Todd Heiman worked in partnership with Visit Idaho to create this Travel Tip.
Idaho is blessed with its fair share of rolling mountains and blankets of forests; but for those who crave a sparkling reward at the end of their hike, there is an abundance of waterfalls sprinkled throughout northern Idaho. Here are five must-see falls to include on your itinerary when visiting Idaho’s Panhandle region.
Located near the Canadian border, Copper Falls is a popular adventure destination offering easy access for hikers of all ages. Once you’ve crossed the Moyie River on Highway 95, a 2-mile drive on Forest Service road 2517 will get you to the trailhead. From there, a half-mile hike leads to the observation platform overlooking the falls, which drop an impressive 225 feet from the top of Copper Creek to a pool below. Listen closely and you may even be treated to owls calling out from the treetops overhead. Prime viewing is in late spring during the run-off, but the falls are also very popular with the winter ice-climbing crowd. Take the full loop trail to really appreciate the falls and the surrounding forest.
Myrtle Creek Falls
Neighboring the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge near Bonners Ferry, Myrtle Creek Falls is, in a word, spectacular. The trail, about a tenth of a mile from the visitor center, is paved up to the bridge and becomes a well-maintained, albeit steep, 0.3-mile hike that is suitable for any skill level. Once at the viewing platform, a 100-foot-high waterfall cascades down the canyon into the creek below. Stay a while or continue past the bridge into the wildlife refuge and see if you can spot deer, beaver, elk or owls.
Snow Creek Falls
This gem is located in the Selkirk Mountains and is not far from Myrtle Creek Falls. From the Snow Creek Falls trailhead, the lower Snow Creek Falls is approximately a 1.7-mile hike that descends into a dense cedar forest. From the trail, you can access both the upper and lower falls—the latter has a nice viewing platform and a sitting area. Snow Creek Falls is best visited during its spring run-off season when the water flow is most dramatic and a true spectacle to behold. Please note: the trailhead and the first 500 feet of the trail are located on private land, so please be respectful and stay on the trail.
Fern & Shadow Falls
Tucked into the Idaho Panhandle National Forest , you can access two of northern Idaho’s most well-known falls in one trip. Although Fern Falls is not the tallest of falls, coming in at just 12 feet, the views are certainly impressive. Lined with moss in summer and glistening with icicles in the winter, one can always find a fantastic view of this little waterfall.
About a half-mile farther up the switchback trail, you will find Shadow Falls. Almost hidden in the silhouette of a box canyon, you can see how the 24-foot-high cascade earned its name. Hike to the creek for a closer view, and if the weather is hot, walk into the falls using the split-log footbridge. Be forewarned: the water is cold even into the summer months! Both falls are family favorites and a wonderful way to adventure in Idaho.
Everyone remembers their first trip to Char Falls. Located in the wild Cabinet Mountains on the Idaho-Montana border, the falls are remote but well worth the trip. Once you reach the trailhead, there is a half-mile hike to the top of the falls. This opens into an area with a bench and a view of Lightning Creek. A side trail will allow you to take in the full glory of this 50-foot waterfall. The dense forest surrounding the falls epitomizes the beauty of the north Idaho wilderness. Although harder to access in winter, ice climbers love to scale the frozen cascades of ice.
While just a few of the cascading treasures scattered throughout northern Idaho, I hope these waterfalls inspire your future family adventures in the Gem State.
Feature image credited to Todd Heiman.
Todd Heiman has lived in beautiful Coeur d’Alene, Idaho for 25 years. During this time he has fostered a love of Hiking, Backpacking, Snowboarding and generally exploring all that the forests of Northern Idaho have to offer. When he is not off exploring, he works as an Insurance Professional in Spokane, Washington. You can see his work on Instagram or visit his website at Toddheimanphotography.com.
Published on December 29, 2020