Welcome to the Idaho Panhandle National Forests

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!


  • 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.

  • Kootenai Complex Wildfire Crisis Strategy Landscape

    The 2022 Wildfire Crisis Strategy outlines dramatic action that must be taken to treat hazardous fuels and reduce the risk of wildfire to communities, infrastructure, and municipal watersheds. On the Kootenai and Idaho Panhandle National Forests, The Kootenai Complex was included in the initial landscape designation and plans to treat nearly 45,000 acres in 3 priority firesheds by 2026.

  • Avalanche Center

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

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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.

English Point Recreation Trails

This is a very popular and well-used trail system just minutes from Coeur d’Alene and Hayden, Idaho that winds through large trees and grassy understory near the shores of Hayden Lake. The trail system is divided between user groups with one side for hikers and the other for equestrians. The trail is also open in the winter for cross-country skiing and snow shoeing, but motorized use is never allowed. The total distance is about 6 miles with a cumulative elevation gain of about 300 feet. Thanks to a 2019 Eagle Scout project, the trail now has 14 benches, an amphitheater, and a picnic table.

As of 2022, the Forest Service is in the process of treating the area to improve forest health and reduce wildfire danger. A replanting effort is ongoing.

REMINDER: Dogs must be leashed or otherwise under your control while visiting English Point, per Forest Service regulation and Kootenai County ordinance.

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) or 24 sided (trapezohedron) crystals range in size from sand sized particles to golf balls or larger, and often have 4- or 6-ray stars when cut en cabochon by a lapidarist.

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.

The Garnet Area is only open Fridays through Mondays from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. The area is closed the rest of the year.