International Selkirk Loop – ID
- DesignationAll-American Road (2005)
- Intrinsic QualitiesHistoric, Recreation
- LocationID, WA
- Length78 of 144.1 total miles
Marvel at the awesome beauty of the International Selkirk Loop as it encircles the wild Selkirk Mountains for 280 miles (including British Columbia). Play on crystal clear rivers and lakes, or traverse mountain trails to view snowcapped peaks and wildlife diversity. Explore charming communities with fascinating history, fun festivals, and picturesque settings in a Two Nation Vacation.
International Selkirk Loop
Bonners Ferry Chamber of Commerce
Visit North Idaho
Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism
Story of the Byway
The International Selkirk Loop encircles the breathtaking Selkirk Mountains in northeast Washington, north Idaho and southeast British Columbia, a place of forested hillsides, sparkling waterfalls, snowcapped craggy peaks, and charming small towns. The nearest metropolitan area is Spokane, Washington, about one hour southwest of the Selkirk Loop. Within the Loop, the Selkirk Mountains are accessible from the Salmo Basin, Sullivan Lake, Priest Lake, Pack River, Roman Nose, Kootenay Pass and Kokanee Glacier recreation areas.
Nearly the entire Loop route follows rivers and lakeshores. The waterways historically were used for transportation, but today they are a source of year-round recreation, from fly fishing to ice fishing, boating, water skiing, windsurfing, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, diving and rafting.
Much of the land in the Loop corridor is National Forest, National Wildlife Refuge, Wildlife Management Area, or Provincial Park, so there are myriad opportunities for outdoor recreation – a vast uncrowded playground! Hundreds of miles of trails are available for all levels of hiking, biking, horseback riding, skiing and snowmobile touring. Rock climbing and geo-caching are popular for the more adventurous. These public lands are home to the largest diversity of wildlife in the lower 48 states. The wildlife Refuges and Management Areas are home to more than 50 mammal species and 265+ bird species. Moreover, Lake Pend Oreille and Kootenay Lake are two of the largest lakes in the west.
The Loop’s scenery changes with each season. In spring, the bright greens of new foliage blend with the colors of early wildflowers, set against a backdrop of snow-covered mountaintops and rushing waterfalls. In summer, wildflowers are in full bloom, and the rivers and lakes teem with fish below warm blue skies. Fall brings changing colors, with brilliant golds and reds amid the dark green pine and spruce. Canadian geese by the thousands stop for respite on their journey south through the Pacific Flyway. In winter, a peaceful blanket of snow covers higher elevations of the Loop, with greenery remaining in the milder climates of the river valleys. Moose, deer and elk often are spotted as they browse for tender shoots beneath the snow. No wonder this route was voted “The West’s Best Scenic Drive” by Sunset Magazine.
The most delightful aspect of the Loop’s scenery is its variety, from narrow river canyons to broad fertile valleys and vibrant village scenes, from lowland meadows to breathtaking mountain vistas. Surprises await around every corner! Be sure to allow ample time to explore; we suggest 3-7 days. Visitors often are surprised by the lack of crowds on the Selkirk Loop – it’s a genuinely relaxing experience!
From: Spokane, Washington (closest International Airport ); Distance: 47 miles; To Starting Destination Town on Loop: Newport, Washington; Driving Directions: From Interstate 90 in Spokane, take Exit 281 for U.S. 2 / 395 North ( Division Street ). Travel north on Division Street / U.S. 2 for 6 miles to the U.S. 2 / 395 fork. Stay to the right on U.S. 2, travel northeast on U.S. 2 for 41 miles to Newport, where you can stop at the Newport Chamber Visitor Center & Depot Museum (on right hand side as you enter Newport) for orientation, maps, directions, etc. Total travel time from Spokane to Newport is approximately 1¼ hours. Spokane International Airport has car rentals available.
From: Coeur dâ€™Alene, Idaho; Distance: 48 miles; To Starting Destination Town on Loop: Sandpoint, Idaho; Driving Directions: From Interstate 90 in Coeur dâ€™Alene, travel north on U.S. 95 for 48 miles to Sandpoint, Idaho. Stop at the Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce visitor center just north of town (right side of U.S. 95) for orientation, directions, maps, etc. Travel time from Coeur dâ€™Alene to Sandpoint is approximately 45 minutes.
