Hikes in Idaho Panhandle National Forests

Region in Idaho, United States

The Idaho Panhandle National Forests is a collection of jointly administered forests that comprises over 2.5 million acres of wilderness in Idaho's 'panhandle' and extends into small portions of Washington and Montana. Since 1973, the Kaniksu, Coeur d'Alene, and St. Joe National Forests have been managed under the umbrella of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests (IPNF), offering miles of untouched backcountry beckoning exploration.

Occupied by hundreds of idyllic lakes and rivers, soaring crests, and old-growth woodlands, the hiking opportunities in the IPNF are sensational! Whether you are seeking an easy-going lakeside stroll, a historic walk, or a technical summit ascent, you will find an adventure in Idaho's panhandle. Explore the evergreen forests that complement the grand mountains on the Mount Coeur d'Alene Hike, immerse yourself in an old-growth grove as you venture along the White Pine National Recreation Trail, and enjoy the tranquility that high country hikes boast from the shoreline of Lake Estelle.

Abundant with a diversity of flora and fauna, this topographically diverse swathe of wilderness is unrivaled in its scenery and adventure pursuits. When visiting Idaho or the nearby states, a trip to the Idaho Panhandle National Forests is a must-add to your itinerary—you can thank us for the advice later!

10 Spectacular Hiking Routes in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests

While it was not an easy task, we felt it our duty to provide you with a list of the must-do hikes in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, so enjoy!

  1. Sand Mountain Lookout Trail - The Sand Mountain Lookout Trail boasts an enchanting experience. Wander through the lush evergreen forests that adorn the mountainside and enjoy the diversity of flora and fauna present. This is a great day hike that doesn’t demand too much effort.
  2. Trail 8, Penn, and Cave Trail Loop - Enjoy views of Lake Coeur d’Alene along the Trail 8, Penn, and Cave Trail Loop. This lovely adventure explores the Canfield Mountain Trail System which is shared with ATVs, motorized trail bikes, and mountain bikers. Though it is busy, it is greatly scenic.
  3. Pulaski Tunnel Trail - The Pulaski Tunnel Trail offers an experience like no other. Hike to the historic mine that Ranger Pulaski herded some 45 firefighters from a raging wildfire back in 1910, saving all but six. While the tunnel is the anticipated destination, the creekside walk through the lush woodlands is quite pleasant.
  4. Canfield Mountain Loop Trail - The Canfield Mountain Loop Trail provides another way to explore the trail system that so graciously decorates the mountainside. Located near the city of Coeur d’Alene, this beautiful trail sees plenty of traffic, so expect some company.
  5. Mount Coeur d’Alene Hike - Immerse yourself in lush woodlands as you hike the Mount Coeur d’Alene Hike. This beautiful route climbs up the forested slope of the crest that looms above the state’s third-largest lake. Note this trek demands a modest effort, so wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water!
  6. White Pine National Recreational Trail - Explore a grove of old-growth pines on the White Pine National Recreational Trail. Explore a 600-year-old felled tree and wander along peaceful meandering creeks. This lovely adventure is a must-add to your IPNF itinerary.
  7. South Chilco Mountain Hike - The South Chilco Mountain Hike is a demanding excursion that summits not one, but two Coeur d’Alene Mountains. While this route is no walk in the park, the gorgeous scenery and incredible mountain views are worth the effort.
  8. Settlers Grove of Ancient Cedars Trail - The Settlers Grove of Ancient Cedars Trail is a family-friendly adventure beckoning your exploration. Immerse yourself in a sea of old-growth cedars adorned with lush undergrowth and an array of wildflowers.
  9. Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail - Granting impressive views of the mountain-bound Lake Coeur d’Alene, the Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail is a marvelous hike. Explore the old mineral excavation site while getting in a great workout.
  10. Revett Lake Hike - The Revett Lake Hike is last on the list, but not in our hearts. This beautiful, but short adventure culminates at a beautiful alpine lake nestled amongst evergreen forests and towering granite bluffs. Don’t forget your swimsuit, you can enjoy a refreshing swim at the top!

When is the Best Time to Visit the Idaho Panhandle National Forests?

The Idaho Panhandle National Forests is a beautiful collection of national forests that are topographically dynamic and rich with wildlife. While the state is landlocked, it is abundant with idyllic lakes, rivers, and creeks. In fact, half of the state’s waters are concentrated in the north. The summers here are the most vibrant—swim, fish, and paddle on the shimmering lakes or escape into the luxuriant woodlands that adorn the Idaho mountains. Camping is also more accessible and more enjoyable in the warmer season.

Winters in the IPNF see fewer adventure opportunities as some roads, and backcountry routes are closed—but there is one attraction: the Northern Lights. Depending on solar activity, the Aurora Borealis can sometimes be observed from the IPNF, notably from September through March. Schweitzer Mountain or Priest Lake usually offers the greatest views of the aurora reflections.

Other Outdoor Activities in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests

Boasting an extensive network of hiking routes, the Idaho Panhandle National Forests are absolutely a hiker’s haven—though there are more adventure opportunities to partake in. ATVs and off-roaders are abundant in the forest, as there are several versatile trails open to their exploration. Additionally, mountain bikers are drawn into the wooded backcountry—notably in the Canfield Mountain Trail System.

