Brief History of Mt. Spokane State Park

  • 1909 Frances Cook, owner of the summit, builds a toll road to within 3 miles of the summit.
  • 1927 Mt. Spokane State Park is officially dedicated at 1500 acres.
  • 1929 H. Cowles, Jr. donates 640 acres of land to the park.
  • 1930s The Spokane Ski Club, the Selkirk Ski Club, and the Spokane Mountaineers purchase over 500 acres on the mountain for construction of lodges, rope-tows, and ski jump hills. The road is completed to the summit.
  • 1934 Vista House is built by the Civilian Conservation Corps crew from Riverside State Park.
  • 1935 CCC sets up camp on Beauty Mountain to improve the road and construct other facilities. 
  • 1939 The Spokane Chapter of the Conservation League buys 320 acres for the
    Park for $1500 (south half of Section 21) to save virgin timber from logging and fire. 
  • 1947 The first double chair lift in the world is put into operation on the south face of the summit.
  • 1952 A master plan is proposed for the park which includes over 24,000 acres and designates all of Mt. Spokane proper for downhill ski purposes. This proposal is not implemented. 
  • 1953 KXLY-TV becomes operational from the summit.
  • 1955 Lodge #1 and Chairlift #1 are constructed.
  • 1961 Concessionaire A.E.Mettler constructs Lodge #2 and Lift #2
  • 1965 Another master plan is developed by State Parks to include 11,592 acres of land, 958 of which were allocated for general outdoor recreation with the remainder to be administered as a “natural environment area.” This plan is not adopted by the Parks Commission.
  • 1974 Mt. Spokane Park’s official classification is changed from Recreation area to State Park, and the following philosophy is applied: “State Parks are to continuously service man’s spiritual, mental, and leisure time physical needs through the use of selected outstanding natural resources. this is to be accomplished by providing a full range of non-urban outdoor educational and recreational services and opportunities to a wide range of users with diversified interests and needs.”
  • 1978 A Coordinated Trail System plan is developed to, among other things, reduce conflicting recreational uses by specific allocation of park lands to user groups. The plan quickly became out of date and was never fully implemented. 
  • 1985 The Parks Commission formally designates the Ragged Ridge Natural Area within Mt. Spokane State Park. 
  • 1993 The Park contains about 13,643 acres of land, not including Quartz Mountain. Most of this land was donated or obtained during the Great Depression through property forfeitures. The Mt. Spokane State Park Alpine Ski Area Working Group Interface Subcommittee issues a report concerning the future of the Park. Among other things, it recommends a comprehensive planning process.
  • 1994 State Parks proposes to classify areas of the Park as Natural Forest Areas. Several alternatives are proposed. The Mt. Spokane Planning Task Force Steering Committee is formed and issues its report. The group recommends a comprehensive planning process as well as the formation of a permanent, local Park advisory committee.
  • 1995 Mt. Spokane State Park Advisory Committee appointed by Parks Commission begins monthly meetings in Spokane. Friends of Mt. Spokane State Park also formed.
  • 1997 Mt. Spokane 2000, a non-profit group of local businesses and civic leaders, is approved as the new concessionaire for the alpine ski area to replace the Mt. Spokane Ski Corporation which operated the area for 20 years.
  • 1999 A Classification and Management Plan (CAMP) process is started for the Park. New land classifications approved including about 10% as Recreation Area, about 58% as Resource Recreation Area, less than 1% as Heritage Area, about 22% as Natural Forest Area, about 4% as Natural Area Preserve, and about 5% as yet unclassified pending completion of the Ski Area Plan and further Commission consideration.

Long before Mt. Spokane State Park became a haven for winter and summer recreation, Native Americans considered the summit of Mt. Spokane an ideal site for spiritual pilgrimages.  In 1909, Frances Cook began building a road to the Cook’s Cabin area, and in the early 1930s local ski club members, tired of trudging to the top, began building rope tows and lodges. 

The Vista House was built in 1933 by a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) crew from Riverside State Park.  In 1934, the CCC set  up camp on Beauty Mountain for 200 workers. The existing CCC cabin, which served as the camp’s headquarters, was rebuilt on the original site in 1998. 

In 1940, Cook’s Cabin Lodge opened, but it burned down in 1952, just before the grand opening of a $100,000 addition. In 1946, the world’s first double chair lift opened on Mt. Spokane and operated for three seasons. 

Today, Mt. Spokane State Park is not only known for alpine skiing and snowboarding, but also for its excellent groomed nordic and snowmobile trails, snowshoeing, dog sledding, backcountry skiing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, picnicking,  and gazing at the 360 degree view of 3 states from the summit elevation of 5883 feet.