The Big Creek area makes for good mid-summer hiking, with the main obstacles out of the way: No more snow, no swollen creeks, and no oppressive heat. Given the length and elevation gain, the summer solstice is the perfect day as long as the weather cooperates. Prepare to be dazzled by 360-degree views from Lemonade Peak, a plethora of wildflowers, and some impressive dam-engineering courtesy of Papa Beaver.
Beacon Hills primarily serves as a recreational area for mountain bikers. You can explore on foot as well, but may get annoyed by the numerous, tightly-wound switchbacks on the hills. Other than that, it’s a nice hike through the woods, close to town, with interesting rock formations and frequent views of the city and distant hills.
Queen of the mountains, as she is known, Rigi has been an exceedingly popular tourist attraction for well over a hundreds years. A cog-wheel railway has been in operation since 1871, the oldest in Europe. Views of the surrounding lakes and alps are spectacular, whether you are already at the top or working your way up through farm-house studded meadows and shady woods.
The Crystal Lake loop in the St. Joe Mountains is rather pretty and surprisingly popular given the rather tediously long drive up Rochat Divide. The trout-filled lake, gorgeous camp spots, and huckleberry-carpeted hillsides make it certainly a worthwhile endeavour, topped off with sweeping views from Pearson Peak across the Coeur d’Alene Mountains and the Palouse.
The southern trail system at Heyburn State Park was clearly designed with equine users in mind. It makes for good hiking nonetheless, particularly during the colder months when you have it to yourself. That said, it’s mostly in the woods, with just a few locations with views across the lake, making it more suitable for very hot days.
This 38-mile loop served as our inaugural hike into Montana’s Cabinet Wilderness Area. Magnificient views, picturesque alpine lakes, plenty of wildlife, and some of the best ridge hiking you can dream of all packed into a day of fun!
The Beach Trail extends from Outlet Bay to Kalispell Bay along Priest Lake’s western shore. It traces the lake’s shore closely, running in front of many summer homes and presenting fabulous views across the lake. The Woodrat trail, a neat mountain biking path through the woods, completes the loop.
Exceedingly popular with mountain bikers, the Mount Spokane Loop covers most ground within the state park without actually ascending Mount Spokane. From the park’s entrance, the trail climbs to a saddle southeast of Mount Spokane, criss-crosses the ski runs and chairlifts, then drops down the north side only to ascend anew for fantastic views from Day Mountain. A quick visit to Mount Kit Carson, a steep decline in dense forest above Burping Brook, and a short excursion to the south of Deadman Creek round out the hike.
Once covered by huge stands of white pine, the Big Creek drainage was targeted by miners and loggers in the late 19th century. The 1910 Great Burn wreaked havoc, however, downing precious stands of giant pines and burning what was left, including more than two dozen firefighters who were temporarily interred on Cemetery Ridge. Today, much of the drainage is covered by brush, which attracts elk and wolves, though the pine and fir stands are improving. Much of the trail system is National Recreation Trail.
BLM’s Escure Ranch property offers an extensive trail network that not only surprises with wildlife–we saw deer, snakes, coyotes, pheasants, and hawks–, but also features impressive basalt rock formations that poke like giant squat mushrooms out of the ground. The icing on the cake is Towell Falls, where Rock Creek slides over multiple edges of a rock table. Definitely a must-do hike in spring and fall.
The 530-acre Dishman Hills Natural Area consists of a fir-studded rise dotted with ponds, granite rock formations, and several deep parallel ravines. It is almost entirely surrounded by residential housing and accessible from three sides. There are many loops, ranging from a short quarter-mile stroll to this 7-mile loop encompassing both the inner and outer trails.
McLellan is a 410-acre pine-covered property tucked into an elbow formed by the Spokane River. The slow and wide river is actually called Lake Spokane and abuts the conservation area on three sides. The four-to-five mile loop moves along a bluff overlooking the river, skirts a decaying log cabin, winds through thick stands of pine saplings, and includes a comparatively open spot on the river’s edge. The local white-tailed deer population is almost as dense as the pine saplings.
This 6-mile loop explores the northern portion of the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, meandering through open Ponderosa forest and marshy meadows, and taking a few side trips for closeups of area lakes.
The Scroggie Loop is a 3-mile track on the eastern bank of Fishtrap Lake, meandering through scrub steppe, deep coulees, thin Ponderosa stands, and windswept rock benches. It’s best hiked in spring and fall to avoid summer heat and rattlesnakes.
