- The Idaho Panhandle National Forests are an aggregation of the Coeur d'Alene and portions of the Kaniksu and St. Joe National Forests. Some 300 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the Forest is in the east-central part of the Columbia Plateau, between the Cascade Mountains to the west and the Bitteroot Mountains to the east.
Copyright: USDA Forest Service
Lookout Mtn., above the thorofare between Priest and Upper Priest Lakes
Backcountry trails guide the traveler through evergreen forests to remote lakes and spectacular views. Over 4,000 miles of rivers and vast lowland lakes are home to world-class sport fisheries. Foam-flecked rapids challenge the whitewater rafter. Glassy-quiet runs beckon the canoeist to travel where steamboats once carried miners. Winter snows attract downhill skiers, cross-country skiers and snowmobilers.
Sport fishery records are born in local lakes. A 37-pound Kamloops trout has been taken from Lake Pend Oreille, and prize-winning dolly varden are not uncommon. Chinook salmon up to 42 pounds are hooked in Lake Coeur d'Alene. Priest Lake has the world's record for Mackinnaw, and Coeur d'Alene and Hayden Lakes hold kokanee (land-locked salmon), along with rainbow, cutthroat, brook and German brown trout, large-mouth bass and perch.
In addition to fishing, area waters offer great boating and sailing. At Priest Lake, the Forest Service and the State of Idaho have developed shoreline and island campgrounds. Public and private boat ramps are also available at Lake Pend Oreille and Lake Coeur d'Alene marinas and campgrounds.
Folks with a yen to dig can still glean prizes from the earth at Emerald Creek near Clarkia. Here the Forest Service operates the world's only star garnet (the state gem) grounds outside India. Nearby is the St. Joe River, a special place. Its lower reaches at an altitude of 2,128 feet make it the highest navigable river in the world. On this working river, tug boats pull rafts or "brailes" of logs to lumber mills in St. Maries and Coeur d'Alene.
The Selkirk, Cabinet, Coeur d'Alene and Bitteroot mountain ranges feature glacial cirques and gem-like lakes high above timberline and craggy ridgetops. The country, remote and rough to travel, is a special place for those seeking solitude.
Recreation - The Idaho Panhandle National Forests offer a wide variety of year round recreation opportunities. Summer offers camping, fishing, rafting, boating, sailing, canoeing, hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, mountain biking.
In winter, hundreds of miles of groomed trails beckon nordic skiers and snowmobilers. Alpine skiers find runs for beginners and experts alike at the many regional ski resorts. There are also plenty of winter fishing opportunities at area lakes.
Climate - Weather on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests varies tremendously with location and elevation. Summers tend to bring clear days, with afternoon thunderstorms possible. Daytime highs are normally warm to moderate, with relatively cool to cold nights, depending on elevation. Winter can bring cold temperatures with heavy snows, especially at the high elevations. Sunny days are common between winter storms.
The Idaho Panhandle National Forests covers a large area at the very northern end of Idaho, in the IdahoPanhandle. The Forest is headquartered in Coeur d'Alene, with offices also in Avery, Saint Maries, Wallace, Sandpoint, Bonner's Ferry and Priest Lake. Major transportation corriders through the Forest are Interstate 90, U.S. Highways 2, 10, 95, and 95A, State Highways 3,57, and 200. Amtrack, Burlington Northern, Union Pacific, Potlach and Spokane International Railroads cross the Idaho Panhandle.