Mountain Biking in and around Sandpoint, Idaho, as described by Tom Russell, project architect at Hendricks Architecture.
I love summers in Sandpoint. The weather is great, the lakes are warm, and the local events calendar is jam packed with enough festivities to keep everybody busy and active. One of my favorite activities in the summer is mountain biking, and I feel lucky to live in a place that has so much great riding. There is a great variety of mountain bike trails here, and a healthy population of mountain bike enthusiasts to enjoy them. A local cycling club/ advocacy group called the Pend Oreille Pedalers is actively building new trails, so the opportunities for great riding keep expanding. There are lots of trail guides and they are always looking for new members or people to help with trail building.
When I go out riding I am always surprised at how uncrowded and well maintained the trails are. If you have ever ridden in places like Moab or Colorado’s front range, you’ll appreciate the quality conditions and solitude that can be found here, even on the most popular rides. I was in Bend , Oregon a few weeks ago and did a ride that was loose, dusty and rutted from overuse. It was a great trail, but I kept thinking how much more enjoyable it would have been if it was in North Idaho.
From the town of Sandpoint, there are several great rides you can do without ever getting in your car. There is a network of high quality single track trails just west of town in the hills between Pine Street and the town of Dover. Known as Syringa Ridge or Sherwood Forest, the trails there are not well documented, and it is a bit of a local’s secret. Efforts are being made to map it, but I haven’t seen anything public yet. When I first moved here , I enjoyed the adventure of finding my way around there without a map and checking out trails I had never been on. I won’t deprive anyone of the same opportunity by giving away too much about it. If you do go exploring in that area, be aware that there is a lot of private land and access is an issue, so please read the signs and obey parking restrictions.
Gold Hill trail #3 is my favorite. It is a thrilling ride with a sustained 3 mile climb, spectacular views, and a smooth, fast descent on the return trip. There is an expanding complex of trails above the gravel quarry on Bottle Bay Road (another local’s secret area) that connects to the Gold Hill trail #3 and offers a variety of alternatives to explore.
Mineral point has some great trails not unlike Gold Hill in quality and scenery, but noticeably easier on the legs and lungs. My favorite ride there is a 10 mile loop that starts and ends at the fabulous Green Bay beach.
Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort also has some great biking, both lift served and self-serve. Ambitious pedalers can get to the resort trails by climbing the 9 +/- miles to the ski area on a fun single track trail that is accessed from several of the even numbered switchbacks on the Schweitzer road. My favorite rides at Schweitzer are cross country ski trails in the winter. For those who like to compete, Schweitzer has a mountain bike race series every Wednesday evening in August.
Priest Lake is about an hour from Sandpoint, and has some great trials on both the upper and lower lake. Spectacular views, lots of berries, and nice beaches with crystal clear water are all highlights of mountain biking around Priest Lake and Upper Priest Lake.
Faragut State Park between Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene has a lot of mostly moderate mountain bike trails, and it is also a nice place to camp on the lake. It is a good spot for a family outing, especially if cycling is not the only activity you have in mind. One ambitious ride here worth checking out is Bernard Peak. I think you will agree – the views are well worth the effort. On Wednesdays in July local bike shops organize a mountain bike race series at Faragut.
There a many more great rides in the Sandpoint area, including some big, epic rides in the Cabinet and Selkirk Mountain Ranges. Information on many of these can be found with a quick internet search. There is currently a Falcon guide to mountain biking in the Spokane Coeur d’Alene area that covers some of the Sandpoint area rides. While there is no formal guide to Sandpoint yet, rumor has it a comprehensive guide is in the works.
Tom Russell, LEED AP, Project Architect
Hendricks Architecture, mountain architects located in Sandpoint, Idaho.
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