Hiking in North Idaho

From foothills to mountain tops, Idaho’s wilderness offers some of the best hiking in the country. With over 19,000 miles of trails, hikers can find everything from paved recreational trails to remote wilderness paths with steep, rocky inclines. Idaho even has several trails that are nationally recognized including The Idaho Centennial Trail, which extends approximately 1,200 miles from Nevada through Idaho up to the Canadian border. In 1990, it was officially designated by the Idaho Parks and Recreation Board and became the first trail to be adopted into the State Recreational Trail System. The trail is great for other activities including mountain biking, horseback riding, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing.

The North Idaho Centennial Trail The North Idaho Centennial Trail is a NON-MOTORIZED, multi-use recreational trail, which meanders for 24 miles from the state line at the Idaho/Washington border to beautiful Higgens Point, six miles east of Coeur d’Alene. This scenic trail runs along the Spokane River to Post Falls where it runs through neighborhoods and eventually to wooded areas leading to Coeur d’Alene. At the west end of Coeur d’Alene the trail again meets the Spokane River and follows it to the pristine Lake Coeur d’Alene.

The trail then follows the lake shoreline to Higgens Point, an Idaho State Park, which draws throngs of spectators in the late fall and early winter to view the annual visit of Bald Eagles as they migrate south. This scenic trail is composed primarily of Class I separated and paved trail with some small segments of Class II trail.
The trail has numerous rest areas, scenic views and historical interpretative signs to add to the enjoyment of one of the most beautiful trail systems in the country. The trail, which was built by dedicated public funds, has received national acclaim; being designated a Millennium Trail by Hillary Clinton in 1999.

Tubbs Hill

Tubbs Hill consists of over 120 acres and is bordered by Lake Coeur d’Alene on the west, south and east sides. There are several miles of hiking trails on the hill that provide spectacular scenery for everyone to enjoy. The trail head on the west side of Tubbs Hill is located at the southern end of 3rd Street in the parking lot.  The east side trail head is located at the south end of 10th Street. A 2.2 mile interpretive trail follows the perimeter of Tubbs Hill.

Mineral Ridge Trail

Mineral Ridge was the first recreation site developed by the Bureau of Land Management in Idaho. Construction began in 1963, with additions and improvements made in later years. On April 13, 1982, the trail was designated as a National Recreation Trail.

The BLM manages three recreation sites at Coeur d’Alene Lake Recreation Area, considered one of the most beautiful in the world. Mineral Ridge, a day use picnic site, serves as a trailhead for the 3.3-mile Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail. This scenic trail, rising 700 feet in elevation, offers hikers a lofty overlook of the lake.

Q’emiln Trail

The Q’emiln (pronounced Ka-mee-lin) Park is a 78.5 acre city park located on the south bank of the Spokane River with a sandy beach, boat launch, and group picnic facilities. Forty acres of hiking trails established by the Bureau of Land Management and Avista Power Co. wind through four miles of the Spokane River gorge near the town of Post Falls. This is an excellent place to view wildlife, rock climb and have a picnic.

The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes

The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes is a rail trail in Idaho, USA, which follows the former Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way from Mullan, a mountain mining town near the Montana border, to Plummer, a town on the prairie near the Washington border.

The Pulaski Trail

The Pulaski Tunnel Trail offers both the beauty of a cool walk in the forest and an adventure into the past. The two-mile course brings hikers to a spot across Placer Creek from the historic Pulaski Tunnel, the abandoned mine where “Big Ed” Pulaski saved all but five of his 45-man firefighting crew in the Great Fire of 1910. The trail has numerous interpretive signs. Both the trail and the mine are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Within the firefighting community, Pulaski is also remembered for refining the two bladed tool that bears his name. The Pulaski Tunnel Trail is a beautiful hike and a national shrine.

Spirit Lake – Larch Mountain,

On the north side of Spirit Lake, Idaho; 40 minutes NE of Spokane. Great views of Spirit Lake, not to mention the funky little town itself.

arch Mountain is a mountain summit in Kootenai County in the state of Idaho (ID). Larch Mountain climbs to 4,616 feet (1,406.96 meters) above sea level. Larch Mountain is located at latitude – longitude coordinates (also called lat – long coordinates or GPS coordinates) of N 47.966013 and W -116.960476.

Anyone attempting to climb Larch Mountain and reach the summit should look for detailed information on the Larch Mountain area in the topographic map (topo map) and the Spirit Lake West USGS quad. To hike and explore the Idaho outdoors near Larch Mountain, check the list of nearby trails.

Priest Lake Trails:

This trail is an easy hike that follows the west shoreline and passes in front of several summer homes. The 6 mile trail leaves from Outlet Bay Campground, passes through Osprey and Luby Bay Campgrounds, the Priest Lake Museum and Hill’s Resort and terminates at the Kalispell Bay Boat Launch. The trail crosses the Lakeshore Road # 237 twice just south of Hill’s Resort so use caution when crossing the road. No exclusive trailhead exists for this trail. To access the north end of the trail, turn off Highway 57 onto Kalispell Bay Road. In approximately ½ mile or so, just before reaching the Priest Lake Community Church, follow the road to the right towards Priest Lake Marina. Continue past the marina on Lakeshore Road to the Kalispell Bay Boat Launch . Trail access is located at the south end of the boat launch parking area. To access the south end of the trail, turn off Highway 57 onto the Outlet Bay Road. Drive approximately ½ mile and turn left onto the Lakeshore Road. Drive another ½ mile and turn right into the Outlet Bay Campground. This trail is open to foot traffic only.

