When you live in North Idaho you are pretty much required to go hiking. I am not a huge fan of hiking, however. I know it’s just walking uphill but I blame it on my childhood. Our driveway was a mile long, uphill both ways, in the snow, with coyotes nipping at my heels. All right, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration… however the mile-long driveway part wasn’t made up.
Boomer, Jovi and I have been out hiking North Idaho this summer, mostly to burn off all the beer I drink and all the treats they consume. It’s a vicious cycle that none of us is going to win anytime soon. I love beer and they love treats.
So with all this summer hiking, I have compiled a list of mostly easy to moderate dog-friendly hikes in the Idaho Panhandle. Like I said I am not a huge fan of hiking, so we kept it simple. Plus we hike alone, for the most part, so keeping it simple is wise as we don’t need a 127 hours outcome on our hands… or would that be a hand?
Anyway, I have broken this list into two parts, with this week’s trail list being the upper most part of Northern Idaho. And because I love to sort and organize things, I also broke out the trails by areas located to the nearest town, to give you a point of reference. Lastly, I have listed all trail distances as round trips. No one-way trail distances will be tolerated here.
Being that this is mountain country, it is always best to check trail guides to make sure the roads are clear and the trails are open. I’m looking at you Lake Darling Trail, as you were a failed attempt earlier this year.
Bonners Ferry Idaho Hiking
Snow Creek Falls Trail #189 / 1.2 Miles / Moderate / Elevation Gain 364 Feet
Everyone enjoys a waterfall, right? Well, how about two waterfalls? You’re not going to turn that down, are you? At Snow Creek Falls that’s just what you will get. Depending on the time of year the falls may be raging wild with water, in the spring, or taking a slow meander down the rocky cliff they drop from, in the fall. The upper falls are more impressive than the lower falls but don’t skip the lower falls. Each is pretty in their own right. Dogs should be on a leash as you are in bear/grizzly country.
How to get to Snow Creek Falls: head south of Bonners Ferry on Idaho State Highway 95, turning at the golf course, 2.5 miles out of town, onto Deep Creek Loop. Follow and turn right on Lion’s Den Road (there will be a brown sign for Snow Creek Falls where you turn). The road takes a hard right onto West Side Road. Cross the railroad tracks and continue until you reach a fork. Take a left up the gravel road, Snow Creek Road (FS 402) and follow for about 1.5 miles. The trailhead will be on the left and parking will be located just before.
If you want to extend your time in the area, continue driving along FS 402 to our next hike review, Roman Nose Lakes (see below).
Roman Nose Lakes Trail #165 / 4.5 miles / Moderate / Elevation Gain 974 Feet
Out of all of the hikes we have on this list, this is by far my favorite. The elevation gain is not overwhelming, the trail has spectacular views, and there are three lakes. When you have a dog who likes to swim, it pretty much doesn’t get better than that! Once you reach the parking lot you will see two different starting points. To the left, near the pit toilet, a wooden boardwalk leads you out to one of the Roman Nose Lakes. You can follow the boardwalk and find a non-crowded spot for you and/or your dog to hop in the water.
To get to the main trail, follow the boardwalk that leads into the forest from the parking lot. You will cross a bridge and follow along the boardwalk until the trail turns to dirt. Shortly thereafter the trail splits off. The entire trail is a loop so regardless of which way you go, you will not miss anything. I recommend going left first. The trail traverses along the mountainside, giving you amazing views of the lake by the parking lot.
Once you reach the top, the trail can be a bit tricky to follow as it is not well marked. Keep an eye out for wooden posts that once looked like they had signs on them, indicating where to go. Because they probably did at one point. The trail loops around at the top, heading back down the mountain. You will again see a post on the left, shortly after you start to head back down. This trail will lead you to another fork, with both trails leading each to an upper lake.
Both lakes are worthy of visiting, but if you are short on time, head left to the upper most lake. The upper most lake has easy access to the water and nice flat ground for picnicking, camping or basking in the sun. The second lake has a waterfall and also has swimming access. Each trail to the lakes is 1 mile round trip from the main trail.
How to get to Roman Nose Lakes: head south of Bonners Ferry on Idaho State Highway 95, turning at the golf course, 2.5 miles out of town, onto Deep Creek Loop. Follow and turn right on Lion’s Den Road (there will be a brown sign for Snow Creek Falls where you turn). The road takes a hard right onto West Side Road. Cross the railroad tracks and continue until you reach a fork. Take a left up the gravel road, Snow Creek Road (FS 402). Drive 9.5 miles on FS 402, taking a left onto FS 1007. Drive 7.3 miles over Caribou and Ruby Passes. Take a right on FS 2667 and follow for 0.5 miles. Take a right again to the day area parking, or left if you are camping.
An after hike beer or snack can be found at Kootenai River Brewing at 6424 Riverside Street in Bonners Ferry.
