Easy access to both the mountains and the deserts ranks high among the many benefits of living in the Inland Northwest, and April is a month for deserts. While it could still snow at any moment in the higher elevations, it’s almost certainly snow-free west of Spokane, and there are usually abundant wildflowers at this low elevation.
Folsom Farm is an excellent launch site for a longer hike that includes open shrub steppe and scattered ponderosa pine. The trailhead is located at a BLM archeological site, where on April 1, 1903 the Lucas family applied for and received a homestead patent. The family made a go of it long enough to leave behind some outbuildings and farm equipment, and BLM has since installed interpretive signage at the site to go along with its designation on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. With the nearby Smick Meadows bird viewing platform and assorted picnic tables, it’s worth visiting even if you never leave sight of the parking lot.
For those who want to hike in addition to viewing the history displays and wildlife, the trail begins just west of the barns along an old farm road. Note that there are several gates, both at the parking lot and on the trail. Always close gates after walking through, as this is rangeland and it’s important to prevent stock from passing between pastures or exiting onto roads. The first mile heads north and crosses open grassland before intersecting the Hog Lake Road, where those hiking the loop will need to turn right and hike the next half mile on a pleasant country road. At the parking lot for Hog Canyon, turn north to rejoin the trail through the gate and cross into a treed section as you approach the lake. The trail joins Hog Lake near its north end, where there is an excellent vantage point for viewing the popular waterfall. The falls are typically spectacular in April, but bring your binoculars to view them: they are located on private property, so they must be enjoyed from the distance.
The trail continues along the top of the cliff overlooking the lake until rejoining the road at approximately the 3-mile mark. Hike south on the road for .1 mile, and look for the trail to continue to the right and up a dry canyon. This is another treed section, and a good place to watch for deer and turkeys. At the 4-mile mark the trail contours to the west, eventually rejoining the Folsom Farm entrance road at the 4.6-mile mark. Hike the road for the last half mile to return to the start, or make a longer route by including parts of the adjacent Fishtrap Lake Trail.
From Spokane, drive west on I-90 to the Fishtrap Lake exit. Turn left on Sprague Highway Road East. At Fishtrap Road turn left and proceed to the sign for Folsom Farm/Smick Meadows just before the Fishtrap Lake Resort. Turn left to the parking lot and trailhead with a vault toilet. //
Holly Weiler is the race director for the Foothills Scenic Five fun run every June that supports a scholarship fund and community events.