Outdoor fun in North Idaho

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

From the mountains to the lake, there is a little something for every outdoor enthusiast in Sandpoint. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, or you’re just visiting, here are a handful of fun activities to check out during our awesome summer months.
There are a bunch of great hikes around North Idaho. Too many to list in this paper. Keokee has published a book called “Trails of the Wild Selkirks” by Dennis Nicholls with Jim Mellen that serves as a great compendium of hiking trails in North Idaho.

Val Olson hikes at Pyramid Lake. Photo by Ben Olson.

Val Olson hikes at Pyramid Lake. Photo by Ben Olson.

Lately, I’ve been impressed with the amount of hikes that Boundary County has to offer. Pyramid / Ball Lake trail is a long drive up a not-so-great road, but it’s all worth it when you arrive with your hands stained with huckleberries and dip a toe in that cool, mountain lake water.

Roman Nose Lakes are also a heavily traveled destination deserving of the high traffic they receive. Again, the road is long, but the hikes are easy and full of character and wildlife.

For ridge line trails, it’s hard to beat Lunch Peak Trail in the Selkirks. The views of the Cabinets and the many mountain lakes, not to mention Pend Oreille, are astounding. You often feel as if you’re floating on top of the world while walking along these high ridge line runs.
Huckleberry picking
I would incur the wrath of many a purple-handed warrior if I gave out any secret huckleberry picking spots, so I’ll keep it general. Huckleberries usually grow in elevations above 4,000 feet, and many people have reported bushes have begun to show ripe berries. If you go wandering around on hiking trails at and around these elevations, chances are you’ll stumble upon the berries. They are not only a summer treat but a summer right of passage in North Idaho.

Because of the low snowfall this year, the berries are said to have retained less water, making them extra flavorful this year. Go out and find your spot!
Sandpoint has a robust sailing community, thanks to a large lake and good winds. Have you ever wanted to go for a sail, but you’re not sure how to begin?

Bruce Robertson of the Sandpoint Sailing Association said there are a couple ways of getting out there.

“The simplest way is to show up on a Thursday night,” said Robertson. “We have beer can racing … if someone wants to go sailing, they show up at the dock at 5:30 when we have a skipper’s meeting … and we always ask if anyone is looking for crewmembers, or if anyone wants a ride, and we match people up.”

Another choice is to ride on a pontoon boat that serves as race committee to watch the sailboats in action, in case you’re nervous about the boats heeling over in the wind.

“If you join the Sandpoint Sailing Association,” said Robertson. “We have open sailing three times a week with our 14-foot Holder sailboats.”

For an individual membership price of $35, SSA members can take out the Holder sailboats as much as they like on Tuesdays, Thursday and Sundays for free.
Water sports
The options for watersports on Lake Pend Oreille are virtually endless. The Holland Brothers, Pat and Nate, own and operate Action Water Sports in Sandpoint. Both Pat and Nate are members of the U.S. Snowboarding Team. Nate is a seven-time X-Games gold medalist and three-time Olympian while Pat has a World Cup podium.r1

Located on the boardwalk behind Spuds, Action Water Sports provides just about any service you’d need on the lake. They offer wake surf, wake board and water ski lessons for those looking to get their feet wet. The Hollands also offer tubing and paddle board rentals, as well as lake tours and training classes that teach you how to pull a skier or boarder and dock with ease.
Day drives
There are so many great day drives you can take around North Idaho.

One option is to check out the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge, located five miles from Bonners Ferry. Although the purpose of the refuge is to provide migration habitat for thousands of waterfowl, more than 300 vertebrates, including nesting bald eagles, use the refuge for migration and breeding.

The Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Ben Olson.

The Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Ben Olson.

It’s a bird watcher’s paradise, and also a pretty drive out in the country, with views of the Selkirk Mountains and the Kootenai River.
Swim holes
There are any number of great places to cool off in North Idaho. The obvious ones—City Beach at Sandpoint, and Third Ave. Pier—offer quick access to the goods. The Pack River “Jumping Bridge” on Colburn Culver Road is a great spot to catch some air when the river is high enough. Floating the Pack is a classic summertime tradition that usually involves an inner tube, a cooler full of beer and a sunburn at the end of the day. Also, Grouse Creek Falls have some great pools with mountain cool water next to the falls.
Canoeing and kayaking
The best part about paddling your own craft is you can go damn near anywhere you want with it. I like putting in at Johnson Creek boat launch in Clark Fork and taking the river down to the delta, and then checking out the Monarch Mountain shoreline on the east end of the lake. Sand Creek is a quick, easy canoe trip, and you can usually foray pretty far up the creek before it gets too shallow.

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