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72 Hours: Northern Idaho

Idaho’s panhandle is temptingly close to bigger, better-known trail networks in neighboring states, but don’t be fooled by its size

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Photos and words: Ian Collins

When spending three days in the Idaho Panhandle, it can be tempting not to wander off too far to the east or west. It only takes an hour to drive across the skinny strip of land, separating Washington and Montana, and with gobs of good riding in either direction, the panhandle can be easy to overlook, but would be foolish to pass up. 

Our crew—consisting of myself, New Mexico-based rider and trailbuilder Ted Jaramillo, Santa Cruz-based filmer Isaac Wallen and filmer Jasper Wesselman, who lives in Utah—rallied in Coeur d’Alene with plans to hit Canfield Mountain, the go-to local spot. I live nearby in Hayden, and wanted to show everyone just how much range this small region of Idaho has to offer.

Canfield is a multi-use trail system that’s open to mountain bikers, hikers and motorcycles. Sharing trails with motos can make for the occasional ‘exciting’ moment, as well as some pretty rugged trails, but, with 40+ trails in the system, there is generally enough room to spread out. The trails are reminiscent of Nelson, British Columbia, which is only about three hours north, and shares similar terrain.

Forty miles east of Canfield is another gem at the lift-serviced Silver Mountain Resort. Unfortunately, we got rained out and didn’t get to ride there, but it’s definitely worth keeping on the itinerary for any panhandle mission. Boasting the longest gondola ride in North America, Silver delivers arm-pump-inducing 3,700 foot descents and an excellent variety in trails.

The park that we did get to ride is a quirky one in a quirky town. SVR bike park in Wallace, Idaho, is open to the public but based on reservations only—at least for now. Punched into an ultra-steep hillside in the historic and pointedly preserved mining town, SVR operates on shared space with zip lines tours, of all things. The trail crew are shredders and it shows— you’ll find everything from flawlessly built bike park lines to untrammeled wide-cut loamers that knife and terrace through the steep hillside.

While the panhandle’s front country offers trails aplenty, there’s no shortage of backcountry missions either. If you’re up for an adventure—and don’t mind carrying bear spray—you can hit trails that are surprisingly well maintained by a local motorcycle club and get out to pristine alpine lakes via low-traffic trails. The terrain varies from duffy dirt to unforgiving hardly navigable rock minefields.

Three days in the panhandle was enough to witness the early stoke that Ted and Isaac already had for the area, but what really convinced me was when they asked me precisely when the snow melts off, so they could plan a trip to return in the spring. 

72 Hours is supported by Rapha, Schwalbe and Yakima.

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