Located just 30 minutes from the downtown Spokane core, the Stevens Creek Trailhead off the Palouse Highway offers nearby residents a year-round access point to the Iller Creek Unit of the Dishman Hills Conservation Area.
The trail starts as a double-track trail easement but soon enters the conservation area and begins an ascent to Big Rock, a popular destination for sport climbers and a dramatic vista point for hikers. Big Rock, and the other Rocks of Sharon are large granitic monoliths rising up from a ridgeline surrounded by a rich ecosystem and prime wildlife habitat.
From the Steven's Creek parking lot, head up the road to the right. Follow the old road for a bit less than half a mile to where you reach an opening. Take the winding path to the right. Enjoy the gentle switchbacks that WTA helped replace the brutal path that used to cut straight up the hill.
Prior to becoming a conservation area, the landscape received some damage from off-road vehicles. Help the old scars heal by sticking to the well-marked single-track trail, built by WTA volunteers to keep the climb at a moderate grade. The trail ascends a series of switchbacks and passes beneath popular climbing routes until reaching a high point near Big Rock.
"Big Rock" is exactly that: a gigantic rock extending 230 feet from the ground surface that is visible for several miles. If you are lucky enough to experience this place in solitude while the fog rolls off the valley, Big Rock will take on an otherworldly feel that you will not soon forget.
Look southward over Palouse farmland to Steptoe Butte in the distance. You can extend this hike toward the Iller Creek Trailhead to the north, by hiking the Upper Valley Trail, which bisects the Iller Creek Loop after a third of a mile. This option makes a rough lollipop loop and adds a little more than a mile to your roundtrip distance. Otherwise, simply return via the same route.
Seasonal Tip: Trail conditions for late-winter hiking in Spokane are always hard to predict, so visitors to Rocks of Sharon need to prepare for trails that can range from bare ground to deep snow. Spokane County Parks recently implemented a policy asking hikers to select a different trail if muddy conditions exist and hikers find themselves sinking into the mud an inch or more. If packed snow has been going through a freeze-thaw-freeze cycle, visitors may find very icy conditions that require traction devices for boots. Occasionally this area will also see blankets of deep snow that require snowshoes.
A useful way to assess conditions is to refer to Spokane County Park’s trailhead cameras. Stevens Creek, along with Glenrose and Antoine Peak West, boast web cameras with a live view of conditions. If there is fresh snow, hikers can make sure the parking lot has been plowed and is accessible.