Many scenic views of the lake are available along this trail. It crosses an old ski hill on the Southern end, continues through private land towards the north end and terminates on a secluded beach immediately south of Elkins on Priest Lake. The southern trailhead is located on the west side of Kalispell Bay Road at a locked gate across the road from the Kalispell Day-Use area, about ½ mile beyond the Kalispell Creek bridge. From the trailhead, follow the road behind the gate for approximately ½ mile until you see the Lakeview Trail #365 sign to the right. The north trailhead is located just south of Elkins on Priest Lake, near the lodge. Cross the footbridge that spans Reeder Creek and follow the trail from that point. The length of the trail is 4 ½ miles. This is a multiple use trail to include foot, mountain bike, motorized vehicles and horse traffic.

This trail begins on the east side of Lakeview Mountain. For the initial 1 ½ mile or so, the trail switchbacks up the steeper east side of the mountain. The first panoramic views of the lake and surrounding mountains are near the 2 mile mark. As the trail descends down the west side of the mountain, several more panoramic viewpoints will attract your attention. This portion of the trail passes through stands of Douglas fir, pine, young cedar and open hill sides. The total length of the trail is 51/2 miles and it is rated “More Difficult.” The beginning elevation of the trail is 2,640 feet and climbs to approximately 4,070 feet before descending back down to near lake level. From the east side the trail is accessed from the Kalispell Reeder trail # 365 about 1 mile south of Elkins Resort. The western trailhead is located just off Highway 57 between milepost 35 and 36 across from Bismark Meadows. This is a multiple use trail to include foot, mountain bike, motorcycles vehicles and horse traffic.

This is a very popular and well used trail. It traverses the west shoreline for 7.6 miles from just north of Granite Creek to Beaver Creek Campground. It is an easy hike that crosses five streams and has many grand views of the lake and the mountains situated on the east side of the lake. There are numerous access points to isolated beaches that make great picnic locations. To access this trail, turn off of Highway 57 at Nordman and follow Reeder Bay Road/ USFS Road #2412 for 4.7 miles. The first of four trailheads is on the right side of the road with two additional trailheads further up the road with the fourth at the south end of the Beaver Creek Boat Launch. The trail is designated for foot mountain bike and horse traffic.

This trail is a pleasant, easy hike that traverses a predominately Douglas fir forest for the first few miles. The trail then drops into an area of old-growth cedar as it approaches Upper Priest Lake. The trail crosses Ruby Creek as well as other smaller unnamed creeks and eventually follows the east shoreline of Upper Priest Lake to Trapper Campground. The trail passes by an old mine shaft, Coolin’s cabin, and early hunting stands perched high in the ancient cedars. The tread of the trail is normally in good shape and several wet areas are crossed via trail bridges. However, early in the season, portions of the trail in the cedar grove may be somewhat muddy. The route to the trailhead is via USFS Road # 302 ( an extension of Highway 57) from Nordman. Travel past the Roosevelt Cedar Grove/ Granite Falls area (14 miles from Nordman) and through Granite Pass. At the major intersection just beyond the pass, continue straight onto USFS Road #1013 until it intersects with USFS Road #655 (about 6 ½ miles). Turn right onto Road #655 and proceed for approximately ½ mile. The trailhead will be on your right and the parking area to your left, across from the trailhead. The length of this trail is 5 miles and it is restricted to foot, mountain bike and horseback use. This trail is located within grizzly bear habitat- use appropriate cautions.

Trail #308 is a very scenic trail that winds alongside the Upper Priest River and through stands of massive old-growth red cedar and lush river bottom vegetation. To access Trail #308, follow the same directions above for Trail #302 to Granite pass. Continue straight on USFS Road #1013 for approximately 11 ½ miles and look for the trailhead sight and parking area on the left side of the road. This 8.1 mile trail terminates at the jewel of this route: Upper Priest Falls, which tumbles 40 feet into a deep, crystal clear pool beneath towering walls of granite; just a quarter mile from the Canadian border. It is possible to reach the falls with a shorter but steep 2.5 mile hike starting further north at the Continental Trail #28. This trailhead can be reached by continuing north on Road #1013 for about another 11 ½ miles past the Trail #308 trailhead. Trail #28 trailhead is just short of the end of the road on the left side. Both trails are open to foot, mountain bike and horseback traffic only. Note that Road # 1013 beyond the 308 trailhead is not recommended for trailers due to the steep grade and tight switchbacks. These trails are located within grizzly bear habitat- use appropriate cautions.

