North Idaho is a hiker’s paradise, and we are so fortunate to have hikes with beautiful lake views in and near Coeur d’Alene such as the Tubbs Hill and Mineral Ridge trails. If you travel up U.S. Hwy 95 from Coeur d’Alene, take the Bunco Road exit heading east, and you’ll be on your way to yet another North Idaho day hike with gorgeous views – the Chilco Mountain trail to North Chilco Peak.
North Chilco Peak is the northern peak of a long ridge called Chilco Mountain and is part of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. The hike is short, two miles. Some would say it is an “easy” hike due to the distance, and for some it would be. For others, it would be considered... not so easy. The trail is a steady climb with some switchbacks. Most of the ascent is in forest where the trail is shaded. The last one-quarter mile on the summit’s slope is treeless and open. North Chilco’s elevation is 5,635.
At the mountain’s top you will find the remains of a dismantled lookout. From this vantage point are spectacular views of Lake Pend Oreille, the Coeur d’Alene, Selkirk, and Cabinet mountain ranges and the Rathdrum Prairie with Mt Spokane in the distance.
In good weather, the summit of North Chilco is the perfect spot to linger and take refreshment. You’ll be hard pressed to find much shade, but there is often a breeze, even on the warmest of days. Speaking of refreshment, there is no water source on this hike. You will need to pack in your water, and if you bring your dog, his water also. Unless you have excellent verbal control of your pup, it’s best your pooch is kept on a leash. You may encounter wildlife, other hikers, and possibly some dogs on this trail.
On the way back, you can go the way you came or take the other trail fork and go down the west side of the mountain. The trail drops to Chilco Saddle and then climbs to South Chilco Mountain, elevation 5661 ft. Returning from here is about a 10-mile round trip hike.
Once you have visited Chilco Mountain you will most likely return, for the views never get old.
Directions: From Coeur d’Alene go north on US 95 to the Bunco Road exit. Go east on E. Bunco Road, which will turn into Nunn Road. Take a left on N. Bunco Road and follow to Forest Service Road 322. It’s approximately 6 miles from where 332 becomes a dirt road to trailhead at the Junction of Forest Service Road 385, to Little North Fork – Cd’A River. Look for concrete posts at Trail 14 entrance and sign for trail head.
Chris Shafer is the writer and creator of Dog About Town NW, (www.dogabouttownnw.com) a regional blog that celebrates dog ownership in the great Northwest where outdoor adventures with one’s canine companions are typically more than a walk in the park.