About this Itinerary
Following the serpentine pattern of the Spokane River as it flows westward, the Centennial Trail State Park winds its way from the Idaho border through downtown Spokane to the community of Nine Mile Falls. A 37.5-mile route through Washington’s Spokane County, the Centennial Trail State Park (CTSP) offers a widely-used path connecting the urban, suburban, and park environs of this large metropolitan area. Popular as a recreational trail, as well as a commuter and transportation route, the CTSP is entirely paved though not completely off-road; currently, 34 miles are classified as trail and the remaining segments require road-riding.
Sometimes referred to as the Spokane River Centennial Trail, the CTSP partially utilizes the abandoned rail corridor of the old Spokane & Inland Empire Railroad Company and Great Northern Railway. The highlight and midpoint centerpiece of the trail is Spokane’s 100-acre Riverfront Park, the former site of the Expo ’74 world’s fair and, before that, the railroad’s massive switching yard. This downtown park is a convenient point to begin your westbound or eastbound exploration of the CTSP as it is central to hotels, restaurants, and shops servicing visitors to the region. Out-of-towners flying into Spokane will use the Spokane International Airport, seven miles west of downtown; bicycles can be rented from downtown’s The Bike Hub.
Settle into Spokane and get ready to enjoy the cultural and historic attractions of Washington State’s second largest city. Waste no time by checking in to the grand Historic Davenport Hotel, a regional landmark more than a century old that is within walking distance to the park. There are more modern lodging options nearby, such as the Double Tree Hilton, and cozier choices including Roberts Mansion and The Odell House. Main Market Coop is a convenient downtown grocery store with a deli, bulk items, and local produce. It’s a good place to get the food and drink supplies you will need for your ride as services are limited along the trail. Frank’s Diner is a Spokane institution and surely the most fitting place to go for breakfast before tackling the rail-trail as the diner itself is located in an old rail car. If you are looking for a menu heavier on the pastry and espresso side of things, look for Rocket Bakery and Café, which has quite a few locations about town.
There are nine trailheads along the length of the CTSP, though only the trailheads along the easternsegment (from Riverfront Park to the Idaho border) provide water and toilet facilities. This route passes Gonzaga University and continues through Spokane Valley to the Idaho border where it meets the 24-mile North Idaho Centennial Trail. The terrain is generally flat, providing an easy (though not necessarily peaceful) path through the most populated region of the CTSP. The western segment (from Riverfront Park to Sontag Community Park) is markedly more remote, challenging, and scenic, with overlooks of the river, falls, and Riverside State Park. Remember there are no services along this stretch. There are multiple parking areas in and around Riverfront Park, all of which charge a daily fee of $5 or less. A Discover Pass is required for vehicles in Riverside State Park. Finally, take a glance at the website of Friends of the Centennial Trail, a local organization that assists in the CTSP’s maintenance and development, for the most up-to-date information on trail-related construction projects.
Day 1: Western Segment (Riverfront Park to Nine Mile Falls, 14.8 miles one way)
The Riverfront Park trailhead is located on the western edge of the park off of N. Howard Street. The CTSP quickly leaves the park crossing the Spokane River via N. Post Street Bridge. You actually span Upper Falls, one of the two falls and dams that make up Spokane Falls. It is a spectacular site, particularly given its urban setting. Once on the other side of the bridge, notice Anthony’s at Spokane to your right (a seafood restaurant with views of the falls that may be just what you need by the time you return this way), but take the trail to your left to pass beneath N. Monroe Street and beside an overlook for Lower Falls.
Heading west, the trail is sandwiched between the neighborhood of Kendall Yards to the north and the Spokane River Gorge to the south. We would be remiss not to mention two restaurants right off the trail in Kendall Yards that foodies will especially be interested in: Wandering Table and The Yards Bruncheon. Both feature a seasonal menu with produce from local farms and producers. Next to these restaurants are other eateries and shops, beyond which the CTSP begins to border the northern edge of the Herbert Hamblen Conservation Area. Just as the trail begins to curve northward, a spur trail heads south and over the river to another parking area and Spokane’s first neighborhood, the historical Browne’s Addition. The Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture is in this neighborhood (about a mile detour from the CTSP) as is the Odell House and Roberts Mansion. The museum also sponsors the annual Artfest, a 3-day juried art festival held in this neighborhood with music, food and handcrafted works.
