By Ben Olson
Fall is a special time of year for locals. It feels like we get our town back from the summer hordes and there is still a little meat left on the bone. With a stretch of cool, sunny days still ahead of us, here are a handful of fun fall activities that will get you outside before the snow flies.
There are a plethora of trail options for mountain biking in North Idaho. One great spot I just tried out last week was Round Lake State Park on Dufort Road. I grew up hiking around this postage stamp lake (and up to Heart Attack Hike before the trail closed), but I failed to realize, until recently, the trail was also a great location for mountain biking.
There are two main trail systems around the lake, the Trapper’s Trail, which hugs the lake, and the Stewardship Trail, which forays a bit further away from the water. I think mountain bikers should stick to the longer trail.
The first part of the Stewardship Trail is a wide Jeep track that travels into the woods. It’s an easy ride with a great view of the fall colors and quiet hillsides. A number of spurs can jog you back onto Trapper’s Trail, though I recommend steering clear of the section of this inner trail on the far side of the lake which is nearly impassible to bikes because of the thick roots everywhere.
Overall, Round Lake’s trails are suited for the novice mountain biker, with ample opportunity to get lost back there if you don’t care where you’re going. Unless you bought the State Parks sticker with your vehicle registration, it’ll cost you $5 to get into Round Lake.
This is the perfect time to check out those mountain lakes that you avoided during the summer tourist rush. Harrison Lake at the end of Pack River Road is a great example of a fun, easy hike to a gorgeous spot that quiets down in the off season. Just over 2 miles one way, the trail climbs about 1,500 feet and deposits you at a crystal clear lake which denotes the beginning of the Pack River.
Also, Roman Nose Lakes are the most fun during the fall season when it’s just you and the outdoors. With three different lakes to view and off-trail scrambling opportunities everywhere, there’s a little something for everyone at Roman Nose. The views of the Selkirk Crest from the top of Roman Nose Peak are second to none.
Fall color watching
Okay, I get it; maybe you don’t want to strain yourself. How about a lazy fall color drive? One great option is to drive Highway 2 to Priest River, then travel across the bridge and back along Dufort Road. It’s a quiet road with low traffic and great colors. The Kootenai Wildlife Refuge outside of Bonners Ferry is another great spot to check out, too.
Further south, there are great fall colors along the 89-mile St. Joe River Scenic Byway. To get there, head to St. Maries and take the Forest Hwy 50 (FS 50) east along the St. Joe River. It will spit you out at the Montana border, and you can either return the way you came, or head back on Interstate 90 through Wallace.
One more option is to do the Bull River loop. Take Highway 95 north to Bonners, then Highway 2 east past the Yaak River Road, then head south on the Bull River Highway 56. You’ll pass Bull Lake and follow along the Bull River, passing old growth cedars at Ross Creek, and eventually meeting up with Highway 200, which you’ll take west back to Sandpoint.
There’s something refreshing about the sound of a disc hitting the chain link baskets on a crisp fall day. Disc golf is the perfect autumn sport, with many diehards playing rounds all the way up until the snow flies. If you haven’t checked out the new disc golf course on Baldy Mountain Road, do yourself a favor and get over there already. To get there, just take the second left after the railroad tracks and look for the “Baldy Park” sign.
The Baldfoot course features 18 tree-lined holes, cement tee boxes on most of the holes, and varied terrain designed to test your aiming skills. The first couple of holes will give you an idea of what to expect, which is fun spiked with difficulty. The fee is only a buck, which goes right back into the course.
“This place is amazing,” said Damien Gooding, who was playing a round with his dog Lily. “I get off work and golf for an hour with my friends and not travel far. It’s a great addition to our community.”