The Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge protects a portion of the ‘Channeled Scablands’ of ice age flood fame. The refuge has a 5.5 mile auto route through part of it. This makes a comfortable undulating loop for hikers. (Where else can you walk four or five abreast, with leashed dogs and strollers?). You can also drive or bike the auto route, stopping at the many viewpoints along the way.
Short hikes radiate from the main loop: two are out-and-back; the third is a loop that travels by Pine Lake.
Pine Lake Loop
Stop at the kiosk at the entrance on South Smith Road to pick up the required vehicle permit, and then proceed to the first parking lot a short distance before the park headquarters. The paved portion of the hiking trail follows the edge of Winslow Pool and encircles Pine Lakes. Take it slow to let the birds adjust to your presence and see how many different species of waterfowl and songbird you can identify.
While there's plenty of activity for those who remain on the trail around the lake, there is also an option to extend the hike via the adjoining Stubblefield Trail. This trail includes views of Cheever Lake and Stubblefield Lake, and also passes through open grasslands and pine groves, where spring wildflowers should be visible in March and erupting by April.
You can bicycle into the refuge from the Fish Lake Trail or from Cheney by heading south on Cheney-Plaza Road.
Depending on the season, you’ll see some assortment of more than 200 types of waterfowl, cavity nester, and raptors cruising over the relatively flat landscape. The mammal list includes elk, deer, moose, badgers, river otters, porcupines, beavers, bobcats, and cougars.
The visitor center and online maps make it easy to see the range of hikes available here, including accessible boardwalks. Visit fws.gov/turnbull.
Between March and October, a $3.00 fee is charged per car. If you are bicycling or walking into the refuge, it is $3.00 per family. No entrance fees are charged from November through February.