From: Missoula, Montana; Distance: 191 miles; To Starting Destination Town on Loop: Sandpoint, Idaho; Driving Directions: From Missoula, travel west on Interstate 90 for 8 miles to Exit 96 for U.S. 93 / S.H. 200 North (To Kalispell / Glacier National Park). Travel north on U.S. 93 / S.H. 200 for 27 miles to Ravalli, then turn northwest on S.H. 200 for 123 miles through Thompson Falls along the scenic Clark Fork River to the Idaho border. Continue into Idaho on S.H. 200, which is the Pend Oreille National Scenic Byway, and a Selkirk Loop Super Side Trip. Travel west for 33 miles from the Idaho border along the north shore of Lake Pend Oreille to Sandpoint, where you enter the International Selkirk Loop. At the junction with U.S. 95, continue straight ahead (U.S. 95 South) toward downtown Sandpoint. The Chamber visitor center is about ½ mile ahead on your left (before you enter town). Travel time from Missoula to Sandpoint is approximately 3 hours. The Missoula airport has car rental available.
Points of Interest
Crawford State Park / Gardner Cave
Crawford State Park feels like it's at the end of the earth, and its star attraction, Gardner Cave, feels like the center of the earth. Tucked away in the northeast corner of Washington, near the U.S.-Canada and Washington-Idaho borders, Crawford State Park is an unassuming day-use park – on the surface. But a tour of Gardner Cave reveals an underworld of deep geologic mystery. Gardner Cave is a 500 million-year-old cavern.
Tiger Historical Museum and Store
Built at its present location in 1912, the renovated Tiger Museum/Store serves as the south gateway for the North Pend Orielle Scenic Byway.
Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge
The Little Pend Oreille NWR was established in 1939 as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.
Priest Lake State Park
Priest Lake State Park lies just 30 miles from the Canadian border, nestled deep below the crest of the Selkirk Mountains. Surrounded by the natural beauty of Northern Idaho and mile-high mountains, Priest Lake State Park sits along the eastern shores of Priest Lake, a 19-mile long, 300-foot-deep waterbody.
International Selkirk Loop Interpretive Center
Interpretive center for the International Selkirk Loop.
Sandpoint City Beach Park
Laid-back lakefront park featuring a sandy beach & placid waters in a charming, picturesque setting.
Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge
Kootenai NWR provides numerous recreation opportunities to thousands of visitors every year. People enjoy viewing the unique geology and diverse wildlife, whether driving or hiking. Regulation of recreation activities allow for public enjoyment of the refuge while still protecting the wildlife and habitats.
Creston Valley Wildlife Management Centre
The Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area supports an amazing amount of biodiversity. There are over 300 bird, close to 60 mammal, 17 fish, 6 reptile and 6 amphibian species that have been recorded in the area. Plus, there are thousands of invertebrate and plant species.
Artisans of Crawford Bay
Crawford Bay, home to a diverse group of Artisans, (craftspeople) is a small community on Kootenay Lake in southeast British Columbia. Our unique, even quirky studios (look for log, strawbale and an ex-bootleggers building) are within easy walking distance from each other.
Kokanee Creek Provincial Park
Mountainous natural park with a sandy beach & easy walks, famed for salmon spawning in late summer.
Boundary Dam Overlook
The Vista House is perched on cliffs above the east side of the Pend Oreille River, overlooking Boundary Dam. Exhibits cover such subjects as the hydroelectric project, indigenous wildlife and the border patrol. A trail loops down to an overlook, cantilevered over the edge of the canyon high above the dam; the view is spectacular.
Eagles Nest View Site
Eagle viewing site.
Longbridge over Lake Pend Oreille
The two mile long bridge spanning the mouth of the Pend Oreille River leads to Sandpoint on the north end. Today’s bridge, as the 3 previous ones, offers panoramic views of the river, lake and mountains and is a key access point for people living south of the town.
US Hwy 95 / 1 Junction Scenic Overlook
Kootenay Lake Free Ferry
The Kootenay Lake ferry runs across Kootenay Lake, 35 kilometres east of Nelson on Highway 3A, between Balfour (west side) and Kootenay Bay (east side), 70 kilometres from Creston on Highway 3A.
Fishing a Tributary
Starting early in Sandpoint, drive northeast on the International Selkirk Byway until you reach Kootenai. Stop to gather food for the trip before following the historical marker for Hope Peninsula. Continue to head east for bird watching in the Denton Slough Waterfowl Area. Upon arriving to Clark Fork, set up for a day of trout fishing on the Middle Fork Clark Fork. On your way home, stop at Kellyspell House and Sam Owen State Park, both attractions in Kootenai, before continuing on the loop or returning to Sandpoint.
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