The view from Picnic Point of Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho's largest lake, from Schweitzer Mountain.

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For me, summer is the best time to visit ski resorts and mountain towns. No bundling up in a parka or sipping a hot toddy next to a smoky fire.

Instead, you will find me in shorts and a t-shirt hiking up a mountain trail, where I will quench my well-earned thirst with a cold craft beer at the summit café followed by a picturesque ride back down on a gondola.

That’s why I was thrilled to discover what the ski towns of Northern Idaho have to offer when the snow melts. 

The village horse corral at Schweitzer Mountain.
The village horse corral at Schweitzer Mountain. Photo By Carrie Dow

Schweitzer Mountain Resort In Idaho Town

In the winter Schweitzer Mountain Resort is Idaho’s largest with 2,900 skiable acres in the Selkirk Mountains. In the summer, however, those acres are crisscrossed with 40 miles of mountain bike and hiking trails.

Mountain biking is the resort’s most popular summer activity, and they have a full complement of bike and equipment rentals, including e-bikes on-site. But instead of attacking the mountain on two wheels, I found Schweitzer also has a more leisurely way to enjoy the trails – on horseback.

“I teach skiing in the winter and trail riding in the summer,” said my smiling guide Chez while saddling Cinnamon, a chestnut brown beauty of a horse who was as chill as an ice cube. 

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Chez leads small groups of riders daily up the gentle slope of Overland Trail to Picnic Point, an overlook 1.5 miles from the village corral with sweeping views of the nearby town of Sandpoint and Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho’s largest lake. Lasting about two hours, mountain hikes on horseback are much easier and filled with Chez’s amusing anecdotes about local flora and fauna. 

Continuing my easy day on the mountain, I rode the chairlift to the summit’s Sky House, where a sandwich and salad lunch with local craft ale at The Nest Restaurant came with more lake and mountain views.

Humbird is one of three lodges on Schweitzer Mountain and the newest. It’s modern design and 31 minimalist rooms give it a boutique hotel quality while timber framing and wood accents connect with the mountain’s alpine village vibe.

The theme continues at the hotel’s restaurant, Crow’s Bench, with a condensed but refined menu of mountain favorites with a hint of Bavarian to refuel after a day spent hiking or riding. 

View of the Bitterroot Mountains from Lookout Pass.
View of the Bitterroot Mountains from Lookout Pass. Photo By Carrie Dow

Lookout Pass Ski Area – Wallace

While the downhill trails at Lookout Pass Ski Area an hour east of Coeur D’Alene will give riders all the thrills, for those who’d rather get some serious mileage under their tires, three trails around Lookout Pass and the nearby town of Wallace will riders take across the Idaho panhandle. 

Route of the Hiawatha Trail begins in Montana and runs 15 miles downhill through the Bitterroot Mountains where it connects to the Trail of the Coeur D’Alene that runs another 73 miles to Harrison. Neither trail requires much technical ability. 

Hiawatha is almost entirely downhill with a wide path of packed gravel through the heart of the Bitterroot Mountains. This scenic trail passes through 10 old railroad tunnels and seven train trestle spans. 

The Coeur D’Alene trail is smoothly paved asphalt that follows the curves of the Coeur D’Alene River. For more of a workout, there is Lookout Pass/Mullen Loop trail that begins in Wallace and climbs 2,495 feet to the base of Lookout Pass before looping back into town for a total of 36 miles. 

The view atop Cinnamon, one of the horses at Schweitzer Mountain Trail Rides.
The view atop Cinnamon, one of the horses at Schweitzer Mountain Trail Rides. Photo By Carrie Dow

Before I hit the trails, I overnighted at The Wallace Inn, which has large rooms and spacious bathrooms and a restaurant, the appropriately named Trailside Café, setting me up with a restful night’s sleep and energy for my ride.

Post ride back in town, Richard A. Shaffer, The Wallace Inn’s owner and town cheerleader, suggested taking a selfie at The Center of the Universe. Wait, what? 

“We declared it back in 2004,” explained Shaffer of the town’s most interesting landmark, “when [the town] realized no one could prove that it wasn’t. We decided, why not?” 

Wallace marks the universe’s center with a manhole cover in the middle of Bank and Sixth Streets that features a silver miner, which is Wallace’s other claim to fame. Shaffer says Wallace has many other historic and interesting attractions when riders are ready to step off the trails, places like Nine Mile Cemetery, the Sixth Street Melodrama Theater, and Oasis Bordello Museum. (Wait, what?)

Galena Ridge Golf Course in the rolling foothills outside of Kellogg, Idaho.
Galena Ridge Golf Course in the rolling foothills outside of Kellogg, Idaho. Photo By Carrie Dow

Silver Mountain Resort – Kellogg

The town of Kellogg is home to Silver Mountain Resort, another year around ski area that has a summer activity I’m fond of – golf. That’s where I found myself standing in the tee box on a beautiful blue-sky morning looking down at the Par 4, 347-yard Hole 1 at Galena Ridge Golf Course.

A vast section of native fescue, thick as a woven blanket, separated me from the fairway. Hit it straight and par is within reach.

Galena Ridge is a new 9-hole golf course with fairways that weave through the foothills on the outskirts of Kellogg. At 3,617 yards with one Par 3 and one Par 5, it’s long enough to be challenging but not overwhelming. And the hillside scenery will distract from any bad shots because there are no bad views.

While only nine holes now, there are plans for a back nine to make this course even more competitive with other courses in the area. 

Morning Star Lodge in Kellogg has cozy condos at the base of Silver Mountain.
Morning Star Lodge in Kellogg has cozy condos at the base of Silver Mountain. Photo By Carrie Dow

That afternoon I was ready for lunch and a hike to the Kellogg Peak Fire Lookout on Silver Mountain. Unfortunately, an afternoon rain shower washed out the 3.7-mile summit hike, but I was still able to enjoy the views from the 30-minute gondola ride to the resort’s Mountain House Grill at 5,700 feet.

I also enjoyed the grill’s Caesar chicken wrap with a can of local brew. I rode the gondola back down to the ski village, where I finished the day reading a book snug inside my dry condo at Morning Star Lodge. 

Whether you spend a week or a weekend, you too can enjoy summer in the ski mountain towns of Northern Idaho. No snow necessary. 

The village in Kellogg at the base of Silver Mountain Ski Resort.
The village in Kellogg at the base of Silver Mountain Ski Resort. Photo By Carrie Dow

Directions To Northern Idaho Ski Towns:

To reach the ski towns of Northern Idaho, fly into Washington’s Spokane International Airport across the state line from Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.

From there, it’s less than two hours drive to Schweitzer, about an hour and 25 minutes to Wallace with another 10 minutes to Lookout Pass, and about one hour and 15 minutes to Silver Mountain/Kellogg. 

Schweitzer Info – https://www.schweitzer.com/

Lookout Pass/Wallace Info – https://skilookout.com/https://www.wallaceid.fun/

Silver Mountain/Kellogg Info – https://www.silvermt.com/

Author’s Bio: Carrie Dow is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, NC, whose work has appeared in regional and national magazines. She founded What’s Pawsitive, a website that profiles animal-based travel, animal rescue organizations, and animal welfare advocates around the world. 

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