Higgens Point is located at the terminus of the North Idaho Centennial Trail, jutting out into the east end of Lake Coeur d’Alene. While not very long, the hike is nonetheless an ideal leg stretcher if you’re just travelling through this area, especially during the colder months (November through February) when bald eagles feast on Kokanee salmon spawn. It’s a fun spot during the summer, too, with views across the water, a nearby osprey nest, a gravel-and-sand beach, picnic areas, and moorage.
Reports of the Canfield Mountain trail system would be incomplete without mentioning its cave. Located perhaps a mere 50 yards from the trailhead, it’s up a one-way trail (the wrong way) and thus we hiked this 3.5 mile loop to get there the long way!
The McKenzie Conservation area covers nearly 500 acres along the northwestern shore of Newman Lake. Host to deer, moose, raccoons and a plethora of birds, including eagles, the conservation area features around five miles of trails through cool cedar forest and along the marshy lakeshore.
Kamiak Butte is forested knob that rises some 1,000 feet out of the rolling Palouse wheat fields. The 300-acre property used to be a state park and is now a Whitman county park, offering a haven for wildlife, camping and hiking for humans, and spectacular views across the Palouse. The trail climbs to the peak, then follows the open ridge northbound (“Pine Ridge Trail”) and drops down to the trailhead through mixed coniferous forest. It is a National Recreation Trail.
Connecting two former lookout tower sites, the relatively level ten-mile Shoshone Ridge loop dishes out phenomenal views across the Coeur d’Alene River drainage and towards the Idaho-Montana state line. Little Guard Lookout is still standing and on the National Historic Lookout Register. The first iteration was built in 1919, and today’s version is available for rent during the summer months.
The Four Mile Cove hike is a short boardwalk loop through a dense mangrove forest on Florida’s gulf coast with two short excursions out onto the Caloosahatchee River.
Lake Wenatchee State Park covers almost 500 wooded acres along the eastern shore of Lake Wenatchee near the outlet. Open year-around, the park’s activities include camping (almost 100 sites), swimming, horseback riding (for rent), biking, kayaking (for rent), cross-country skiing, and, of course, hiking. This loop meanders through the northern section of the park, along the lake’s shore and a short distance next to the Wenatchee River.
Ancient Lakes is a cluster of at least 5 lakes, maybe more, depending on the season, huddling beneath sheer basalt cliffs at the end of a coulee near the Columbia River. A network of trails loops around the basin, climbs the basalt cliffs, and reaches down into the Columbia River.
Whether it’s lush creek bottoms smothered in devil’s club and ferns or sweeping views from high ridgetops, the Long Canyon – Parker Ridge loop promises to satisfy every hiker. Long Mountain Lake, cuddled in a picturesque granite cirque near the highest peaks of the American Selkirks, is merely the icing on the cake, as are the centuries-old cedar and hemlock trees in the only two unlogged drainages in the American Selkirks.
The St. Regis Lakes are Montana’s twins of Idaho’s Stevens Lakes, nestled close together just across the stateline. This trail conveniently starts out near the Lookout Recreation Area and visits both lakes, then climbs an avalanche chute to the stateline and its sweeping views. It follows the stateline eastwards, up an unnamed knob and steeply downhill into the Copper Lake basin. An easy hike along Copper Gulch and the Nor-Pac trail completes the loop.
The Mullan Loop is an easy half-mile interpretive trail showcasing parts of the old Mullan wagon road, built in the 1860s to connect Fort Benton with Fort Walla Walla, and newer Highway 10, built in 1916.
The Coeur d’Alene River National Recreation Trail (#20) is easily one of the nicest hikes in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains. It follows the playfully-meandering North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River for about 15 miles through coniferous forest and conveniently connects to area trails to create this 26 mile loop.
Nelson Peak is located just east of Avery, population 25, sandwiched between the St. Joe River and its north fork. The Milwaukee Railroad put Avery on the map in the early twentieth century by routing a railroad through Montana and down the North Fork St. Joe and St. Joe river valleys. The North Fork section is now a rail-to-trail called Route of the Hiawatha. From its beginning at the St. Joe River, the Nelson Ridge trail climbs the eastern flank of Nelson Peak, traverses the southeastern face below the peak, drops down the western side along Telichpah Creek and returns to the trailhead following the St. Joe North Fork. It is a National Recreation Trail.
