Hidden away in the mountains just outside St. Maries, Idaho is Crystal Lake. The clear water gathers at the top of a valley where boulder strewn ridges coalesce together and keep the lake secret on all sides but one. Getting into this mountain lake is a kind of choose your own adventure hike. Starting from just below the summit of nearby Mt. Baldy, hike straight up to the ridge tops where you’ll be afforded a view of the lake and valley, stretching out before you like a giant hippodrome. Farther down the valley you’ll find the true trailhead, and a path into the lake winding across slides of rock and giant boulders. Panoramic views of the valley below line the entirety of this trail. The trail here is short, only a few miles in length, but there is a lot of hiking to do in exploration of the lake itself, mountain forests and imposing ridges that make up the entirety of Crystal Lake’s experience.
Directions: Trail head is about 54 miles southeast of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Take US-90 east from Coeur d’Alene for 25 miles to the Cataldo exit (exit 40) then south on Latour Cr./Rochat Divide Road for 29 miles. There are no fees.
Location: 10 miles NE of St. Maries, ID
Nearby City: St. Maries, Idaho
Hike Length: About 3 miles round trip
The Indian Cliffs trail is only a small part of what Heyburn State Park has to offer, but definitely worth the hour it takes to make the three mile loop. This hike requires little more than a good size water bottle or hydration pack, but rewards your efforts with a fantastic vista that serves a summary of what Heyburn has to offer. The 72 mile long Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes hugs the lakeshore just behind the pines. Campgrounds, boat launches, and the Rocky Point beach are all easily mapped from this vantage point. The topography of the shadowy St. Joe River, the highest navigable river in the world, can be seen for miles in the distance. This panorama rotates away as the second half of the trail walks you across ridge top meadows, before inevitably cutting back down the mountainside, ending where it started. This small trail packs a big punch and is worth a visit by itself, or as part of a larger day of exploration throughout the parks many gems.
Location: Heyburn State Park
Nearby City: Coeur d’Alene
Hike Length: 3 total miles
Duration: 1 hour
Few sights in nature overwhelm like crashing rivers and cascading waterfalls. In time, even hardened basalt must begrudge the river its course. Palouse Falls bears testament to the fact that the river, always patient, never ceasing, wins out in the end. The Palouse River has cut its path through the gentle slopes of one of the world’s most fertile farming regions. Only a few hours’ drive from the Moscow/Pullman city centers, this small park offers easy drive-up viewing and pleasurable day hiking for those who feel inclined to wander. Watch the show from above a naturally formed Coliseum, or hike your way down and take center stage next to and atop the powerful falls. Acrophobia sufferers beware! 100 foot rock walls buttress the quick flowing river on each side. Keep to the canyon edge and you can look down on the exposed history of the Columbia River Basin, with its layers of ancient basaltic flows and giant rock slides climbing impossibly up the canyon walls. Expect the company of hawks making forays into the canyon, and prairie dogs checking in on you from between the rocky crags. For a quick visit and a little light hiking, Palouse Falls is a great place to start.
Park Hours: Summer: 6:30 a.m. to dusk
Check-in time, 2:30 p.m.
Check-out time, 1 p.m.
Quiet hours: 10 p.m. to 6:30
Hike Length: 2 miles roundtrip to falls and back to parking lot
This is a state park and has a day use fee of $10.
Click Here for Park Map.