WALLA WALLA — The network of trails around Mill Creek and Lake Bennington is a place where one of the only limits is one’s own strength.
The area was formed to harness Mill Creek and prevent flooding in Walla Walla. The project was completed after the instigation of the president of the city’s Chamber of Commerce at the time, Virgil Bennington, who lobbied Congress.
The public space offers sweeping views of prairies, woods, farmland, the Blue Mountains and, of course, Lake Bennington on over 20 miles of trails that seem surprisingly remote even though they’re less than a mile away. one mile from the Walla Walla city limits.
Some trails are wide, flat and paved. Others take steep, sometimes long, climbs through trees or hills.
Several picnic shelters and benches are placed in scenic spots. Public restrooms are located at the parking lots and in a few places along the trail.
This combination makes it a great destination for people with different skill levels. A family with a child learning to ride a bike could bring a picnic and take the smooth, paved trail on the north side of Mill Creek from the Mill Creek project office to Rooks Park, where there is a playground.
Starting from the same location, an experienced cyclist could head east along Mill Creek, then loop around Lake Bennington before returning, a loop that would take about an hour.
Those looking for an even bigger challenge could head to downtown Walla Walla or explore the foothills of the Blue Mountains on nearby roads. Allegro Cyclery at 200 E. Main St. in downtown Walla Walla offers bike rentals and information at the store and on its website at allegrocyclery.com.
Mill Creek, Bennington Lake and Rooks Park Trails, Walla Walla
LOCATION: From the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley, head west along US Highway 12 to Walla Walla. The trip takes about two hours. Exit south on Airport Way and drive south. Head east on Reservoir Road and take the second left to reach the Mill Creek Project Office, one of many access points to the system.
WHAT YOU WILL DO: Biking, hiking, fishing, wildlife viewing and boating in boats powered by electric motors, wind or human power.
DIFFICULTY: 1 to 3 out of 5 depending on what you are doing.
DON’T FORGET: A system map. They are available at a Chamber of Commerce kiosk in downtown Walla Walla on First Avenue and Main Street. (It can be confusing the first time you visit.) Bike helmet, sunscreen, fishing license, water, snacks and life jackets for anyone boating.
NEARBY SITES: Downtown Walla Walla is full of independent restaurants, ice cream parlors, and cafes, as well as shops that sell second-hand clothes, books, furniture, souvenirs, and merchandise. Consider stopping by Colville Street Patisserie. It offers espressos, pastries, ice cream and wine by the glass.
WINE: Walla Walla is known for its wines for good reason. It is home to well-known brands such as Dunham Cellars and Canoe Ridge. Discover Vital Wines at 17 N. Second Ave. His wines are exceptional, especially for the price. Proceeds go to health care and other resources for vineyard and winery employees.