Elk Mountain

The Mineral Ridge trail is one of our favorite hikes, but it’s rather short and we’ve always wondered whether it’s possible to extend it beyond the Wilson and Lost Man spurs. This tour explores the Coeur d’Alene National Forest out to Elk Mountain, a former lookout tower site destroyed in 1957.
  • Coeur d’Alene Mountains
2.8 out of 5
Moderate (Uphill)
11.9 miles
4:20 hours moving time (Hiking)
Elevation Gain
2,339 feet
High Point
4,246 feet (Elk Patrol)
Low Point
2,121 feet (trailhead)
  • Mountain
  • Outing Type
  • Daytrip
  • Trail Type
  • Out-and-back
  • Trailbed
    Packed dirt, gravel, forest road
  • None
  • Camping
    • There are a few spots along the way, but they are dry
    • Beauty Creek Campground is near the trailhead
    • Better than expected. This trail is primarily used by hunters
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Coeur d’Alene National Forest
  • Status
  • Unprotected
  • Maps
  • Lane
  • Mount Coeur d’Alene
  • Fees & Permits
  • None required
  • ()
    Open To
  • Hikers
  • Dogs
  • Horses
  • Mountain Bikers
  • (bikers are not allowed on the Mineral Ridge trail)
  • From I-90 take the Wolf Lodge Bay exit (#22) and go  south on Highway 97 for three miles. Parking will be on your left at the Mineral Ridge trailhead.
  • Season
    December 22, 2018

    Follow the Mineral Ridge, Wilson, and Lost Man trails and you will end up at an elbow of FR-1575 after 2 miles, high above Wolf Lodge Bay. An ATV trail continues through the woods on the other side of the road, but meets back up with FR-1575 a few hundred yards later. Here FR-1575 splits into three roads, with the right 2 barred by a gate. The right-most road (1575E) peters out after less than a mile. The middle road (1575D) heads up into the woods through a section that has seen some logging (but no clearcut). Within less than a mile, the road reaches the ridgetop with decent mountain views into the Coeur d’Alene Mountains. Continuing on, the road splits into threes again within a few hundred yards.

    We pursued the rightmost fork first, as it is the widest and in best condition. However, it turned overgrown quickly and became impassible within less than a mile. The middle road was the most promising on the map, but was littered with downed logs. Thus, we took the left, which is a narrow twin-track hemmed in on both sides by young fir trees that were trimmed. Follow this for a quarter mile to a right-hand turn with decent views. There you’ll find a spur heading into the woods and rejoining the middle road. That’s the way to go.

    Continuously climbing, the road is now a twin track that was increasingly covered with snow. Eventually, it leads to a former lookout on Elk Patrol (near point 4239), with limited views. The climb is now largely complete and all that’s left is a relatively level traverse to Elk Mountain with one particularly good spot for views of Lake Coeur d’Alene and the endless forest. This spot was clearly favored by elk, too, judging by the indentations in the snow where they’d bedded down. On Elk Mountain, the lookout is long gone and views are rather limited.

    On the way back we discovered a new trail where FR-1575 meets up with Lost Man trail. We decided to give it a go. It hugs the edge of the national forest as it proceeds straight south and drops elevation. Views of the lake or spotty and in no way measure up to those on the Mineral Ridge trail. Within half a mile, the trail rejoins FR-1575, but immediately drops downhill again to a avoid a sweeping switchback in 1575. But soon enough the trail meets up with 1575 again, and then it is following that road all the way down to Beauty Creek and follow the Beauty Creek Bay road back to the trailhead. To be honest, that wasn’t a worthwhile detour.

    Alternate Routes

    • Take the Mineral Ridge trail on the way back; it’s far prettier
    • The trail continues beyond Elk Mountain. We have not pursued that, but assume that it eventually meets up with the Fourth of July trail system at Rose Saddle

    Things to Consider

    • This area is popular with hunters and firewood cutters due to the proximity to Coeur d’Alene

    Not so great

      View of Lake Coeur d’Alene from the Wilson trail
      Wolf Lodge Bay
      FR 1575
      View from FR 1575D
      This narrow hemmed-in trail is the right one
      View into the Coeur d’Alene Mountains
      We hit snow in the upper reaches
      Foundation of the old lookout tower on Elk Patrol
      View from Elk Patrol
      Views are mostly of mountains
      Traverse from Elk Patrol to Elk Mountain
      Remains of the Elk Mountain lookout
      Lake Coeur d’Alene in the distance
      Views along the descent to Beauty Creek