of the old Spokane & Inland Empire Railroad Company and Great Northern Railway contributed to the trail corridor. Efforts continue to this day to replace road shoulder sections, and 34 of the 37.5 miles are classified as paved, off-road.
The 100-acre Riverfront Park in Spokane, designed for the Expo '74 world's fair, is the trail's midpoint centerpiece. The unique amusement park's century-old, hand-painted carousel blends with the urban area's natural beauty and history—reflected in bridges, dams, turn-of-the-19th-century buildings, and the old rail depot clock tower of 1902.
The downtown park is a great point to launch explorations to the east and west. The western section is more wild and rugged as it passes through Riverside State Park to the trail's end at Sontag Community Park at Nine Mile Falls. The eastern segment passes Gonzaga University and continues through a more populated region on much easier terrain. It ends at the Idaho border, where it meets the 24-mile North Idaho Centennial Trail. Drinking water, supplies, and services are limited throughout. Though the climate is hot and dry in the summer, snow and freezing temperatures are common in the wintertime.
Riverfront Park to Nine Mile Falls and Sontag Community Park: 14.8 Miles Westbound
This hilly, winding route parallels a remote section of the Spokane River. Leaving Riverfront Park, cross the N. Post Street Bridge, turn left onto W. Bridge Avenue, and look for the trail that heads left and passes beneath N. Monroe Street and beside an overlook for Lower Falls. If you pause here long enough, you’ll undoubtedly see yellow-bellied marmots scurrying among the rocks—an unusual sight in an urban area.
Stay on the new section of trail past a scenic overlook to the shoulder of Summit Boulevard, and follow Summit Boulevard to NW Point Road on the left. Continue left onto N. Pettet Drive, and then pick up the trail again to cross the river on the N. T. J. Meenach Drive Bridge. Equestrians are permitted to use the 10-mile section of trail that runs through Riverside State Park (between Sontag Community Park and the bridge).
The trail wanders through hilly terrain, young ponderosa pines, and the Riverside State Park Equestrian Area. Striking rock formations can be seen at the Bowl and Pitcher overlook. A suspension footbridge crosses the river rapids in the park for a short hike.
Back on the main trail, a basalt ridge rises overhead. Farther on, remnants of a circa 1933 Civilian Conservation Corps station can be seen at Camp Seven Mile. A brief flat section and scenic crossing of Deep Creek Bridge precedes the hills near the turbulent waters below the dam located in the Nine Mile Falls community. The trail ends just ahead at Sontag Community Park. A 1.7-mile trail extension from Sontag Community Park into the Nine Mile Recreation Area is scheduled for completion in 2015.
Riverfront Park to Idaho Border: 22.8 Miles Eastbound
This route leaves Riverfront Park by heading east past the Looff Carrousel. It crosses the Spokane River at the Don Kardong Bridge and passes through the Gonzaga University campus. After crossing E. Mission Avenue, the trail follows this serene section of river through the suburbs and into Spokane Valley along E. Upriver Drive. There's a slight uphill grade as you head east along the pine-speckled, arid landscape all the way to Idaho. Parts of the trail are on the road shoulder.
Plenty of recreational activities exist along the river. Just past the Upriver Dam, the trail enters John C. Shields Park, where rock climbers hang out at an outcrop called Minnehaha Rocks. About a mile upriver is Boulder Beach; scuba divers enter the river here to explore submerged rocks.
The Centennial Trail route regains the road at Camp Sekani Park, crosses N. Argonne Road, and turns right onto N. Farr Road to E. Maringo Drive, where the trail resumes (parking and restrooms are located here). The trail crosses the boulder-strewn river on a pedestrian bridge and enters a somewhat remote area to Mirabeau Point Park, where wildlife might be seen in the sparse forest or along the river.
The trail hugs the river as it passes Spokane Valley Mall and remains on the south shore all the way to Gateway Regional Park on the Idaho border. From here, the trail passes underneath Interstate 90 and continues east for another 24 miles as the North Idaho Centennial Trail to Lake Coeur d'Alene.
For Riverfront Park access from I-90 W, take Exit 281, and follow S. Division Street north for 0.7 mile. Turn left onto W. Spokane Falls Boulevard. From I-90 E, take Exit 280, and follow W. Fourth Avenue for 0.8 mile; then turn left onto S. Washington Street and go 0.5 mile. Look for parking in lots on the left between N. Browne and Howard Streets.
For Sontag Community Park access from I-90, take Exit 280 toward S. Walnut Street and head north for 0.5 mile. After Walnut becomes Maple Street, continue another 1.4 miles, and turn left onto W. Northwest Boulevard. After 0.7 mile, turn right onto N. Cochran Street, which becomes N. Driscoll Boulevard. At 2.6 miles, continue straight onto W. Nine Mile Road at the intersection of W. Frances Avenue. Go 6.1 miles, and turn left at W. Charles Street, cross the river, and continue to the park.
To reach Gateway Regional Park at the Idaho border from I-90, take Exit 299 toward the state line, and turn left onto N. Spokane Bridge Road. The park is directly ahead.
Discover Passes are required at Washington State Parks. Equestrians may park at the former stables in Riverside State Park.