Turnbull Wildlife Refuge Loop

Established in 1937, the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge is a 17,000-acre sanctuary for migratory birds, located south of Cheney, WA. The loop hike stretches across the southern half of the public section, an area of scattered lakes, seasonal wetlands, open grasslands, and Ponderosa forests.
  • Channeled Scablands
2.9 out of 5
Easy (but watch out for flooding)
6.7 miles
1:44 hours moving time (Hiking)
Elevation Gain
160 feet
High Point
2,364 feet
Low Point
2,233 feet
  • Lake
  • Structure
  • Meadow
  • Outing Type
  • Daytrip
  • Trail Type
  • Loop
  • Trailbed
    Blacktop, gravel
  • At trailhead and refuge headquarters
  • Camping
    • Not allowed
    • Excellent except for flooding
  • Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Status
  • Wildlife Refuge
  • Maps
  • Cheney
  • Fees & Permits
  • None required
  • ($3 fee March through October)
    Open To
  • Hikers
  • Dogs
  • (dogs need to be leashed)
  • Take I-90 exit #290 and head south on Anderson Memorial Highway for about 6 miles, then turn left (south) onto Cheney Plaza Road. Continue for just over 4 miles, then turn left onto S Smith Road. The trailhead parking lot will be on your left after about 1.5 miles. Or, continue on Smith Road for a quarter mile more to reach the refuge’s headquarters.
  • Season
    February 25, 2017

    The trail starts south of the parking lot, on the far side of the road, offering a fabulous view of Winslow Pool. The trail is blacktopped in this section, as it heads south and around the lower end of Upper Pine Lake. A group of swans took to the skies and flew south as we approached. The water level was exceedingly high in the lake and the water squeezed like a torrent through the narrow exit chute. Not surprisingly, the water flooded the trail in the southeast corner of the lake (it was more than ankle-deep).

    The trail heads north for just a short while, then splits and the right-hand trail moves east and meets up with the Headquarters Trail. Here, take a right to head south across intermittent forests and open grasslands.The trail soon splits again and an arrow indicates to take a left (east) for the Stubblefield Trail. Few trees grace this section of trail, yielding instead to grassy steppe, dotted with numerous small mounds resembling giant mole hills.

    An easy and wide doubletrack leads across this grassland to reach Stubblefield Lake after about 2.5 miles. The lake was frozen over and snow-covered. On leaving the lake, the trail turns south and reaches the sanctuary’s boundary after another half mile, marked with a long straight line of barbed-wire fencing. The snow-covered trail then turns west and heads back to the Pine Lakes. It reenters the Ponderosa forest and here you’ll likely encounter the worst flooding, almost a half-foot deep, and gracefully disguised by a quarter inch of ice.

    At the lake the swans made another appearance and we spotted what looked like musk rat lodge. An observation platform is near the bottom end of the lake. The trail now heads north, paralleling the eastern shoreline of Pine Lake and eventually meeting up with the trail hiked on earlier.

    Continue north on the wide double-track through thin stands of Ponderosas to the refuge’s headquarters. A quaint pond awaits to the right, as well as a picnic pavilion. Cross the bridge and head through the park headquarters to the main road, which leads in a westerly direction back to the trailhead.

    To extend the trail, take the Bluebird trail on a loop of the norther section. To get to the trailhead, follow the Auto Tour Route north for a few hundred yards. The parking lot will be on your right. To turn the Bluebird trail into a loop, you’ll have to walk a fair bit on the Auto Tour Route; the loop will be about 4 miles total.

    Alternate Routes

      Things to Consider

        Not so great

          Trailhead and restroom
          View south-east from trailhead
          Winslow Pool
          Ice-covered upper Pine Lake
          Upper Pine Lake
          Pine Lake exit
          Stubblefield trail
          A few deciduous trees along Stubblefield trail
          Stubblefield Lake
          Scrub steppe south of Stubblefield Lake
          Trail severely flooded along southern section of Stubblefield trail
          Swans and a musk rate “burg” on lower Pine Lake
          Picnic pavilion near refuge headquarters
          Headquarters Pond
          Refuge headquarters