Priest Lake Idaho Hiking
Granite Falls Trail #301 / 2 miles / Easy / Elevation Gain 300 Feet
The star of the show may be Granite Falls, which can easily be seen with a short trip from the parking lot, but be sure to take the entire hike because you do not want to miss out on the upper falls. This path also includes a peaceful walk through the Roosevelt Grove Of Ancient Cedars, with trees that have been hanging around there for 800 to 2000+ years. Granite Falls is always an interesting waterfall to me because it looks like it falls sideways instead of straight down.
How to get to Granite Falls: Follow Highway 57 for 14 miles north past the town of Nordman. The trailhead along with a picnic area and pit toilet will be located on the left. This is bear and grizzly habitat, so be bear aware while you are there.
Navigation Trail #291 / 12 to 16 miles / Easy / Elevation Gain 200 Feet
Priest Lake consists of two lakes, the upper and lower lakes. Generally, people who visit Priest Lake go to Lower Priest. Most of the reason is that there are no roads to Upper Priest Lake. Which makes it is not only secluded but also somewhat of a mystical unicorn. There are a few ways to get to Upper Priest Lake, either by boating through the 2-mile thoroughfare from Lower Priest Lake or hiking along a few of the trails that will take you there.
We chose the Navigation Trail to lead us to Upper Priest Lake. The trailhead is located near the Beaver Creek Campground and has a nice large parking lot. The trail starts out meandering through the woods and crosses a small meadow. The trail leads out to the Plowboy Campground, at the south send of Upper Priest Lake. It is a primitive walk-in campground that offers a bear box for your food and shoreline camping.
Continuing on from Plowboy, you will traverse along a hillside. For the most part the trail has very little elevation gain, however, the hillside part of the trail is where you will be gaining elevation, in a somewhat peak type ascent and decent. We stopped at Navigation Campground and I let the dogs hop in Upper Priest Lake. It was there that I decided to turn around as both the dogs and I were in a full on mosquito assault. I had on bug repellent but it did not seem to phase the mosquitoes. So the only logical thing to do was hustle back to the trailhead.
The trail continues on 2 miles past the Navigation Campground, and when completed will give you the full 16-mile round trip hike. Turning around at the campground gives you a 12-mile round trip hike. If you can bear the mosquitoes and want to camp the Navigation Campground has a pit toilet and a bear box for food storage as well as access to the lake.
To get to the Navigation Trail take Highway 57 past Nordman, taking a right (east) on Reeder Bay Road. Follow for 14 miles to Beaver Creek Campground and then follow the signs to the trailhead. Picnic tables and a pit toilet are located at the trailhead. Additional swimming access for both you and your dog can be found at Ledgewood Bay Picnic Ground, about 1 mile after you turn onto Reeder Bay Road. There is a nice changing room, bathrooms and fewer bugs here!
If you are looking for an after hike beverage or snack I recommend stopping at Elkins Resort (404 Elkins Road Nordman ID). They make the most delectable Huckleberry drinks and food. Check out that beautiful huckleberry lemon drop! It was so good I almost couldn’t drink it. Hahaha!
Sandpoint Idaho Hiking
Mickinnick Trail #13 / 6.4 miles / Strenuous / Elevation Gain 2001 Feet
I won’t lie to you, I’ve never made it to the end of Mickinnick Trail. Although I hope by the end of this summer I will be able to muscle up the energy to do so. Mickinnick leads up a hillside with a packed dirt trail that is highly decorated with rocks. As the trail zig-zags back and forth up the hill you will occasionally get a peek out over the valley floor. There are a few benches along the way with First Bench located near the beginning of the trailhead. From First Bench, you get a decent view of the valley floor, Pend Oreille Lake and the town of Sandpoint. Hike a few more miles to the second bench and you get a better view of the same, but more bragging rights. If you make it to the top, you will have the most bragging rights.
To get to Mickinnick from Sandpoint follow Boyer north turning left on Baldy Mountain Road. Turn right on Great Northern Road and follow to the T intersection. Turn left on Woodland Drive, crossing the railroad tracks. The trailhead is located on the left. A pit toilet is located at the trailhead.
Gold Hill Trail #3 / 7.4 miles / Moderate / Elevation Gain 1541 Feet
Gold Hill is a heavy traffic trail for both hikers and mountain bikers and with good reason. The trail starts out with a decent climb while leading you through a forested canopy that provides shade for most of the trail. The majority of the trail is walking through the forest along a well-maintained dirt trail. There is a bench along the way with a filtered view of the lake, but you won’t see the lake again until you reach the end of the trail. Once you reach the top you are granted overlooking views of the town of Sandpoint, Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Lake Pend Oreille and Pend Oreille River.
To get to Gold Hill take Highway 95 heading south. Turn left on Bottle Bay Road for 4.8 miles. The trailhead is located on the right with a small parking lot. There is a pit toilet located at the trailhead.
Harrison Lake Trail #217 / 4.6 miles / Moderate /Elevation Gain 1433 Feet
This trail is an efficient person’s dream as there is no unnecessary meandering through the forest. The trail leads to the lake with very little deviation, taking you almost straight up the mountain.
The mountain is made of granite, which makes for a very rocky trail. Most of the trail is dirt with rocks, but towards the top of the mountain, the trail turns to solid rock. You may lose the trail a few times once you reach the top, but it can be easily found again if you just stick to walking straight up the mountain.
