Discover the area’s favorite beaches, campsites, hiking trails, golf courses and more!
By Colin Anderson
With so much to do and only a short summer in which to do it, it’s hard to get to all the wonderful sights and experiences the Inland Northwest has to offer in just a few months. Whether you’re seeking fun and sun on the water, a relaxing day on the links, a challenging hike in the deep woods, or something even more off the beaten path, there are near endless options. Check out some of these can’t-miss summer favorites and enjoy being outside this summer in this wonderful place we call home!
People find this small town of less than 1,000 residents via scenic drive, boat or bicycle, and the city’s small beach is the main summer gathering point at the sound end of Lake Coeur d’Alene. Boaters can tie up in the marina for up to 72 hours, and there are tent and RV camp spots adjacent to the beach as well. Its location on the Trail of the Coeur d’Alene’s bike path makes it a quick cool-off for cyclists. It creates for a unique mix of families, motorcyclists, bicyclists and overnight boaters, all seeking a relaxing day on the water.
City Beach, Sandpoint
It’s tough to find a more picturesque view than that of City Beach in the heart of downtown Sandpoint. The peaceful, shallow waters with striking mountain backdrop will instantly set you at ease. There is plenty of beach to spread out across the 22-acre park, which also includes tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, picnic benches, a boat launch and playground. After a beach day, it’s an easy stroll into Sandpoint for a bite to eat or afternoon beverage.
Sunspot at Yap-Keehn-Um Beach, Coeur d’Alene
Better known to most as the beach at North Idaho College, a simple stroll west along the shoreline from Coeur d’Alene City Park, you’ll find more space to stretch out as well as a few opportunities to get out and paddle the lake. North Idaho College rents various craft right on the beach. From Memorial through Labor Day, you can rent sailboats, one- and two-person kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards. Walk down far enough and you’ll see where the Spokane River begins its journey. Mature trees provide plenty of shade, and there are many picnic benches to enjoy.
Camping and Hiking
Revett & Blossom Lakes
If you are relatively new to backpack camping, these sites are a great place to start. The hike into Revett Lake is 2 miles each way or, for a bit longer trip, climb to Blossom Lake—a 6-mile round trip. Both are located on the Idaho/Montana border near Thompson Pass, and those not wanting to spend the night should be able to complete a day hike in a few hours. Both trails are wide, well marked and offer gradual upward slopes. Keep an eye out for huckleberries when in season. Several primitive campsites are available along the lake. On your way back, stop in the one-time boomtown of Murray for a look back at the area’s mining history.
Kalispell Island, Bartoo Island
Instead of pulling up the RV or hiking into your campsite, why not arrive by water? Whether by boat, canoe or kayak, there are several fun and unique locations on Priest Lake, accessible only by water. Bartoo Island is 219 acres and includes 25 campsites each with a fire ring and picnic table. Another popular location is Kalispell Island, which is a 3.5-mile boat or paddle up to the Upper Priest Lake Scenic Area. There are 52 campsites on this island. There are no showers or toilets, but toilet buckets are available for checkout at the Kalispell Island boat launch. Reservations can be made through Recreation.gov.
Riverside State Park
While it’s just a few miles from the bustle of downtown Spokane, you can feel worlds away exploring the more than 9,000 acres that is Riverside State Park. Within its boundaries you’ll find miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. Paddle your way down the Spokane and Little Spokane River or cast a line from shore. Off-road enthusiasts can enjoy 600 designated acres of terrain, and horseback riders have 25 miles of trail in which to ride and explore. There is a designated equestrian campsite with 21 spots and corrals, as well as three other campgrounds—the most popular being at Bowl and Pitcher. Book early!
Liberty Lake Loop
While many go to Liberty Lake State Park for the beach, to paddle or have a picnic, local hikers know that there is also an excellent trail to be found at the south end of the lake. The roughly 8-mile loop begins at the park and offers several different routes. All routes connect and circle back, so there is no need to worry about getting lost. In all you’ll gain about 1,500 feet in elevation but will be treated to views that are stunning, especially considering how close you are to downtown Spokane. A $2 entry fee is charged during summer months.
While it is one of the more intimidating hikes in the region, the view from the tallest point in Bonner County just can’t be replicated. Trail #65 is about 4 miles long with 3,700 feet of elevation gain as you climb to the top of 7,009-foot Scotchman Peak. Forest quickly gives way to busted rock and steep climbs, but the trail is well maintained due to its popularity with mountain enthusiasts. Your legs will be on fire at the top, but the rewarding view of Lake Pend Oreille and the Cabinet Mountains will make it all worth it. You might even see a family of mountain goats that have long called the area home.
The Idaho Club
Boasting Idaho’s only Jack Nicklaus Signature Design course, the Idaho Club’s 18 holes take full advantage of the surrounding beauty of the area. The course, located in Sandpoint, Idaho, flows naturally with the Pack River, so water is found all throughout the course. Tucked in a valley, the surrounding forests are also striking. It’s not uncommon to come across deer, elk, or even moose, during your round. Course members get the early tee times, but the public is welcome beginning at 10:30am.
Not long after the first tee box, golfers find themselves in one of the most serene and peaceful courses in the West. You won’t find homes or structures of any kind lining these fairways in Worley, Idaho. Instead the course utilizes all aspects of nature across its 620 acres. You’ll weave between holes surrounded by Palouse grass, natural wetlands and wooded forest, the views never end. At roughly $100 per round with cart included, it’s among the more reasonably priced top-notch courses you’ll come across. Stay and Play packages are also available through the Coeur d’Alene Casino.
Emerald Creek Garnet Area
What do India and the Idaho Panhandle have in common? They are the only two places in the world you will find the unique Star Garnet gem. You can channel your inner miner and search for these 12-sided crystals at the Emerald Creek Garnet area in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. There are two sluice boxes in which you can process material. Garnets range in size from tiny particles to golf balls. The site is run by the U.S. Forest Service and, as of this writing, permits and advanced reservations are required. It’s truly a unique experience the whole family will enjoy.
If you’d like to get a taste of nature but aren’t in the mood for a strenuous hike, you can get a unique view by gliding high up in the trees at one of the area’s zipline courses. Mica Moon offers a nine zip package that also includes a line that’s 3,500 feet long! The property near Liberty Lake, Washington, also has an aerial park in which you can rise high up in the trees and cross rickety bridges, tight ropes and other fun obstacles. In Coeur d’Alene, Timberline Adventures offers several zip tours, two sky-high suspension bridges, and a lunch in a tree house 30 feet up in the air.
Ride the Hiawatha
There are many wonderful bike trails in the Inland Northwest, but there are few that can match both the beauty and ease of the Hiawatha Trail. The 15-mile stretch near Lookout Pass follows an old railroad route. In fact, riders go over seven train trestles and through 10 tunnels, including the more than mile-and-a-half-long St. Paul Pass tunnel. The route is paved, with occasional packed gravel, and nearly all downhill with a shuttle available to take you back to the top, making it friendly for all level of rider. The sweeping views of the Bitterroot Mountains can’t be beat.