Fields Spring State Park


Why? Wooded walks close to home with some fine views.

Season: If you include crosscountry skiing, which I recommend, all year round.

Ease: Easy to moderate.

Though I freely admit that most of my visits to Fields Spring are during the winter, for cross country skiing, I’ve also visited the park at other times of year and walked the various trails. Barring a whiteout-type snowstorm, the views always are fine. The walking is relatively easy, and it’s the only place I’ve ever been where a shrew appeared to debate whether or not I might be food. (see note below)

The views that always make my crosscountry skiing trips worthwhile are to the south, from the place called the South Pole. It’s just above the Grande Ronde River Canyon and breaks, and the Wallowa Mountains are in the distance. From other places, Rattlesnake Creek Canyon with the Blue Mountains behind are to the west, and Steptoe and Kamiak Buttes, as well as Moscow Mountain can be seen to the north. And to the East, there's Craig Mountain and the top of the Snake River Canyon.

If you're not into views, there are abundant fields of wildflowers in the spring and summer -- over 150 species of plants are found in the park. If you miss the wildflowers, you will still experience several different ecosystems while hiking though dense stands of ponderosa pine, western larch, Douglas fir and grand fir. And of course there are animals other than shrews. Elk, deer, black bear, coyote and cougar live in the park and many species of birds live within or pass through the park, including at least eight species of woodpecker. While I’ve not seen anything but an occasional elk or deer in the park, I’ve seen three cougar and one black bear just outside the park above the highway.

Most of the 9-1/2 miles of trails at Fields Spring are gravel or dirt roads that also serve as cross country ski trails in the winter. About 2-1/2 miles are narrower and for hiking only.

The Grande Ronde and Corral Trails, more or less around the perimeter of the park, involve the least up and down walking. The Puffer Butte Trail is hiking only, a narrow path through the woods that starts just to the left of the hiking sign in the parking lot. It’s either up or down with occasional switchbacks in the 1 mile trek to the top.

The other trails wander between the perimeter trails and the Puffer Butte Trail, allowing you to choose your own pathway through the park. Mountain View does not go as high as Puffer Butte, but offers almost the same views. The Butte Climb truly is a climb, and the Ponderosa Trail wanders through the forest. There is even a Nature Trail, short but informative.

In fact all of the trails at the park lead you through the forest. This means that even at midday in the summer, you can expect frequent shade. Only the perimeter trails have long stretches without many trees.

Note: Shrews are the smallest of mammals, weighing only a few ounces. The one I saw was all of one and one-half inches long, excluding tail. It scurried out on the trail in front of me, ran to and fro for a few moments, then approached to within a yard of my feet before darting off. It didn't seem scared, which is not surprising. Shrews are aggressive, ferocious and always hungry.

Directions: The entrance to Fields Spring State Park is between mile markers 13 and 14 on Highway 129 south out of Asotin. The perimeter and Puffer Butte trails start at the parking lot.

Information: Fields Spring State Park, (509) 256-3332. The park is open daily from 6:30 a.m. to dusk. Camping is available.

Part of the perimeter trail system is on private property, however, and you should check with the ranger before you hike on this section. During hunting season, it's definitely off limits.

Maps: Maps of the park and trails are available at the park.