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An Evening Under the Stars

Updated: Jul 1, 2020

Top spots in the Inland Northwest to up your camping game this summer

By Abigail Thorpe

It’s summertime, and the many secluded lakes, rivers and vast woodlands around the Inland Northwest are begging to be explored. After a long winter, we’re all ready to grab the camping gear and head out on a weekend adventure far from the crowds and fast pace of usual daily life.

Whether you’re a seasoned camper who can pack it all in and prefers to sleep tentless under the stars, or a first-timer who likes a soft pillow under her head, a bed and the comfort of a running shower, there are options for everyone. From secluded hike or boat access only campsites to luxurious “glamping” tents, here are some of the Northwest’s top spots to enjoy a star-studded night.

Priest Lake State Park

Priest Lake is known as one of North Idaho’s greatest gems. A beautiful 19-mile-long pristine lake just 30 miles from the Canadian border nestled in the Selkirk Mountains, it is the perfect spot to unplug and reconnect with nature.

The lake offers several different campgrounds, though traditional tent or small RV camping is the lay of the land. Lionhead at the north end of the lake is a picturesque location with showers and flush toilets, and there is a convenience store close by just in case you run out of the essentials. Spend your days hiking, swimming, boating and fishing, and settle in for a beautiful night beneath the stars of a clear North Idaho night. Keep in mind camp spots often sell out months in advance, so plan ahead.

Huckleberry Tent and Breakfast

If you want the serenity and feel of being in the wilderness, without the mess, this glamped-up tent camp in Clark Fork may be just the thing. Situated in the North Idaho wilderness just 30 miles from Sandpoint, each “tent” at Huckleberry includes a queen bed, planked flooring, canvas walls and a wood-burning stove.

Awake to the sounds of nature and enjoy a homegrown farm-style breakfast at the homestead. Each private tent site also includes an outdoor shower—so you don’t have to resort to the creek or a water spigot—and there are s’mores to enjoy under the stars each night.

Heyburn State Park

The oldest state park in the Pacific Northwest, Heyburn was created by an act of Congress in 1908. Today, you can still enjoy the three lakes—Chatcolet, Benewah and Hidden Lakeas well as the acres of meadows and ponderosa pines. There are three campgrounds in the park, located just over 30 miles south of Coeur d’Alene. Hawleys Landing Campground and Chatcolet Campground are available for reservations, and Benewah Campground is first come, first served for those last-minute campers. The park also offers several cottages and camper cabins for those who want to enjoy the outdoors recreations with indoor accommodations.

One of the most unforgettable biking trails in the Western U.S.the "Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes"runs directly through the park. Hop on your bike or throw on some hiking shoes and explore the many trails that span the park’s more than 8,000 acres.

Treehouse on Lake Pend Oreille

It may not be camping, but there are still plenty of stars. For the couple or individual who wants an unusual adventure with familiar luxuries, this three-story Airbnb treehouse on Lake Pend Oreille is the perfect thing. It’s not tucked away in a wood, but you’ll have your own private deck and living quarters (including a kitchenette,) with a great view of the lake and private dock access. Located 2 miles from town, you can easily bike in for an evening meal if getting off the grid isn’t on your summer to-do list.

River Dance Lodge

Situated along the Clearwater River south of Coeur d’Alene, River Dance Lodge offers the true glamping experience. Each tent is outfitted with a pillow-top bed, wood floors and a small wood stove. Luxuriate in your own private clawfoot soaking tub located (privately) outside in the back of each cabin after a day hiking, fishing or rafting the river.

For those looking for the true camping experience, River Dance also offers a tent campground and some RV spaces, with a showerhouse for guests.

Maiden Rock

Located on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille in Cocolalla, the granite rock known as Maiden Rock rises 300 feet above the shores. At its base is a peaceful, sandy camp spot with picnic tables, campfire rings and a restroom. Because this camp spot is only accessible by boat or by hiking down the trail that starts 1,000 feet above the water, it is secluded and remoteyou won’t find a glamping tent here. But there will be lots of stars.

Wendover Campground

Nestled along the Lochsa River among the woods of the Nez-Perce Clearwater National Forest, Wendover Campground is located just along the Idaho-Montana border, just outside the town of Lolo. Campsites are all available on a first come, first served basis. This is a fairly primitive campground, with only two vault toilets and water hand pumps, so come prepared for a true camping experienceminus the luxuries, but with plenty of natural beauty and quiet.

Lake Chelan State Park

This 139-acre campground in Central Washington offers lots of shoreline and activity. You’ll be camping, but with amenities like showers, restrooms and picnic areas. You can rent paddle boards and kayaks, and families return to the lake year after year, making this a fun family adventure without being too remote. Set out to explore the North Cascades or relax by the lakeshore and enjoy some fun in the sun. At night, enjoy s’mores around an open fire while you find the constellations.

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