Bicycle Touring the Selkirk Loop
For the touring bicyclist that wants a fantastic multi-day road ride, the International Selkirk Loop, offers one of the premier rides in the West, as it takes riders through the beautiful Selkirk Mountains, across the border into Canada and back south through eastern Washington. In North Idaho, riders will travel through Bonners Ferry, Sandpoint and Priest River – any of which makes a good starting point for the ride.
The Loop’s main 280-mile route follows glacially carved river valleys without any major passes to climb as it contours along lake shorelines and historic waterways with charming small towns to stop and explore. The route includes a ferry ride across Kootenay Lake – the longest free ferry ride on the continent. For a comfortable pace with plenty of time for off-bike activities, allow 5-7 days for this beautiful ride.
The roadway is two lanes along most of the distance with shoulders adequate in many places and narrow in others. The difficulty rating for this ride is considered intermediate to challenging. Traffic is generally light, with the busiest time of year being July and August. Cycling in the shoulder seasons is fine; September to mid-October provides warm days, crisp nights and beautiful fall colors. Spring riding in late April through mid-June is beautiful with snow capped peaks, spring flowers and lush green fields, but has a higher chance of rain and blustery weather.
The International Selkirk Loop has a host of information tailored just for the touring bicyclist, including a Cyclist’s Guide with color route and elevation maps for the entire route, spiral bound and printed on weather resistant paper. Use the Loop’s website to plan your trip.
The Selkirk Loop is also the route for the annual WaCanId Ride, a five-day event ride held each September that is fully supported by Rotary Clubs in towns around the Loop. It is a fundraiser for the clubs – but a heck of a bargain for a supported ride with cyclists from around the country.
Among other distinctions, the Loop is the only National Scenic Byway that crosses an international border; it is also designated as one of the Top 10 Scenic Drives in the Northern Rockies.