International Selkirk Loop – WA
- DesignationAll-American Road (2005)
- Intrinsic QualitiesRecreation, Scenic
- LocationID, WA
- Length66.1 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.
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 an hour southwest of the loop. Within the loop, the 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, which is a collection of 12 U.S. and Canadian scenic highways, follows rivers and lakeshores. The waterways historically were used for transportation, yet 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 corridor is national forest, national wildlife refuge, wildlife management area, or provincial park, so there are myriad opportunities for outdoor recreation.
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.
Start at the southern gateway for the Washington portion of the loop in Newport, which is on Idaho’s border, on SR-20. Taking the right side of the loop, head north on US-2 heading toward Sandpoint in Idaho, just under 30 miles away. Continue north on what is now US-9, passing Bonners Ferry before the route becomes SR-1 before Porthill and the British Columbia, Canada border approximately eight miles later. Now on the Creston-Rykerts Hwy/BC-21, Kootenay Lake runs parallel to the byway on the left. You’ll need to take the Kootenay Lake Ferry, the longest free ferry in North America, to cross to the east shore. Now on Highway 3A in Balfour, look for Highway 6 N, which takes you back into Washington 100 miles later right after passing Nelway. The stretch back to Newport, along SR-20 from Metaline, Washington, is 59.5 miles.
Points of Interest
Crawford State Park
A 40-acre day use park featuring Gardner Cave, a 500 million-year-old cavern. Its floors, ceilings and walls are rich with stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone and rimstone pools.
Tiger Historical Museum and Store
Historic brownstone buildings, a residential historic district and a lakeshore Maritime trail invite exploration on foot, by bicycle or by car.
Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge
Camping, off-road-vehicle-riding, fising, mountain biking, and other recreationalopportunities.
Priest Lake State Park
A 19-mile, 300-foot deep lake surrounded by dense forest.
International Selkirk Loop Interpretive Center
Only international drive, going into British Columbia, Canada. Passports required.
Sandpoint City Beach Park, in Idaho
In downtown Sandpoint, grills, picnic tables, and beach.
Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge
Located in Idaho, about 20 miles from Canadian border. Habitat for migratory birds
Creston Valley Wildlife Management Centre
In British Columbia, Canada
Artisans of Crawford Bay
In British Columbia, Canada
Kokanee Creek Provincial Park
In British Columbia, Canada.
Boundary Dam Overlook
Metaline Falls, WA
Eagles Nest View Site
Longbridge over Lake Pend Oreille
Two-mile wooden bridge, once the longest in the world.
US Hwy 95 / 1 Junction Scenic Overlook
Kootenay Lake Free Ferry
In British Columbia
The Washington Side of the International Selkirk Loop
Start in Newport near the Washington/Idaho border. Discover the Priest River and its surrounding activities. There are many opportunities to go to museums and interpretive centers in this area. Relive the town’s history at the Northern Rail Deport and explore Colville National Forest for many year-round recreational activities.
Drive through rural Washington along the river to the small communities in Usk and Usick. If you’re visiting in the spring, make sure to have your camera to take pictures of the sea of blue camas. In Cusick, enjoy an interpretive riverwalk to learn more about the local environment. Enjoy access to boating and swimming at the river or walk the paved trail to Usk.
As you drive north past the Colville National Forest and the Cusick Survival Training Site, you will eventually reach the ghost town of Tiger. Discover the Tiger Historical Center and Museum, the only remaining building in this community. Continue on the route to Ione, where you will find many restaurants along the town’s Main Street.
Stop for the day in Metaline and Metaline Falls, home to one of the best small arts towns in America. Explore the Mill Pond Historic Interpretive Site, take a guided tour of Gardner Cave at Crawford State Park, or take a tour of Boundary Dam. There are many opportunities for lodging and dining here before you continue your journey to Canada.
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