Once you reach Harrison Lake, it may surprise you by how large this alpine lake is. There are several camping sites around the lake and during my hike in July, still patches of snow.
I do advise being very careful on the way down as the rocky trail does cause some footing issues. I slipped, but caught myself, several times as I made my way down the mountain. Good hiking boots are a must on this trail!
To get to Harrison Lake head north on Highway 95 to Upper Pack River Road 11.5 miles. Turn west (left) onto Upper Pack River Road just before the gas station. Follow the road for 20 miles to the trailhead. A small parking lot and pit toilet will be located at the trailhead.
Check out Idaho Pour Authority (203 Cedar Street), a beer bottle shop or MickDuffs Brew Hall (220 Cedar Street) for after hike beverages. Both are dog-friendly.
Hope Idaho Hiking
Sam Owen Trail #4 / 1 mile / Easy / Elevation Gain 0 Feet
The Sam Owen Trail is a leisurely stroll through the forest. You do need to be aware while hiking with your dogs that there is a massive amount of deer in the area. Also, adhere to the signs all over the Hope Peninsula requesting that you not feed the deer. Tourists love to feed the deer as the deer are friendly and will approach people. Please help keep the deer wild by not feeding them.
The trail is about 1 mile, with the first half mile being somewhat paved. They say it is suitable for wheelchairs and strollers, but I think that is a bit of a stretch. The pavement is broken and rough. The trail leads through fields and forested areas with filtered views of Lake Pend Oreille. Be sure to take the side trail to Sam and Nina Owen’s grave sites. The Owens donated the land to become the recreation area. Located nearby is the Sam Owen Campground as well as the Beyond Hope Restaurant (1267 Peninsula Road), that is open seasonally and has dog-friendly porch seating overlooking Lake Pend Oreille.
Sagle Idaho Hiking
Mineral Point Trail #82 / 2.7 miles / Moderate / Elevation Gain 689 Feet
The Mineral Point Trail is probably one of the prettiest trails around. Lots of trails offer views of the lake, but this trail gives you almost exclusive views of the lake the entire hike. You will also get to feast your eyes on the Monarch Mountains, my favorite mountains in the area. They are also called The Green Monarchs, and with one look at them, you will see why, as they are covered in green foliage, giving them a stunning contrast against the blue lake.
The trail leads in two directions, heading west (to the right) will take you to Green Bay and the Green Bay Campground. You and your dogs can hop in the lake here for a quick swim before returning to the trailhead. If you take a left at the trailhead the path leads you along the connector trail which ends up at the Lost Lake Trailhead. Combine all three trails for three times the fun!
To get to Mineral Point Trail turn onto Sagle Road off of Highway 95. Follow Sagle Road to Garfield Bay, about 9 miles. Pass the public boat launch and turn left onto Garfield Bay Cut Off Road. Turn right onto USFS Road 532, follow for 2 miles. The road forks at about 2 miles take a right to Mineral Point. There are picnic tables and a pit toilet at the trailhead.
Lost Lake Trail #81 / 1.7 miles / Easy / Elevation Gain 128 Feet
Our first attempt to Lost Lake ended with the dogs and I becoming lost. The pun would have been funny if I had not been eaten alive by mosquitoes that day. The trailhead is not well marked and we accidentally took trail #82 as it was marked and I could not remember the trailhead number. The #82 trail is a connector trail to the Mineral Point Trail.
We returned another day and found the #81 trailhead, which is located across the parking area from the marked 82 trail. The trail is fairly short and leads through a forested area with marshy spots, which is a great breeding ground for mosquitoes, so wear your bug spray!
Near the end of the trail, there is a bike sign attached to a tree with a trail leading away from the main trail. You can take this trail to the lake or carry on the longer route to complete the entire trail. Lost Lake is a small lake surrounded by trees and looks like a great place to watch for wildlife.
To get to Lost Lake turn onto Sagle Road off of Highway 95. Follow Sagle Road to Garfield Bay, about 9 miles. Pass the public boat launch and turn left onto Garfield Bay Cut Off Road. Turn right onto USFS Road 532, follow for 3.5 miles to a dead end.
Round Lake State Park / 1.8 miles / Easy / Elevation Gain 39 Feet
Take a quick 11-mile drive from the town of Sandpoint and you will find one of the state parks in the area. Round Lake may be small but what it offers up is an adorable lake with the Trapper’s Trail Hike that leads you around the shoreline along with a nice quick jaunt into the woods. The longer trail, Stewardship Trail, 2.5 miles, is great for snowshoeing in the winter or taking the pups on during a summer camping adventure. Dogs are not allowed on the beach.
To get to Round Lake State Park head south on Highway 95, turning right on Dufort Road about 9 miles from Sandpoint. Follow for 2 miles and the park will be on the left. State Park Fees are required for day or overnight use of the park.
And that is our round up of some of the northern panhandle dog-friendly hikes in Idaho. Come back next week as we hike our way around North Idaho, moving slightly down the panhandle. There are some pretty stellar hikes in that area you and your dog won’t want to miss.