Summer at the Summits
Summer weekends tend to fill up quickly. Between vacations and weddings, outdoor projects and keeping the kids occupied, it always seems to go by too fast. You want to take that backcountry hike but aren’t quite sure you can commit an entire weekend to the adventure. It’d be fun to bring the kids along, but are they ready for a long weekend deep in the woods?
There is an outdoor adventure for just about every age and skill level in our area, and some of the most obvious places to start are sometimes overlooked. Skiers and riders are familiar with the incredible mountain slopes we have, all within a short drive of each other. What you might not know is that many of these ski hills offer some of the best and most easily accessible outdoor recreation opportunities around, not just in winter but during the warm summer months as well. As you ponder ways to get out and enjoy the outdoors this summer, take a peek at what’s available at your local ski hills.
Schweitzer Mountain Resort
Schweitzer Mountain continues to bustle all summer long as if the snow never left. The on-property hotel rooms and condos are all available to rent, and the retail and restaurants are open for shoppers and diners alike.
With 40 miles of mixed-use trails, the summer trail map is nearly as extensive as winter. There are hike-only trails, hike and bike trails, and downhill biking-only trails. The resort’s trail system also connects with those maintained by the Selkirk Recreation District.
The Great Escape Chairlift transports guests to the peak to go out and explore or just enjoy a tasty lunch or beverage at the Sky House.
Back in the village, kids will find an array of fun activities and an ‘Ultimate Fun Pass’ includes unlimited chairlift rides, zip line, climbing wall and trampoline jumper, as well as a bag of jewels for the sluice box.
The drive up to Lookout allows you to straddle two states and two time zones in the same trip. While the lifts don’t operate in the summer, Lookout Pass is home base for one of the most scenic bike rides you’ll ever be on.
Ride the Hiawatha runs from the end of May through mid to late September. The trail is an old Milwaukee railroad grade that’s now paved and packed gravel, which creates a silky smooth ride down the mountain side. The 15-mile ride from East Portal to Pearson is almost all downhill or flat ground, perfect for young riders and those who like to keep the pace slow.
As you cruise down the trail you’ll cross over several old railroad tresses and through multiple tunnels—including the 1.66-mile long St. Paul Pass Tunnel. Trail passes are available at the Lodge as well as bike rentals. Here you can also arrange shuttle service depending on where you would like to begin and end your ride.
While the water park alone might be enough to draw summer visitors to Silver Mountain in Kellogg, you’d be missing out if you didn’t head up the mountain as well. The Gondola operates all summer long, offering stunning views of the Silver Valley on your way up the mountain. A full scale Mountain Bike park awaits avid riders. You can watch some of the fastest downhill riders around during the Northwest Cup, June 22 through 24.
The nine-hole Galena Ridge Golf Course is uniquely situated mountainside and includes dramatic elevation changes. You are likely to see birds and deer, and possibly elk and moose, during your round.
Silver Mountain also hosts an annual Brewfest at the top of the mountain each August. Regional breweries and cideries stake their claim on top of the mountain, and you’re able to enjoy the spectacular views with a few brews and live music as well.
Where else can you mountain bike, golf, and surf and splash all in the same day?
Within the last few years, Mt. Spokane has added a new lift and terrain, as well as great expanded seating in its lodges. If you’re looking for a unique wedding venue, you’ve definitely found it. The lodges can also be rented out for other special occasions throughout the summer.
The adjacent Mt. Spokane State Park offers all kinds of summer recreation. There are nearly 14,000 acres to explore, all of which are open to hikers. You’ll find abundant wildlife and photo opportunities, and if you reach the summit on a clear day, you can view Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, Steptoe Butte to the south, and the foothills of Glacier National Park and the Cabinet Mountains in Montana.
Prefer not to hike? The summit road is drivable and usually opens up in mid-June. The road takes you all the way to the top of the mountain where you can picnic at the Vista House, which is also open all summer.
You can camp at Bald Knob campground or, if you’re lucky, score a reservation to stay the night inside the old Quartz Mountain Fire Lookout.
At 49° North, summer is kind of a ‘choose your own adventure.’ While the lifts do not operate, everyone is welcome to explore the entirety of the mountain.
Mountain bikers utilize the service roads that cut through the west, central and east basins in order to access all kinds of varying terrain.
Those not on bikes can hike their favorite trails or create their own. Most of the snow is melted off by early July, but you will still find some stashes in the heavily shaded areas. There’s nothing quite like a pile of snow to jump into during a sweaty hike; nature’s perfect refresher. As you hike, keep an eye out on Chewelah Peak for the Northwest’s favorite berry. Best times for picking huckleberries are in the dog days of summer, usually most of July and into early August.
Those who simply cannot put the skis away can also hike and ride the remaining snow even after the April closing. Packed snow can sometimes last into June, allowing you to take in some summer skiing.