The Chipmunk Rapids National Recreation Trail’s gentle grade makes for an ideal cross-country skiing loop during the winter months. It is inviting for a hike even in summer, particularly the sections along Kaniksu Marsh and the Priest River. To top it off, we added a short bushwhacking excursion to Mission Falls on the Upper West Branch of the Priest River.
The Deep Creek Canyon loop trail winds around the northern section of Riverside State Park without actually crossing Deep Creek. Open Ponderosa forests, fields of wildflowers, sweeping views from the edge of basalt cliffs, and the cooling waters of Deep Creek are just some of the highlights of this loop. The return leads through a moonscape of basalt talus and sky-piercing spires and along the smooth flow of the Spokane River.
The Slavin Conservation Area covers 628 acres of Ponderosa forest, rolling meadows, marshes and a lengthy pond much treasured by waterfowl. The site of the pond and wetlands was in fact farmland for most of the past century, drained by early settlers (you won’t find the pond on the older USGS maps), and now restored to provide wildlife habitat. The trail circumnavigates most of the lake, but skips the last quarter due to heavy flooding. Instead, it loops back through fir and pine forest in a figure-eight loop and climbs the bluffs along the eastern shore for a bird’s eye view of the area.
Located about 20 miles north of Moscow, ID, McCroskey State Park stretches along Skyline Ridge to the Washington state line. The land was donated to the Park Service by Virgil McCroskey in 1955. Worried about maintenance cost, the state of Idaho only accepted on the condition that McCroskey maintain the land at his own expense for 15 years. He accepted, maintained the property for 15 years, and died a few weeks later at age 93. The park is named after his mother, Mary Minerva McCroskey. The loop trail ascends the southeastern flank of Mineral Mountain in the easternmost section of the park, then follows the ridge to Mission Mountain, and completes the loop by returning via the Korth Trail, a logging road that contours along the side of the ridge.
Heyburn State Park on Lake Coeur d’Alene’s southern tip has a lot to offer, be it hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, fishing, horseback riding, camping, you name it! It’s the oldest state park in the Pacific Northwest, carved out of the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation in 1908. The figure-eight loop hike combines a number of popular trails in the northern section, including Lakeshore, Plummer Creek, Indian Cliffs, Shoeffler Butte, Whitetail, and a piece of the Appaloosa equestrian trail.
Situated northwest of Spokane, Riverside State Park stretches along the Spokane River and covers some 14,000 acres. It’s Washington’s largest, beating Mount Spokane by a few square feet. Trail 25, so-named due to it’s 25-mile length, closely hugs the river to the Nine-Mile area, then loops back atop the high bluffs and along the base of the basalt cliffs overlooking the park.
This figure-eight loop hike along Hog Lake and Fishtrap Lake explores the activities of the settlers in this area, the Hog Creek waterfall and numerous ponds and wetlands teeming with birds and aquatic life.
Palisades Park is on the west side of the Spokane River, just south of Riverside State Park. Its 700 acres feature the same basalt rock formations that the state park is known for, as well as extensive views of downtown Spokane. To top it off, Indian Canyon Creek boasts an impressive waterfall, viewable from top and bottom.
Named after French-Canadian voyageur and ferry operator Antoine Plante, the Antoine Peak Conservation Area was established in 2007 and covers more than 1,000 acres. The loop trail ascends the almost 3,400-foot peak, offering sweeping views across the Spokane valley, Liberty Lake, and the distant Selkirk and Coeur d’Alene Mountains.
Ideal for skate skiing, the Tripp’s Knob Loop is a fun excursion along a lesser-traveled trail in Mount Spokane’s Nordic Ski Park. It leads to a cozy, little-used warming hut on Tripp’s Knob.
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.
At just under six miles and less than 400 feet of cumulative elevation gain, the Shadow Mountain loop is an easy beginner’s trail in Mount Spokane’s Nordic ski area. For much of its length, the trail winds along a forested ridge, then curls around Shadow Mountain, which opens up a broad vista of the Twin Lakes area.
Of the many ways to ascend Canfield Mountain, the East Flank is perhaps the least pleasant. That’s because the entire hillside is riddled with a web of trails used, mostly, by dirtbikes. During the winter months, however, the absence of motor and mountain bikes makes this an excellent snowshoe route close to town.
The Mount Spokane Perimeter Loop follows the outermost trails of the Mount Spokane Nordic Ski Area in a counterclockwise fashion. The tour extends just over 16 miles and includes 1,300 feet of elevation gain on trails groomed for tracked or skate skiing.
