Nature February 02, 2017
9 Beautiful Idaho Lakes With A Magical Aura About Them
As fantastic as river floating, rafting, and fly fishing are, sometimes a gentle, picture-perfect lakefront view is where all of the best things happen. Boating, beach-lounging, sunset-watching, just listening to the ripples ripples lap against the shore… It sounds pretty dreamy! But while our major lakes – beautiful though they may be – are well worth a visit, Idaho is home to dozens more that don’t get the accolades that they should. Today, we’ve decided to highlight just a few other special lakes throughout the state: the hidden gems, the local swimming holes, and family outing-perfect hideaways, and the intense hiking destinations.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
1. Browns Lake
Like so many of the high alpine lakes tucked away in the Sawtooths - or even the Sawtooths themselves - Browns Lake takes quite the hike to get, but is well worth the effort. The well-known Queens-Little Queens rivers is much less traveled than the Sawtooths' more popular Alice-Toxaway loop and makes an idyllic sidetrip, totally 32 miles or so. Not for the faint of heart, this blue-tinged water body sits gloriously surrounded by the sheer granite mountains, and you'll no doubt find evidence of wandering bears.
2. Round Lake
There's a lot to love about this sparkling lake in the Panhandle. Neatly tucked away in its own state park, Round Lake is a beautiful, woodsy spot for camping, fishing, boating, and enjoying the majestic scenery of Northern Idaho. Ice fishing and ice skating are popular in winter as well, and cozy cabins add a homey touch, while extra rentals and amenities found at busier lake locales make for an unforgettable experience. Hike to Cocolalla Creek, stargaze in the evenings without the threat of light pollution, and just listen to the bullfrogs croak. It's positively magical.
3. Lone Lake
For one of the best fall lake-loop hikes of your life, a 4.5 mile round-trip hike offers hikers views of incredible cascades in the Silver Valley, complete with vibrant colors and rich foliage. Lone Lake is apltly named for its isolation, and you won't find much of a trail to get here... but you will find multiple creeks and waterfalls guiding you to your destination.
4. Chatcolet Lake
Construction of the Post Falls Dam in 1906 backed water through Lake Coeur d’Alene and raised the level of Chatcolet Lake to merge it with Round and Benewah lakes. However, the banks of the St. Joe are high enough to form a natural tree-lined levee that creates a river within the lakes--the only "river between lakes" in the country. Chatcolet is particularly delightful to visit with is unique bridge over the water and large, blue expanse that is reminiscent of the larger Pend Oreille.
5. Crimson Lake
While Mount Borah and its surrounding peaks are the tallest in Idaho, they don't get nearly the same amount of attention as the Sawtooths due to their oval-ish, rocky facades. But tucked within the Frank Chuch Wilderness - specifically the Salmon-Challis National Forest - sits picturesque Crimson Lake. Far removed from the busyness of Sun Valley, but absolutely stunning in every way, this little alpine gem north of Bonanza offers colorful views of Cape Horn and easy access from the Middle Fork of the Salmon--meaning a wild and rugged frontier no matter which way you turn.
6. Kane Lake
Just a short trek from Sun Valley, a challenging hike through meadows, dense forests, and rock fields, ends at this pristine high mountain lake, which is dwarved by the 11,000 foot peaks of the Pioneer Mountains. The hike follows Kane Creek nearly the entire way. Blissfully overlooked, however, you'll find all the peace, quiet, and breathtaking views you can hope for.
7. Tolo Lake
This quiet, shallow lake near Grangeville is a true hidden gem, despite being the larges lake in the Camas Prairie. Once a historic gathering place for the Nez Perce, named after and a pivotal spot during the Nez Perce War, this pond-like body of water is perfect for fishing and relaxing. Named after a prominent Nez Perce woman, buried beneath the centuries of silt, a Columbian Mammoth was unearthed as well. Most recently, some of the prairie silt was refashioned in the lake to create nesting and safety islands for local waterfowl and wildlife.
8. Iron Bog Lake
Iron Bog Lake is a gorgeous and unexpected destination not too far from Smiley Mountain or Craters of the Moon, featuring abundant campsites, great views, and fruitful fishing. A mountain peak rises straigh out of the lake, making for an impressive and unique sight, but you'll also find flower-filled meadows to the south to add even more magical greenery to this south-central Idaho oasis. Signs mark the way to the steep trailhead, but the path evens out as you get closer to your waterfront destination.
9. Spirit Lake
Set in the town of the same name, this "spooky" lake is a delight to visit during the daytime. With 12 miles of shoreline, it is also the highest small lake in the region with an elevation of 2,400 feet. Crystal clear and surrounded by gorgeous greenery, this lake was once a part of the same glacier that carved the Pend Oreille and Coeur d'Alene lakes. Quaint waterfront homes and cabins dot the shoreline, but public use areas are easy to find and offer exceptional views of this "bottomless" lake!
Idaho has more waterfront views than most people realize – where is your family’s favorite lake getaway?
For more hidden gems, check out this
hidden park in Idaho or these 10 Idaho secrets.