Carving valleys between the grand mountains are rivers that attract intrepid white-water rafters and paddlers and idyllic lakes that offer prime fishing and swimming opportunities. While the summer months are undoubtedly the busiest and most beautiful time to visit the IPNF, winter exploration includes snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. No matter the season, adventure is easy to find.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Idaho Panhandle National Forests

How big are the Idaho Panhandle National Forests?

The Idaho Panhandle National Forests is a jointly administered collection of three national forests that encompasses a total of 3.2 million acres of wilderness in Northern Idaho, Montana, and Washington.

Why is it called the Idaho Panhandle National Forests?

The Idaho Panhandle National Forests is named for its location in Northern Idaho, which is known as the ‘panhandle’ of the state.

What mountain ranges do the Idaho Panhandle National Forests encompass?

The Idaho Panhandle National Forests encompasses mountains in the Selkirk Mountains, Cabinet Mountains, Purcell Mountains, Coeur d'Alene Range, and the Bitterroot Range.

Epic Adventure Tours in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests

Unfortunately, we have yet to curate any tours in the state of Idaho but keep checking back as we are constantly working to expand our repertoire of adventures. Until we create an Idaho Panhandle National Forests tour, we encourage you to check out our epic adventure tours in the United States. Who knows, you might just find something worthy of your exploration!

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Best Hikes in Idaho Panhandle National Forests

Open details for Sand Mountain Lookout Trail

Sand Mountain Lookout Trail

Moderate
10.0 km
420 m
3-4h

The Sand Mountain Lookout Trail boasts incredible scenery and a great workout. Located in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest, this enchanting adventure explores a forest of old-logging activities, old-growth stands, wildflowers, and wildlife.

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Open details for Trail 8, Penn, and Cave Trail Loop

Trail 8, Penn, and Cave Trail Loop

Moderate
6.1 km
287 m
2-2.5h

The Trail 8, Penn, and Cave Trail Loop is a popular adventure in the Canfield Mountain Trail System. Contrary to what the name suggests, there is no cave along this route, instead, it is named for a large depression in the landscape created from mining excavation. What the circuit lacks in caverns, it makes up for in incredible scenery.

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Open details for Pulaski Tunnel Trail

Pulaski Tunnel Trail

Moderate
6.4 km
226 m
2-2.5h

Exploring the Pulaski Tunnel Trail makes for a memorable experience. Widely considered to be one of the best hikes in the state—not so much for the scenery but for the history. Lined with interpretive signs, this creekside path culminates at the famous Pulaski Tunnel, where Ranger Ed Pulaski herded 45 firefighters during the 1910 wildfire in Northern Idaho—saving all but 6.

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Open details for Canfield Mountain Loop Trail

Canfield Mountain Loop Trail

Moderate
8.5 km
470 m
3-4h

Boasting outdoor pursuits, the Canfield Mountain Loop is a popular destination where adventurers of all types can indulge their recreational interests. While you can partake in mountain biking or off-roading, hiking is absolutely our favorite way to explore this incredible trail system overlooking Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

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Open details for Mount Coeur d’Alene Hike

Mount Coeur d’Alene Hike

Hard
17.7 km
697 m
5-7h

The Mount Coeur d’Alene Hike is an epic adventure near Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, that demands a modest effort. While the views are limited, this well-maintained trail has the perfect combination of flora, fauna, and altitude—boasting a unique experience for hikers and bikers alike.

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Open details for White Pine National Recreation Trail

White Pine National Recreation Trail

Moderate
5.6 km
218 m
1.5-2h

Immerse yourself in a lush forest setting along the White Pine National Recreation Trail. This beautiful circuit hike progresses through a grove of old-growth pines intersected with meandering creeks and abundant with wildlife. Exhibiting a diversity of flora and fauna, this opulent woodland trek would make an excellent addition to your hiking itinerary.

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Open details for South Chilco Mountain Hike

South Chilco Mountain Hike

Hard
16.9 km
870 m
5.5-7.5h

The South Chilco Mountain Hike is a demanding adventure reserved for experienced hikers and intrepid explorers. Summit not one but two soaring crests in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains and indulge in breathtaking views of the Idaho Mountains. While challenging, the incredible scenery, including snow-melt streams and several small alpine lakes, is worth the sweat.

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Open details for Settlers Grove of Ancient Cedars Trail

Settlers Grove of Ancient Cedars Trail

Easy
5.3 km
172 m
1.5-2h

The Settlers Grove of Ancient Cedars Trail boasts an enchanting experience in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. Explore an old-growth forest adorned with wildflowers and wildlife along this easy-going adventure.

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Open details for Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail

Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail

Easy
4.8 km
234 m
1.5-2h

Hiking the Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail makes for a fantastic day. Located along the ridges above Coeur d’Alene, this family-friendly hike boasts incredible views of the mountain-bound reservoir as you explore the historic mineral excavation site. Don’t forget your camera, the scenery is picture perfect!

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Open details for Trails 6, 7, 8, A, and Cave Loop Trail

Trails 6, 7, 8, A, and Cave Loop Trail

Moderate
11.9 km
589 m
3.5-5h

Indulge yourself in fantastic views of Lake Coeur d’Alene on the Trails 6, 7, 8, A, and Cave Loop Trail. This well-loved route is shared with mountain bikers and off-roaders alike, so you will likely enjoy company! Conveniently located near the city, this adventure grants the perfect escape into the wilderness.

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