In the profession of travel writing, there is a common thread between us all. We are always traveling AWAY from our homes. Seeking adventure elsewhere. But when you live in North Idaho, home to alpine views, crystal clear lakes and adventures around every corner, why travel?
I will shamefully admit that Round Lake Idaho State Park is just minutes away from Sandpoint, where I live. I have only been to Round Lake twice in my 37 years of living here. The park is small but has all the things needed for an excellent weekend: a campground, lake swimming, fishing, and hiking trails. You really could not wish for anything better.
On the day we arrived, it was a beautiful sunny day in early May. The lake was as still as a deer thought to be stalked by a predator. Although with a much less graphic ending, the water did offer me perfect reflection photos.
There are a few trails at Round Lake, but the main trail is the Trapper Trail. Trapper Trail is a 3-mile path that rounds the lake, pun intended. Most of the trail is easy, with a few short hill climbs that even this out of shape girl can traverse with ease.
The main attraction is the lake, which can be admired throughout most of the Trapper Trail. The trail starts near the boat launch and beach area leading west. The path leads you along the shoreline, where it will dart into the forest about half way through the hike. The trail takes you, via a bridge, over a small creek and up a small hillside filled with trees.
On a hot summer day, you will be pleased with the shade these trees provide you. The trail returns back to the shoreline and carries on to the east side of the lake into the marshy lands. Boardwalks are provided, however, spring flooding did provide some challenging navigation on part of the non-boardwalk areas for the dogs and me. We hopped, leaped and hoped for the best as we made our way through the wet, marshy spots. Well, Boomer and I hopped and leaped. Jovi decided to just prance her way through the muck. Fortunately, at the end of the trail, you can wash your dogs off in the boat ramp area.
Dogs are not allowed on the beach but there was no signage indicating that dogs were not allowed in the boat ramp area. I let the dogs wash off their muck and play a bit in the water. Boomer, of course, loves any opportunity to take a swim. Jovi is not as much of a fan of water, but I made her get in enough to erase any evidence of her mud bogging ways.
The day-use area of the park provides a small parking lot as well as a covered pavilion and restrooms. Entrance to the park is $5 USD or if you have an Idaho passport pass, it is included in the $10 USD annual fee. Another embarrassing fact about me, 2017 was the first year for me to purchase a passport pass. I have three state parks within a 65-mile radius of where I live, which makes this fact even sadder.
Round Lake Idaho State Park may be just 142 acres, but there is plenty to keep you busy. In addition to the hiking trails, during the summer months, canoes, paddle-boats, and SUP boards are available for rent. During the winter months, you can partake in cross-country skiing, ice fishing, ice skating and snowshoeing. There are 16 serviced campsites and 35 trailer campsites (limited to 24 feet). Showers, flush toilets, a dump station, and electricity are all available at the campground as well.
Round Lake State Park is located at 1915 Dufort Road Sagle Idaho
If you want to take the scenic route back to Sandpoint, head west on Dufort Road (left) and follow Dufort to Priest River Idaho for 17 miles. Cross the bridge across the Pend Oreille River and take Highway 2 back to Sandpoint. The highway follows along the Panhandle Historic River Passage Scenic Byway.
Heading east, towards Sandpoint, you will have several opportunities for photos as well as a few quick dashes into the river if you are traveling with pets or want to hop in the river for a quick swim. Try out Riley Creek Recreation Area in Laclede or Dover Bay in Dover for swimming spots.
You will also not want to miss riverside dining at Dish in Dover Bay. They are open seasonally and have deck seating overlooking the Pend Oreille River. After your meal, your dog can enjoy some time at the Balto Dog Park near the Dover Bay Beach.
If you head west along the Panhandle Historic River Passage Scenic Byway towards the Washington State border there are a few must stop sites along this route including Albeni Falls Dam (2376 US-2 Oldtown ID), where tours are offered in the summer, and Top Frog Brewery (221 Vista Drive Newport WA), open only on Saturdays from 4 to 8 pm. The byway is 28.5 miles long traversing between Oldtown Idaho, near the Washington State border to Sandpoint Idaho.