Our Trail Spotlight highlights day trips to multi-day hikes across Idaho. Trail conditions can change quickly- swollen rivers can become impassable, windstorms can knock trees down across trails, and snow can come earlier than expected. Please take these recommendations as a jumping off place and do additional research to understand current conditions and  keep yourself safe if you choose to hike this trail. Physical guidebooks and maps are always good to have or check out some online resources like Alltrails.com for updated trail reports. If your trip is as awesome as you hope it will be, please share photos and feedback!

Photo curtesy Julie Kallemeyn

Recommended by: Julie Kallemeyn, Crew Leader and Advisory Board Member

Duration: Can be a day hike, overnight at Hidden Lake, or multi day to West Fork Forest Service Cabin and West Fork Mountain.

Area: Kaniksu National Forest, proposed Wilderness, north and west of Bonners Ferry.

Difficulty Rating: 3 (out of 5) This trail has some steep rocky ascents, and depending on how one decides to go, can be a long hike.

Road Considerations: Road conditions are rough in places but do not require high clearance vehicles. And the roads in the forest are not well marked. It appears signs have been removed, so be sure you have directions in hand. When scouting for this trip I spent and extra two hours finding the trailhead. Download your directions!

Total hiking miles: This trail can be as easy as 1 mile to Hidden Lake for base camp hiking, or up to 12.5 miles each way to West Fork Mountain.

The Hike: If you enjoy varied scenery, lots of hiking options, great campsites on a rainbow trout lake, and a quiet, not overly used trail, then this is a great hike to consider. If you just have the day, then take a the short and not overly strenuous hike to Hidden Lake, bring your fly rod and wander its shores where you will likely catch some good sized Rainbow trout. Or continue on the Red Top Mountain Trail for some great views above the lake and beyond. If you want a bigger adventure you can continue along and hike to the West Fork cabin, recently renovated and available on a first come first serve basis by the USFS. An overnight stay there will allow you to continue on to West Fork Mountain with great views, another lake, and a fire lookout tower. Then you will turn around and do it all in reverse. Huckleberries, interesting geology fishing and great views make this a hike to put on your schedule. And with lots of ways to do it, this hike will accommodate hikers of all levels.

Places to camp along the way: Camping at Hidden Lake is very nice. Red Top Mountain is dry. West Fork cabin is lovely and has a pretty creek too.

Things to consider: Don’t schedule this hike too early in the year! When scouting this this trail with a friend on July 28, the ice was off of Hidden Lake but we encountered snow starting ½ mile from the lake. Too snowy to continue up Red Top.  On July 27, when Idaho Trails Volunteers and USFS trail workers spent a week clearing and re-routing some of this trail, all was perfect! Fresh bear tracks were visible in the snow on June 28 when scouting. Don’t forget the bear spray. There can be mosquitos.

Fun places to visit on your way in or out: The Hidden Lake trailhead is about an hour from Bonners Ferry, a fun little town with a very nice brew pub, a good Mexican restaurant, and a lively farmers market in the summer. You will pass through the Kootenai National Wildlife refuge on your way to the trailhead and if you haven’t visited it before, it is worth it. The Kootenai River valley is expansive and stunning. Anheuser Busch owns one of the world’s largest hop farms in this valley. Wildlife is abundant in this area. You could possibly see just about all the animals North Idaho has to offer, both in the national refuge and on your hike. The Selkirk Range has an estimated 50-60 resident grizzly bears! And mountain goats around West Fork Mountain.

 More info about this hike: More details of this hike can be found on Alltrails or the USFS site.

Photo curtesy Julie Kallemeyn