“My legs are still shaking,” I remarked as I checked in for our weekend stay at the Selkirk Lodge atop Schweitzer Mountain near Sandpoint, Idaho.
“Oh, did you ride up?,” the lady checking in next to me asked. It was totally reasonable to ask, the 7 hairpin turns along the 9 mile road rising some 1700 feet is a popular track for Saturday afternoon road cyclists.
“Oh, no .. “ I explained. “My legs are just wobbly from the ride down.”
According to Google Maps you can get from Calgary to Sandpoint in about 6 and a half hours, mix in a stop at the Largest Truck In The World for lunch and other sundry distractions when traveling with kids and it will take you 8 or 9 to get to this northern Idaho playground.
But it’s worth it. The first two days we spent on the mountain, the next one we spent on the lake. Here’s what you can do around the sea and sky at Sandpoint and Schweitzer.
Schweitzer Mountain‘s village is quaint and compact. There’s a handful of restaurants, some real estate shops and galleries.
Gourmandie is a sweet little place to grab a charcuterie plate or cheeses and a bottle of craft beer. You can grab it to go and take it on a hike, ride, or just across the way to your room. Or, sit on their patio and enjoy an afternoon.
Pucci’s Pub is a classic ski hill bar. It’s got a chairlift bench outside, pulled pork nachos on the menu, all sorts of craft beers on tap and a room decorated with old ski run signs and a classic Pac-Man arcade game.
In the village there’s all sorts of summer activities for kids and families from zip-lines to rock climbs.
The hill is popular for hikers and mountain bikers alike. After doing the Huckleberry Color Run in the morning, we just took a chairlift ride to the top for a look around. At the Schweitzer summit we found The Wang Shack, the absolute best little beer and ice cream hut in the world.
We sat in bunji chairs, played corn hole, and enjoyed some ice cream and PBR at the top. It would have been nice to see Lake Pend Oreille stretching out below, but forest fires clouded our view.
This is what we saw
This is what we should have seen.
The next day we made our way off the mountain and went to get a look at the lake up close.
Lake Pend Oreille at Sandpoint
Sandpoint is a wonderful little resort town on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille. I got up early one morning and went for a photo walk around Sandpoint taking note of all the cute, quirky, hipster-friendly shops around town.
This is where you can have handcrafted ice cream, all sorts of microbrews, locally roasted coffee, and breakfast worthy of a lumberjack. All of it centers on the lake and the incredible City Beach.
You’ll need to get there early if you want to secure a parking spot on a summer day. There is not much parking on the peninsula and it often fills up before noon. The park is surrounded by calm, relaxing water. There’s a small snack shack for hot dogs and huckleberry lemonade, but that’s about it.
We were first to the beach in the morning, laid out our blankets and relaxed watching the boys dig in the sand for hours.
This park is where you can get on board Lake Pend Oreille Cruises. Linda and her team are very kind and knowledgeable of the area. We took the Birds of Prey cruise and saw eagles and osprey along the shoreline.
If you want the best view of the lake for dinner, grab a patio seat at Trinity and have a huge plate of North Idaho trout.
From the sea to the summit, the mountain to the beach, it would be very easy to spend a relaxing week in the Sandpoint area. You could stay at the mountain, or in the town and easily see both (it’s just 20 minutes from the Schweitzer Village to City Beach).
Disclosure: Portions of our visit to Idaho were provided by Tourism Idaho.