Staying on the CTSP, a 1.5-mile on-road section soon begins at N. Summit Boulevard. Follow Summit Boulevard to NW Point Road on the left and continue left onto N. Pettet Drive. There is a parking area and trailhead off of Pettet Drive, where the trail picks up again to cross the river on the N. T. J. Meenach Drive Bridge. Now south of the Spokane River, the CTSP travels through one of Washington’s largest state parks. Equestrians are permitted to use the 10-mile section of trail that runs through Riverside State Park between the bridge and Sontag Community Park. The park is also a popular destination for hiking, fishing, camping, kayaking, and rafting. The trail wanders through hilly terrain and mixed conifer forests.
At the Bowl and Pitcher overlook, a suspension footbridge crosses the river rapids for a short hike and access to a picnic area and campground. Back on the main trail, look for basalt formations and, farther on, remnants of a circa 1933 Civilian Conservation Corps station that can be seen at Camp Seven Mile. A scenic crossing of Deep Creek Bridge precedes the hills near the turbulent waters below the Nine Mile Dam (circa 1909) originally constructed to power Spokane and Inland Empire Railroad’s interurban trolley lines which once-serviced Spokane and its vicinity. The trail ends just ahead at Sontag Community Park where there are restrooms, picnic shelter, hiking trails, and other amenities. Also alongside the trail opposite the park is the Tin Cup Café and Country Store, which offers coffee, wine, beer, breakfast, and lunch. Relax, refresh and get ready to return to Spokane.
Day 2: Eastern Segment (Riverfront Park to Idaho Border, 22.8 miles one way)
Traveling east from the Riverfront Park trailhead affords you an opportunity to glimpse some of the many attractions that the park has to offer. Before even getting on your bike, you may want to take the 15-minute cable SkyRide for an incredible vantage point of Spokane Falls. From here, you can also board the Spokane Falls Northern Railway for a 30-minute history train tour of the park or take a walking tour of Riverfront Park and the adjacent Huntington Park and City Hall Plaza. A historical point of interest is the great Clocktower on Havermale Island, constructed in 1902 as a railroad depot and today stands as a reminder of how important the railroad was in shaping the downtown landscape.
There are quite a few paths in the park so it can be a little tricky to find the CTSP. Cycle south from the trailhead and follow the N. Howard Street Bridge to the Rotary Fountain; you can pick up the trail here heading east past the 1909 hand-carved wooden Looff Carousel. Numerous public art pieces are along this stretch, part of a 21-piece Sculpture Walk traversing the length of the park. The Giant Red Wagon is particularly hard to miss at 12-feet high and with the capacity to hold up to 300 people. Imagine this beautiful urban park as the hub of the Inland Northwest’s transportation and shipping centers, packed full of rail tracks and cars facilitating a massive building boom which followed Spokane’s Great Fire of 1889.
Leaving the park after passing under Highway 2, the trail wraps around Washington State University’s campus and crosses the Spokane River via the Kardong Burlington Northern Bridge. On the east side of the river is Gonzaga University’s campus. The CTSP continues through campus, swinging north along the river to Mission Park where there is a trailhead and parking area (restrooms and water are available at Witters Aquatic Center). The CTSP parallels E. Upriver Drive for a mile to the Upriver Dam Reservoir and John C Shields Park. There is a trailhead at Boulder Beach and a grassy slope on the riverbank where it is possible to launch hand-carry boats, swim and relax off the bike. From here, the dedicated trail ends and the CTSP becomes a road-shoulder bike path. Follow Upriver Drive into the suburbs of Spokane Valley to the intersection with Farr Road; head south on Farr Road and east onto Maringo Drive where the trail picks up again.
In a mile, you are at another trailhead (Islands) where an information kiosk tells the natural and human history of the river. Cross the river on a pedestrian bridge (named after Denny Ashlock who was influential in making this trail happen) and continue through a somewhat remote area to Mirabeau Meadows (toilets, water, and parking). Just before the meadows, the CTSP crosses under a rail bridge (at E. Trent Avenue). You are following the Great Northern Railway right-of-way now; look for another rail trestle in approximately one mile. Beyond that, a spur path will take you to Indiana Avenue and the Spokane Valley Mall, should you be in the mood for shopping or eating.
The path continues through a mix of industrial and residential areas, sticking to the south banks of the river for the rest of the ride. Don’t be surprised when you also sidle up to I-90 as you get close to the Idaho border. You are nearly at the trail’s end by the time you arrive at Gateway Regional Park. At this point, you are under a mile from the border and, unless you are carrying on into Idaho, this is as good a place as any to stop and rest up before returning to Spokane. You have the ride back to look forward to a show at the beautiful 1931 Art Deco Martin Woldson Theatre or maybe just a local brew at Black Label Brewing Company.