Harrowing weather will soon be upon us, which means it’s pertinent that students get out as soon as possible to enjoy all of the activities that the outdoors have to offer before the doom and gloom outright compromises all inclinations to play outside. But with many campus amenities that are often used for such activities having restrictive access at the moment, students will need to venture away from campus to find outlets for whatever physical activities they’re propelled to do.
Luckily, the surrounding area around Gonzaga is ripe with locations that will meet all of one’s physically exertive needs.
High schools in the Spokane area have suspended in-person operations for all things school related, but that leaves their outdoor facilities even more readily available for public access if allowable.
Schools like Shadle Park High School and John Rogers High School are both within a 12-minute drive from campus and offer accessible spaces for people to get out and throw a football or frisbee around.
Both are equipped with blacktop basketball courts, tennis courts and a public track and turf field too. These should present students with all the amenities they desire to fulfill any of their athletic recreational needs.
“Now that their outdoors facilities are open for public use, local high schools are nice because there’s a lot of space and areas where you can do different activities” said junior Zach Bowers, a Spokane native and ardent athletics enthusiast. “You can just show up and run around which is great for anyone hoping to exercise away from campus for a little bit.”
The entirety of Riverfront Park is an artistic spectacle, but it isn’t suited for conventional athletic activities. Instead, about the same distance away from campus as Riverfront is, but to the north-east, is Mission Park.
Mission Park serves the more ancillary functions of a conventional park with tennis courts and fields aplenty for students and local community members to indulge in. With trees spread throughout the main field, there are plenty of spots at Mission Park where students can string up nets for games such as volleyball and badminton.
Mission Park’s other amenities include exercise equipment, a basketball court and tennis courts for anyone pining for opportunities to chop the ball around.
“Tennis is a great sport to play socially distanced with your friends and the courts at Mission are perfect due to their locational convenience and since they’re never filled up, you can often even find multiple courts available,” junior club tennis player and mountain biking aficionado Evan Sklar said.
If you’re willing to take a 15-minute drive west of campus, Dwight Merkel Athletic Complex supplies the full range of facilities that you’d dream of finding at a local park. Within the complex’s expansive and luscious enclosure are two full-length turf football fields, five softball/baseball diamonds, two skateparks and a basketball court.
“Turf fields are kind of hard to come by, so grabbing a few buddies and heading out to Dwight Merkel for any activity is a good time,” Bowers said. “The facility encompasses everything that kids are looking for so students can always find something to do there.”
For those itching to get their feet moving, Spokane offers an abundance of running and biking outlets. At the disposal to every student on or near campus is the Centennial Trail, which is perfect path for strolls to Spokane Falls, a protracted bike ride to the Idaho border and everything in between.
The Centennial Trail also leads to a host of other unique locations that you can venture through on foot or in the saddle. One in particular is Beacon Hill, which after a convenient 10-minute bike ride while heading north-east on the Centennial Trail, you’ll find the 25-mile, single-track course nestled in the Spokane forest.
“Beacon Hill is kind of a place for everybody because they’ve arranged the tracks by different skill levels,” Sklar said. “I like to ride there because I don’t have to drive and it’s a short enough journey there to where I’m not tired when I arrive, which is great because some of the courses there are pretty technical.”
Beacon Hill also supports a 2.5 mile hiking trail that is far less technical than its corresponding mountain biking area, and better suited for a comfortable stroll through nature if you ever feel the need to escape the woes of city life.
It’s not the only worthwhile hiking and mountain biking area within the purview of GU’s campus though. More of a far escape from campus are both Liberty Lake and Mount Spokane, which by car would take 27 minutes and an hour to reach respectfully.
Liberty Lake’s trail has a short climb to the top, where adventurers can journey around the perimeter of the lake itself to get a complete view of it’s natural beauty.
Mount Spokane is a decent distance away from GU no matter one’s mode of transportation, but the winter-time ski resort is more than deserving of a venture for mountain bikers looking to try something with a little bit more depth and complexity.
“Mount Spokane is really fun,” Sklar said. “Make sure you have a Discover Pass when you park at the bottom, then you’ll ride the paved road all the way up to the top and you’ll bike the trails down, which takes about two hours in total.”