Welcome to the Idaho Panhandle National Forests

A land of lakes and rivers...

The Idaho Panhandle National Forests create a tapestry of land and water in the panhandle of North Idaho. Come visit us!

Vast lakes and miles of rivers support a world-class fishery. Rich in wildlife, the forest is home to large game such as elk and deer, as well as species such as grizzly bears, wolves, and caribou. From lush evergreen mountains to the shores of big waters, the Idaho Panhandle has a rich history that continues to link families and forest. Come discover us!

 

  • Find Your Adventure

    Whether it's camping, hiking, skiing, or just sight seeing, visit our recreation pages to find your next adventure!

  • Get A Map

    The Forest Service offers multiple maps and brochures. Most can be found at our offices, and many are available digitally.

  • Need A Permit?

    Whether you're looking for an Interagency Recreation Pass or a permit to cut firewood, or you want to film a movie on National Forest System lands, this is where you start.

  • Know Before You Go

    Taking care of ourselves and our fellow travelers, while doing what's right for the land and the wildlife, are everyone's jobs. Visit this page for some tips before heading out into the woods.

  • What's Happening Out There?

    Here you can find links to current reports on snow pack, wildfires and closures, air quality and smoke, road grooming, and stream flows.

  • Avalanche Center

    Avalanche advisories are updated weekly in winter, plus information on avalanche awareness classes, and other reference materials.

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Continuing our Service to You During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Our offices are transitioning back to in-person visitation after two years of virtual customer service. Please stop by or call the office you wish to visit. Find more information at the USDA COVID-19 page.

  • Route of the Hiawatha

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    Winding through nine tunnels and over seven high steel trestles, this 15-mile route crosses the Bitterroot Mountains between Idaho and Montana, and it is open to you! 

  • The Pulaski Tunnel Trail

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    The Pulaski Tunnel Trail follows a cascading creek into a cool, green forest, belying the devastation and horror that occurred here in 1910.

  • Emerald Creek Garnet Area

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    There are only two places in the world you can find Star Garnets - India and right here on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests! 

  • USDA Civil Rights Policy Statement April 9, 2021

     

    Secretary Vilsack writes that, "At USDA, we are recommitting ourselves to the values of equity, inclusion, and equal opportunity for each other and those we serve."

Highlighted Areas

Route of the Hiawatha

It's been called one of the most scenic stretches of railroad in the country. Winding through nine tunnels and over seven high steel trestles, the 15-mile route crosses the rugged Bitterroot Mountains between Idaho and Montana.

The Route of the Hiawatha is best known for the long, dark St. Paul Pass or "Taft" Tunnel which burrows for 1.66 miles under the state line. The tunnel, which had been closed for repairs, reopened for use by mountain bikers, hikers, and wheelchair users the end of May 2001.

The first 13 miles of the route were opened to the public on May 29, 1998. When finished, a bicyclist will be able to ride the Route of the Hiawatha between St. Regis, Montana and Pearson, Idaho. Once again, people will be able to travel the Milwaukee Road over the Bitterroot Mountains, soaking up the rich history and enjoying the breathtaking scenery.  MORE INFORMATION...

Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area, in partnership with the US Forest Service, manages this trail through a permit.  For information on operational hours, trail tickets, shuttles, bike rentals and general questions about the trail please visit: www.ridethehiawatha.com


Red Ives Cabin

Photo of Red Ives CabinRed Ives Cabin is one of our most popular rental facilities. It served as the Ranger Station for the Red Ives Ranger District of the St. Joe National Forest from the 1930s to 1984. Attractions include its location on the St. Joe Wild and Scenic River.  It is located 86 miles southeast of St. Maries, Idaho on Forest Road 218.

The cabin features 2 bedrooms, kitchen, living room, bathroom, and covered front porch; propane stove/oven and refrigerator; hot water, flush toilet, and shower/ tub. Propane/battery lanterns are provided for lights and there is a gas log fireplace for heat.  Absolutely no pets. For more information please contact the St. Maries Ranger Station at (208) 245-2531.

 

Reservations for the Red Ives Ranger Cabin can be made at Recreation.gov on a first come-first serve basis.

 


St. Joe Wild & Scenic River

The "Shadowy" St. Joe River flows down the western slopes of the Bitterroot Mountain Range from it's headwaters at St. Joe Lake near the Idaho/ Montana state line.

The upper portion of the St. Joe River was Congressionally designated as a Wild and Scenic River in 1978; designating the portion of the St. Joe River from North Fork of the St. Joe River to Spruce Tree Campground (39.7 miles) as a Recreational River and the segment from Spruce Tree Campground to St. Joe Lake (26.6 miles) as a Wild River.  The Recreational portion of the river provides multiple vehicle access opportunities and developed campgrounds.  Above Spruce Tree Campground the Wild portion of the St. Joe River is accessible only by non-motorized travel, with Trail 48 following the river to Heller Creek Campground.

The St. Joe River offers a variety of recreational opportunites, such as fly fishing, floating, camping, hiking, horseback riding and backpacking.


Emerald Creek Garnet Area

There are only two places in the world you can find Star Garnets - India and right here on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests! The garnets found here are called "star garnets" because of a unique property that causes some of them to display a reflection like a four or six pointed star. India is the only other place in the world where star garnets like these are found in any quantity.

Garnet Area Brochure

The 12-sided (dodecahedron) crystals found here range in size from sand particles to golf-ball or larger size. Gem quality faceting material is also found at the Garnet Area.

The Forest Service has developed the Garnet Area as a place where the public may collect these unique gems in a safe and environmentally friendly way. In the past, people would dig in the stream bed in search of the garnets. Now, due to concerns for water quality, aquatic habitat, and public safety, the Forest Service provides a stockpile of garnet bearing gravels from which people can gather material to run through one of two sluice boxes in search of garnets.

Tickets to the Garnet Area will be by reservation only through recreation.gov.  No tickets will be sold on site.


Recreation Areas