January 31, 2017
By Kris Parfitt
Photo at right: The night sky over Lake Pend Oreille near Sandpoint is bright with starlight. Photo courtesy of Visit Idaho
Whether you’re starting from Seattle or Portland or anywhere in-between, a wild-west outdoor adventure in Idaho can be yours over a three-day weekend.
These three excursions are close enough to home that you can leave early Friday afternoon and be home Monday night. Want to optimize your time? Both the Spokane and Boise airports are less than two and a half hours from these destinations.
Bike and Dine in Moscow
Moscow, the home of the University of Idaho, is an up-and-coming mountain-biking mecca. With 42 singletrack trails, there is plenty of shred for novice to advanced riders.
Prefer the road? Take a spin along the Latah Trail. This 10-foot wide paved pathway for non-motorized use travels along a railway that once ran between Moscow and Troy in Latah County, a tiny farming town of less than 1,000 residents.
The trail connects with the Bill Chipman Palouse Trail just to the west in Whitman County, Washington, providing a 22-mile pathway between Troy and Pullman, where Washington State University is located.
If a longer ride is more your style, Moscow is in the heart of the Palouse — 4,000 square miles of rolling farmland spanning the Washington-Idaho border. Hundreds of miles of backroads and two-lane highways offer road cyclists multiple loops of scenic landscape though the Palouse which produces a large share of the wheat, lentils, peas, oats and barley grown in the United States.
Satiate your appetite at any of the fine-dining establishments in downtown Moscow. High-end Peruvian fare can be found at the Sangria Grille, or try the Maialina Pizzeria Napoletana for authentic Italian cuisine.
Quench your thirst with some craft beer at Rants & Raves Brewery or Hunga Dunga Brewing Company.
Driving time from Seattle: 4.75 hours
Driving time from Portland: 5.5 hours
Flying: 1.5-hour drive from the Spokane International Airport
Nature Calls in McCall
It doesn’t matter if you visit McCall in the winter or summer; both seasons offer a plethora of outdoor adventure.
If you head there in February, prepare your snow enthusiasm! Brundage Mountain Resort offers great mid-season ski packages; the Manchester Ice and Events Center caters to the figure skaters in all of us; and snowshoeing is a great mode of transportation along the trails near the resort.
Prefer a hot-water soak? Family-friendly Burgdorf Hot Springs is a 45-minute drive from the heart of McCall in the summer, or an hour-long thrill-ride on a snowmobile in winter. This place melts the muscles and offers a retreat from the cold.
Go during the warmer months and get ready for hiking and mountain biking. McCall has 500 miles of public trails and 144 miles of single-tracks near Payette Lake, Tamarack Resort, Brundage Mountain or Jug Mountain Ranch, to name a few.
If you need to cool off head out to nearby Payette Lake for some water-based adventures. Check out the McCall Smokejumper Base where real smokejumpers will lead you through a tour showing you everything from gear prep to folding a parachute. However, call ahead — if there’s a fire, there won’t be available personnel to give tours.
Hungry after all this adventure? Good, because McCall offers sweet treats at Stacey Cakes, a tasty cup of joe at the Fogglifter Café, and hand-crafted brews and yummy pub-grub at the Salmon River Brewery or the McCall Brewing Company.
Driving time from Seattle: 7.75 hours
Driving time from Portland: 7.5 hours
Flying: 2.15-hour drive from the Boise Airport
Digging in at Sandpoint
If you’re planning a trip to Sandpoint in the winter, be sure to bring your snow game! Conditions for downhill, backcountry and cross-country skiing are often at their peak in February.
Schweitzer Mountain Resort is an 11-mile drive from Sandpoint with rentals, excellent runs, ski lifts and an outstanding terrain park.
Western Pleasure Guest Ranch offers cozy sleigh rides, and among the four acclaimed Nordic ski areas in this region, they will be some tough choices to make on where to play. Gold-star points if you visit all four: Farragut State Park, Priest Lake Nordic Center, Round Lake State Park and Schweitzer’s cross-country trails over a three-day weekend.
Going when the weather is warm? Fishing, boating and swimming fulfill any water dog’s passion on Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho’s largest lake. Stay after sunset to see a dazzling display of stars in the night sky.
Prefer to raft or kayak? Your wish is Sandpoint’s command; four nearby rivers and the businesses that cater to them offer rafting, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. As well, Lake Pend Oreille borders the town.
Prefer a day of thrill rides? No problem! The 200-acre Silverwood Theme Park is the largest theme park in the Northwest with more than 70 rides, slides, shows and attractions. Boulder Beach Water Park is perfect for families that prefer to combine water and thrills.
Does your call of the wild include hiking? With more than 275 maintained miles of hiking trails, you’ll find your own private wild in this area of Idaho’s northern panhandle. The 400-plus mountain-bike trails will satisfy any biking enthusiast. When you work up an appetite and a thirst, stop into Sandpoint’s downtown tasting rooms — Laughing Dog Brewing or MickDuff’s Brewing Company for award-winning craft beers and delicious gourmet pub fare.
Driving time from Seattle: 5.5 hours
Driving time from Portland: 6.5 hours
Flying: 1.5 hour-drive from the Spokane International Airport
Visit Idaho: www.visitidaho.org
Kris Parfitt is the managing editor of OutdoorsNW magazine. She loves any adventure, anywhere, anytime.