The view from the summit of Lookout Mountain is stunning. The Lions Head, Lion Head Ridge, Abandon Mountain and numerous other striking Selkirk Crest land features lay before those who make the 2 ½ mile hike to the lofty vista point. In 1929, a cupola cabin was built to house lookout personnel. Along with the lookout tower (rebuilt in 1977) the cabin still stands as a sentinel overlooking the magnificent Selkirk Mountain Range. The unique building is listed on the National Historic Lookout Register and is, in itself, well worth the hiking effort. To reach the trail, drive north from Coolin on Cavanaugh Bay/ East Lakeshore Road/ State Forest Road # 1 towards Lionhead Unit of Priest Lake State Park (23 miles). Continue about 4 miles past the Loinhead Campground and bear right onto State Forest Road #44. Continue on Road #44 for 2 ½ miles to the junction with State Forest Road #43 turn right onto Road #43. Go ¼ mile to the junction with State Forest Road #432 turn left onto State Forest Road #432 and climb steadily for 3.0 miles to the trailhead on the left. Follow the trail to Lookout Lake. Beyond the lake, the trail ascends to a small saddle and trail junction. Stay on the trail to the left. This trail segment will terminate at Lookout Mountain Road. Follow this road to the lookout site.

How about a hike to the 7,300 foot elevation level capped with the reward of incredible panoramic views? The beauty of Priest Lake unfolds nearly a mile below, the awesome grandeur of Chimney Rock seems but an arm’s length away, and the Selkirk Crest surrounds you. It can be yours for a moderate hiking effort and about three to four hours of your time. The Mount Roothaan/ Chimney Rock Trail is a popular route that leads into the backcountry of Priest Lake with spectacular vistas along the way. You can drive your vehicle (high clearance only!) to the trailhead parking area atop Horton Ridge at an elevation of 5,100 feet. From the trailhead, the 2 mile trail leads along Horton Ridge up to a saddle near the crest of Mount Roothaan. The last ½ mile of trail is “mountain goat country” very steep and rocky. The trail continues on to base of Chimney Rock for those hardy souls who survive the “mountain goat” climb and desire an additional two hours or so of hiking (round trip from Mount Roothaan to Chimney Rock.) Good hiking boots are a must on this portion of the trail as the route passes through an extensive talus field. To reach Mount Roothaan/ Chimney Rock trailhead, travel north from Coolin 7.4 miles on Cavanaugh Bay/ East Lakeshore Road (or 4 miles south from the Indian Creek Campground) to Forest Road #24. This road intersects with East Lakeshore Road immediately north of Hunt Creek Bridge. Turn onto Road #24 and continue for 4 miles until you arrive at a fork in the road. Bear left at the fork onto Forest Road #2. After traveling 1.6 miles, you will arrive at the intersection of Roads #2 and #25. Road #2 continues straight and Road #25 continues to the right. Proceed on Road #25 for 4.1 miles to the trailhead parking area. The drive from the East Lakeshore Road to the trailhead will take approximately one hour and the hike to Mount Roothaan takes about 1½ hours.

Although this trail appears to be a short, easy one-mile hike, don’t be misled- this trail will require more jumping than hiking. The trail to Hunt Lake very rarely meets Mother Earth-virtually the entire route traverses across a talus field, requiring hikers to hop from boulder to boulder as they follow the painted rock cairns and arrows that mark the way. It is the kind of hike that you will either love or hate. Either way, the payoff is well worth the effort. Nestled in a high alpine bowl, Hunt Lake presents a most stunning setting. To reach the Hunt lake trail head travel north from Coolin 7.4 miles on Cavanaugh Bay/ East Lakeshore Road (or 4 miles south from the Indian Creek Campground) to Forest Road #24. This road intersects with East Lakeshore Road immediately north of Hunt Creek Bridge. Turn onto Road #24 and continue for 4 miles until you arrive at a fork in the road (junction with Road #2 off to the left). At this point Road #2 and #24 becomes the same road and continues off to the right. Follow Road #2/Road #24 a ½ mile to the junction where Road #2 and Road #24 splits again. Turn left on Road #24( note reforestation sign at junction) and travel 1 mile to the Road #241 junction formally known as Road #243. Turn left on Road #241 and travel 3.5 miles to the end of the road. There is a small trail sign to the east of the parking area.

When planning to hike on the east side of the Lake it is a good idea to stop in at the Idaho Department of Lands office in Cavanaugh Bay (adjacent to the airstrip) or call (208) 443-2516 to get the latest directions and maps. The east side of the Lake can have active timber sales in progress where logging trucks or logging equipment can pose a danger to the general public traveling on State logging roads. The Department of Lands can make you aware of current logging activities and road restrictions. The Department of Lands also has maps and directions to additional hikes and scenic attractions on the East side of the Lake.

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2 thoughts on “Hiking in North Idaho

  1. I’m interested in a combo. hiking and rafting trip for the summer of 2014. . We are both in our 50′s but quite active. Thank you.

    • Jackie, If you could fill out the Request for Information form on the website we would be happy to mail out some information to you or if you prefer we can email you those resources as well. Just makes it easier for us when you submit the request. Thank you!

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