At an elevation exceeding 4000 feet, Mount Spokane offers prime conditions for cross-country skiing. Groomed trails exceed 30 miles and include two warming huts. Grooming is typically exceptional and accommodates classic (track) as well as skate skiing. Plus, a patrol is on duty, just in case. In short, Mount Spokane offers some of the best cross-country skiing in the Inland Northwest.
Cougar Bay is a conservation effort, with the Nature Conservancy and the BLM contributing two almost-adjacent parcels of land. The area is particularly well-known for a large variety of waterfowl, nesting ospreys, beaver, and otters. The trail winds 3+ miles along a wetland and through forest to a lookout platform with views of Coeur d’Alene, the lake, and the Spokane river.
Lake Darling is one of five lakes situated in this northwest corner of the Cabinet Mountains. A pleasant trail leads through an evergreen forest of fir and spruce to the lake, which comes with a pretty campsite and a good chance of seeing a moose. The ascent to the Pend Oreille Divide opens up views of the Selkirks, Cabinets and Purcells, while the return trip through alpine meadows high above Gordon Creek rounds out the loop.
Iller Creek is one of the most interesting loop hikes close to Spokane, leading to spectacular outlooks across the Spokane valley and the Selkirks to the north and only a short distance later the sprawling Palouse to the south. The trail continues to the Rocks of Sharon (Big Rock) area, featuring oversized boulders popular with rock climbers. On the return trip there’s the option to turn it into a figure-eight loop and ascend the flank of Tower Mountain.
The Saltese Uplands are a grossy knob situated in the southernmost reaches of the Selkirks. Located between Spokane and Liberty Lake, the conservation area offers generous views of urban sprawl and the remnants of the Saltese Flats, a marshland drained in favor of Timothy hay in the late 1800s.
Farragut State Park sits at the southern tip of Lake Pend Oreille on the the site of a former naval training station. During World War II more than 293,000 soldiers received basic training here, and at its peak the base had a population of 55,000 people. After the war, the site served second duty as a college, which eventually floundered. The land was turned over to the state of Idaho in 1949 and became a state park in 1965. Few of the original structures remain; what does remain, however, is miles and miles of superb hiking trails.
Round Lake is a small state park about 10 miles south of Sandpoint. It features 3 hiking trails of which the Trapper trail is by far the most picturesque, as it closely skirts the lake’s shore. Along the trail are frequent signs of beaver activity, including felled trees, lodges, and dams. There’s a good chance other wildlife, such as squirrels, turtles, deer, and many kinds of water fowl can be spotted, too.
English Point is a small enclave of National Forest land on the west side of Hayden Lake. As such, it is surrounded by residential housing and offers over five miles of hiking trails close to the city of Hayden. Though somewhat lacking in either a spectacular destination or interesting sights along the way, the trail is a pleasant walk in the woods close to the city. It is a National Recreation Trail.
Contrary to its name, the Liberty Lake loop trail does not actually circumvent the lake. Rather, it follows meandering Liberty Creek closely, at first through marshes, then deciduous woods, and finally extensive patches of towering Western red cedar. The trail then steeply ascends a flank of Mica Peak and dazzles the hiker with a series of waterfalls slipping and sliding over smooth rock slabs. While views are limited mostly to the Idaho mountains, the trail’s moss-covered riverbanks, beaver-built marshes, gurgling waterfalls, and varied wildlife make this a popular destination.
Named after Isaac Stevens, first governor of the Washington Territory in the mid-1800s, Stevens Peak is the tallest mountain in this area of pristine alpine lakes, jagged crags, and stunning waterfalls. Stevens Lake and Lone Lake are exceedingly popular weekend destinations for hikers and campers, not least due to their close proximity to Mullan and I-90.
Combining the Caribou Ridge National Recreation Trail with forest service trails 227, 257, and 258, this hike forms a loop of just under 20 miles. While views are limited, the hike is pleasant all around, well-maintained, and offers a rewarding combination of scenery, altitude, vegetation, and wildlife.
A popular 3-to-4-mile loop hike offering breathtaking views of Lake Coeur d’Alene.
A 2-mile loop hike right in downtown Coeur d’Alene
A 44-mile figure-eight loop along Lost Creek to the Idaho-Montana state line, including the Trout Creek National Recreational trail on the Montana side.
A seventeen-mile loop hike through lush canyon bottoms and alpine meadows to the top of Graham Mountain, Idaho.