Hikes in Bonners Ferry

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After my visit to Wallace, which was absolutely amazing, I continued north to Bonners Ferry.  Bonners Ferry is about 30 minutes from Sandpoint and 1.5 hours from Coeur d’Alene, both popular Idaho resort towns.  It is also rather close to the Canadian border, and sometimes my phone plan thought we were in Canada. 

As always, when I visit small towns, my dog Annie and I check out the local trails.  Bonners Ferry has many to offer.  Below are a few trails in Bonners Ferry we hiked:

Snow Creek Falls – 1.5 miles – Easy

We started out at Snow Creek Falls about 20 minutes southwest of town.  This soft, pine needle strewn trail was maintained as well as any trail in a National Park.  The only downside is it goes down (rather than up) through the shady forest first. That said the hike is only about 1.5 miles, so it is not very strenuous.  At the trail split, the path to the right leads to the upper falls, and the path to left descends to the lower falls. 

Both are very nice.  While we visited in the early morning, the strong spray from upper falls coupled with the sunlight, produced a lovely rainbow!

upper snow creek falls hike in bonners ferry

Two Mouth Lakes – 9.1 miles – Moderate

Two Mouth Lakes is located in the Kanisku National Forest.  The drive is on the long side, nearly an hour, as is the 9.1 mile hike.  The first 1.5 miles of the hike follows an old logging with nice views.  Thereafter, a single track travels through the lush forest with loads of beautiful beargrass.  The trail includes a variety of simple water crossings, an occasional boardwalk, and even some snow in July. 

Upon reaching the clearing for the lakes, trails veer in many directions. The interactive AllTrails is helpful in this instance, assuming you have downloaded it as cell service is intermittent throughout the Bonners Ferry area. 

I took a path through the bushes to the right to reach the first lake whose shore was extremely soggy.  I couldn’t even get within 30 yards of the lake at this location, so after letting Annie sniff around, I moved on to the second lake. Though I should add there is a rocky shelf further to the left that might be reached from another spur trail.

Two Mouth Lakes Hike in Bonners Ferry

At the second lake we found a big rock to the right of the main trail where Annie and I had our snack.  Honestly, neither lake knocked my socks off, so for the combined drive and hike time, I’d recommend going to Roman Nose Lakes.  Having said that, the views of the valley upon the return drive to Bonners Ferry were lovely, so I’m glad I went!

view of Bonners Ferry

Roman Nose Lakes – 4-5 miles – Moderate

Roman Nose Lakes was definitely my favorite hike in Bonners Ferry, Idaho.  It is located 26 miles west of town in the Kaniksu National Forest.  Don’t let the 26 miles deceive you.  Much of the drive is on a pretty well graded dirt road, barring a few spots, so it takes 1.25 hours to reach the trailhead.

The Roman Nose Lakes Trail is well worth the drive.  The hike features three lakes in 4-5 miles!  I say 4-5 miles because there is an interpretive loop that adds to the distance, but it should not be skipped.  The loop hardly features an interpretive sign (the list is at the trailhead), and the views are remarkable. 

View of Roman Nose Lake

I hiked to the middle and upper lakes first and then returned via the interpretive trail and ended at the lake by the parking lot.  The upper lake, which goes to the left at the trail split was my favorite. 

roman nose lakes hike in Bonners Ferry

In the second week of July, there was still a bit of snow on the trail at the upper lake and a portion of the path after the boardwalk was underwater.  Remarkably, I maneuvered around the muck without getting wet or muddy and walked farther along the lakeshore than shown on the AllTrails map to some giant boulders.

I highly recommend following in my footsteps, passing the two campsites, and getting to the giant boulders about ¾ of the way up the south shore.  This is a lovely place to sit and take in the view if you are all alone like Annie and I were.  I get a strange feeling that it might also serve as a place for low cliff jumping, but don’t quote me, because I don’t know how deep the water is. You’ll have to judge and jump at your own risk.

Across from the big boulders is a waterfall.  I tried walking around the lake a bit further for a close up view, but there was still too much snow, so I can’t say if getting around the end of the lakes is easily traversable or not under dry conditions. Regardless, just taking in the view from these boulders was spectacular. Even though it was a weekday, I can’t believe I had this hike to my self. Roman Nose Lakes was definitely my best hike in Bonners Ferry. It probably warrants a post of its own to include all my pictures. I guess I will try to squeeze them into a square on my IG account @etbtravelphotogrpahy.

Bottleneck Lake – 6 miles – Moderate

Farther up the same road as the Snow Creek Falls Trailhead, is the hike to Bottle Neck Lake.  The six mile roundtrip trek passes through the lush Kanisku National Forest. The first part of the path ought to be called cobweb corridor.  Fortunately, the grade is gradual and I didn’t need my hiking stick for walking. Instead, I waived my hiking pole in front of my face like a windshield wiper to keep the sticky strings from attaching to my chin.

