Winter in the Idaho Panhandle

Winter in the Idaho Panhandle

By: Cody Hanson


When it comes to finding peace and solitude, there are few places that rival the mountains of Northern Idaho. Especially in the winter time, these mountains offer a sanctuary for those looking to escape the daily grind.

On this particular weekend, my family and I decided to head east towards the Panhandle National Forests. The Idaho Panhandle National Forests are an aggregation of the Coeur d'Alene and portions of the Kaniksu and St. Joe National Forests. While each area is unique in its own right, we set our sights on the Coeur d’Alene National Forest, hoping to unwind from a long and stressful week.

This is river country and its once green valleys were covered with a thick blanket of snow and ice. It was the first blue sky we had seen in over a month. With record snowfall, most of the rivers and creeks in the area were covered, leaving the landscape nearly unrecognizable. With no particular destination in mind we decided to hop off the freeway and travel north into the mountains.

As we made our way down the forest road, the snow got deeper making it too dangerous to drive any further. We took this opportunity to park the truck and strap on our snowshoes. With the proper gear, the road is still accessible by foot.

Trekking through the valley, the absence of noise made our experience even more serene. While my son took this opportunity to nap on my back, my wife and I took our time enjoying the views. Spots like this are a short drive away, but the views never get old.  

One of the things that makes this area so unique is the history. Along the way we found abandoned mines scattered throughout the mountain side. Each site serving as reminder of the once booming mining communities that existed here in the early twentieth century. Further along down the trail, snags littered the valley floor, eerie remains from a fire that ripped through this valley over 100 years ago.

After a couple hours of exploring the mountains, we made our way back to the truck. The sun was beginning to set and as it did, the temperature dropped even lower. Hot chocolate was calling our name, so we quickly heated up our camp stove for a post-snowshoe beverage.

Time can slip away when you’re out here. Although we didn’t want to leave, we packed our gear, eager to head home and start planning our next adventure.

*All photos were submitted by the writer unless otherwise noted.