Be it the lake, the mountains or the nightlife, Sandpoint has a lot to offer. Here are a few of our favorite outdoor spots. Next week, we’ll talk about our favorite restaurants and bars in the area.
Exploring the lake
By McCalee Cain
Lake Pend Oreille is incredibly big, and not just in size. Sandpoint natives that have long left the area return to its glittering, expansive waters with a nearly spiritual magnetic attraction. Many visitors are charmed by its beauty to the point of eventually becoming locals themselves. A natural gem of the inland northwest, Lake Pend Oreille is an essential cornerstone of community life, and for an authentic experience of Sandpoint, an exploration of the lake is an absolute must.
Almost any local will tell you: No Sandpoint summer is complete without a lake cruise. In need of a vessel? Boats can be rented through businesses such as Sandpoint Boat and RV Rentals, Sandpoint Boats, and Water Craft Rentals. Hit the water early in the morning for a chance to beat the seasonal lake traffic, and watch the weather to be safe. On the lake, cruise around the area for some splendid views of the North Idaho mountain scenery from a brand new perspective. You can even make an evening of your boat outing and pull up to a beach for a shorefront night of camping, at such locations as Evans Landing, Maiden Rock, or Long Beach at the Green Monarchs.
If your boat is fit, be sure to try your hand at water skiing, wakeboarding or tubing (tubes shaped like hot dogs are ideal). Short on skis, life jackets, or any other lake sport gear? Rentals are available from an abundance of local shops, such as Action Water Sports and Sandpoint Watersports.
After a long day in the sun and surf, grabbing dinner at one of the eateries along the Lake Pend Oreille shoreline is practically essential. If you’re in the Hope area, options abound: for authentic Italian cuisine with a lakeside twist, refreshing huckleberry beverages and live music on the lawn every Sunday, check out Ivano’s del Lago at the Beyond Hope Resort. The outdoor deck dining area provides the perfect venue to watch the sun set across the water, one-of-a-kind Idaho cocktail in hand. If you’re seeking some more traditional lakeside fare, consider Chop Steak and Seafood, located at the Holiday Shores Resort just down the way from the Hope Marina. Chop’s menu is sure to satisfy all fans of surf-and-turf-style eats, plus its outdoor dining area situated directly over the water is sure to impress. If you’re on the other side of the lake towards Dover, look no further than Dish at Dover Bay, a longtime local favorite in waterfront dining. With a menu featuring American favorites as well as some Thai-influenced cuisine, Dish is a go-to spot for Sandpoint natives and visitors alike. Finally, if you’re docking at the Sandpoint Marina, check out a brand new restaurant to the area: Beet and Basil at the Creek offers unique and exotic eats, described by them as “international street food”. With outdoor seating close to the marina, Beet and Basil is only a hop, skip and a jump from your boat, and offers a fresh take on the Sandpoint waterfront dining scene.
North Idaho trail favorites
By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff Writer
I won’t pretend to know the “best” hikes in and around Sandpoint, but I will say I was the Grand Champion for Bonner County in the 4-H hiking project for several years, so I’m basically an expert.
Sense the sarcasm? I’m still not qualified to say I know all the best local treks, but I can say I love spending days on our area’s trails and I’ve been enough places in my 21 years to feel like sharing a few slices of dusty, woodsy North Idaho heaven.
Keeping it close to Sandpoint
I love this hike for its well-maintained trail and panoramic destination view. Also known as Forest Service Trail No. 3, the Gold Hill trail is easily accessible eight miles down Bottle Bay Road just south of Sandpoint. With ample parking space and a wide trail, this hike has room for many people, which is good, because it’s a popular one. The Long Bridge might be long, but from the top of Gold Hill, the entire bridge is just a fraction of the view.
This hike is a workout, but due to its proximity to town and great view, it’s worthwhile. The Mickinnick Trail is known for its wildflowers and views stretching from the Long Bridge to the Cabinet Mountains. Though it climbs more than 2,000 feet in just over three miles, the trail’s proximity to Sandpoint’s breweries and various ice cream selections make it possible to survive. To reach the trailhead, head north of Boyer Avenue, turn left of Baldy Mountain Road, turn right on Great Northern Road and then left on Woodland Drive where the trail is just up the road on the left.
For those willing to explore
There are a lot of gorgeous mountain lakes in the area, and among one of the most popular and accessible is Harrison Lake. The great thing about this hike is that there is always a view — from the trail, hikers can see the Pack River drainage as well as awesome views of the Selkirk Mountains. At the top, there are plenty of places to sit beside the lake and relax, as well as a bear-proof storage container for campers. Take highway 95 north from Sandpoint 13 miles to Pack River Road, then turn left onto road 231 and go 20 miles to reach the trailhead.
The Trestle Creek lakes
About 15 miles east of Sandpoint is a right turn named Trestle Creek Road, and it’s home to several mountain lakes with trails of varying difficulty. Moose Lake is an easy, 3-mile-round trip hike with very little elevation gain. The Lake Darling trail is a little more difficult, but still accessible for children, and is only slightly longer than the Moose Lake hike. The Lake Estelle trail is a more moderate trek, and the Gem Lake trail has more steep inclines, but is still not a real butt-kicker. Each of these trails and lakes have their own charm — some might even have a trove of huckleberries, but you didn’t hear that from me — and every trail is clearly marked from the main road and well maintained.
It pains me a little to share my favorite spot with so many people, but I can’t seem to help myself. In spring when the snow is almost entirely melted from the Green Monarchs, there remains a snowy peak near the righthand side. It isn’t part of the lake-bordering Monarchs, but is instead Packsaddle — the perfect place for a panoramic view of the lake and several surrounding mountain ranges. To reach the trailhead, head to Clark Fork and turn right on Stephen Street right after the Cenex gas station. Drive straight over the railroad tracks and over the river, then take an immediate right onto Johnson Creek Road No. 278. At the first fork, continue left on the main road. At the second fork, keep straight on road No. 1066. At the four-way intersection, turn right, and then don’t take any more turns off that road. Soon you’ll reach trail No. 76 — aka Packsaddle Mountain Trail — and will thus embark on a grueling but worthwhile jaunt to this humble newspaper reporter’s favorite place in the world.
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