After the initial 1.5 miles, the trail forks.  To the right is Bottleneck Lake and to the left is Snow Lake.  As the trail climbs to Bottleneck Lake, it crosses many creeks and affords hikers a lovely view before eventually reaching the shallow green lake.  Though peaceful, I was a little underwhelmed with the end result, especially after having hiked in a brief and light drizzle.

Bottleneck Lake Hike in Bonners Ferry

That said, the galloping deer that rounded the bend and came to an abrupt stop upon the sight of us near the beginning of the trail added to the excitement. It was such a surprise to see it coming so fast! I don’t know how the dear did not hear Annie with her bear bell or me with my book on speaker (to warn the grizzlies). I’m also amazed Annie didn’t see the deer!! Of course by the time I collected her and raised the camera, the frozen deer left as fast as it arrived!

Bottleneck Lake shares the trailhead with Snow Lake, so you can get a two for one lake hike in just over ten miles if you retrace your steps to the trail junction and go left. 

Snow Lake

If ten miles is too long for you, however, then find a different day to hike to Snow Lake. In fact, if you only have time for one lake, then I’d hike the 7.3 miles to Snow Lake.  It was my second favorite hike in Bonners Ferry. This sandy and sometimes wide trail, which seemed like a nice path for horses, featured the first mushrooms I’ve seen all year. As with Bottleneck Lake, the hike to Snow Lake included several water crossings.

I sunk my foot in the stream after slipping off a wobbly rock. The mud and snow patches also added to my wet feet. It didn’t matter with the view of this lake. There is something about seeing aqua water beneath towering grey cliffs. I just love it. Not even the bear scat could keep me away.

Seeing something new to me at Snow Lake, might have also been why I liked it better than the placid Bottleneck Lake with a lovely reflection.  I watched a log float across the lake to its shore which looks like a tree graveyard.  Of course I have seen tree branches barreling down a river. And yes, I have seen a collection of logs in a lake, in fact, just as recently as the prior week at Sawtooth. But I don’t think I have ever seen a large tree float across a high mountain tarn.

I suppose it is not a great feat, but I often wondered if the logs made it to one end of the lake over time, during an avalanche, or during a flood.  And to top it off, I didn’t hear or see the tree fall, though I could have been preoccupied with all the buzzing bees (more on this in a moment). But it certainly brought to mind the question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

While I suppose it could have already fallen, it needed some kind of momentum. It was hardly breezy. Literally, one minute I was looking at a blue lake. The next minute the tree came floating from the left through the middle of the lake. Finally, it joined the others on the shore to the right. While it looked like it was moving slowly, it didn’t take very long cross the lake. I was completely mesmerized over the simplest thing. Never take nature for granted!

Now, about the bees.  There were a bunch at Roman Nose Lakes and several at Snow Lake.  As a result, I made sure not the hike to Beehive Lakes.  I felt fortunate that I am not allergic to bees and thus am not afraid of them, because strangely kept landing on my grey pants rather than my red Deuter pack or Annie’s orange Ruffwear pack.  Perhaps, after a few days without a shower, I smelled!

My thoughts were so contradictory as they annoyingly buzzed around.  I imagined the fear an allergic person might feel if they didn’t have their epipen.  By the same token, I was happy to see so many bees, since we need these pollinators to survive.  Additionally, it brought back nice memories of my former beekeeper neighbors who always gave me honey for letting them put a hive in my backyard in Denver. I’m on my last jar!

With the exception of Snow Creek Falls, these hikes and drives are likely a little rugged for the average tourist, though easily doable for the moderate adventurer.

Other Hikes in Bonners Ferry 

There are many other hikes in Bonners Ferry as well. The Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge features a handful of hikes, including the 0.5-mile roundtrip to Myrtle Falls.  The refuge, however, is not dog friendly, so I had to do this one without Annie.

Also, the 9B Trails has acquired 1,100 acres of private land and is currently developing hiking, biking, equestrian, and winter trails in the Bonners Ferry area.  Some, like Riverside Park, are short paved trails, while others, like those in Section 16 are single track and dirt road.

Since they are rather new, I found this information in the 2022 Visit Boundary County booklet at the Visitors Center rather than my typical go to, AllTrails.

Riverside Park: 0.78 paved trail (easy), 478 Ballpark Road

The Enchanted Forest: 6.7 miles so far (intermediate), 322 Hoot Owl Road

Section 16 – Paradise Valley: 6.1 miles so far (easy), 1099 Kootenai Trail Road

I visited Riverside Park and Section 16 – Paradise Valley when I wanted a quick stroll near town rather than a more demanding hike and drive. Personally, I prefer the more rugged, wilderness hikes, but I was happy to know these hikes in Bonners Ferry were available when I needed to get Annie out for a run.  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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