Hiking in the winter has some unique benefits, especially in the Scotchmans. You can explore off-trail without getting caught in a thicket of devil’s club. You can enjoy the quietness of a forest without motorized vehicles. And you can experience the magic of snow falling gently from ancient cedars as you enjoy nature in solitude.
There are opportunities to get out and explore for beginners and for experienced adventure-seekers. If you’d rather explore these places with friends – join us on our guided hikes this winter! Here are some of our favorite winter destinations to explore on snowshoe or on skis in the Scotchmans.
This is the easiest and possibly most beautiful hike on the list. Expect silence, gigantic trees, and magic. You’ll start at the winter trailhead which is about 3 miles East of the summertime parking lot on National Forest Road 398. The trip is about 8 miles out-and-back including a .8-mile loop through the Ross Creek Cedars Scenic Area.
Snowshoe along Lightning Creek Road and up the Regal Creek Trail for amazing views of the Cabinets and the Clark Fork River. This is a moderate, 7-mile round trip hike with minimal elevation gain. Plowing on Lightning Creek Rd. ends around mile post 3 – offering recreationists a wonderful opportunity to explore the area on foot, on ski, or on snowmobile. Snowmobiles are permitted on Lightning Creek Rd., but not in the proposed wilderness area.
Little Spar Lake is the largest alpine lake in the Scotchmans. It does not disappoint with steep cliff faces and crystal-clear water. This hike is a moderate-to-difficult and 9 miles round trip.
This 10-mile escapade is difficult but equally rewarding. You’ll gain over 3,000 feet in elevation and enjoy views of the Clark Fork Valley as you switchback up the mountain. At the summit, there are sweeping views of the Cabinets and a historic fire lookout. Most importantly there is a rustic, shabby-chic pit toilet at the top! What a treat.
Summit the highest peak in Bonner County in the winter to avoid the summer crowds. You’ll gain 3,700 feet of elevation in about 8 miles to enjoy epic views of the Lake Pend Oreille and the Cabinets at the summit. The last 2.5 miles from the last turn are not maintained in winter and most years it’s gated. So expect a little bit more mileage and elevation gain during the winter.
Winter hiking is always fun but can sometimes also be dangerous. Make sure you bring extra layers (socks too), headlamps, and lots of food and water. Always check the weather and avalanche reports before your trip. If you are exploring steep terrain, make sure you have avalanche gear and are trained in avalanche safety.
Join us on our guided hikes this winter if you’d rather explore these places with friends! All hikes are led by volunteers and are completely free. We can’t wait to see you on the trails.