Harvesting Huckleberries

Huckleberries are a prized wild food on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. While commercial gathering of huckleberries is not permitted on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, you are welcome to gather huckleberries for personal use on your national forests. Learn more about the rich history of huckleberries and best practices for sustainably harvesting below.

Did you know?A family huckleberry camp on the Kaniksu National Forest in 1939. A

  • The huckleberry was designated as the official state fruit of Idaho by the State Legislature in 2000.
  • Huckleberries are full of antioxidants, high in iron, and a good source of vitamin C and potassium.
  • The huckleberry plant occurs throughout Europe, and as far north as Siberia.
  • Henry David Thoreau believed the name huckleberry came from the word “hurtleberry,” derived from the Saxon heart-berg or “the hart’s ber-ry.”
  • For thousands of years, American Indians have gathered huckleberries for food and medicine. Indians regard the rituals of picking, preserving, and eating berries as a cultural and traditional use with religious significance.
  • Read more: A Social History of Wild Huckleberry Harvesting in the Pacific Northwest.

Harvesting

  • Huckleberries may be harvested for personal use anywhere on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests unless specifically prohibited.
  • Commercial gathering on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests is not permitted. Picking huckleberries with the intent to sell them is considered commercial use.
  • It is illegal to damage or remove huckleberry bushes.
  • It’s recommended to check with your local ranger station for any closures or restrictions before you go.
  • Recreational huckleberry gatherers are encouraged to pick only what they can consume so that others may also enjoy the fun of picking and tasting our delicious state fruit.
  • It is best to handpick the berries to ensure that the bushes are not damaged and that only the ripe berries are harvested.

TipsA patch of huckleberries

  • Gathering methods vary, but pickers are strongly encouraged not to use rakes or other mechanical methods that may damage the plants.
  • Generally, huckleberries come into season at lower elevations first and ripen at higher elevations as the summer progresses.‚Äč
  • Only harvest ripe berries! Be sure to leave green berries to ripen later in the season. This is especially important to wildlife.
  • Popular huckleberry picking areas can become quite crowded. Exercise courtesy to fellow gatherers and consider seeking out a new area if someone is there ahead of you.
  • Huckleberries are a major source of nourishment for bears. Gatherers are encouraged to leave some berries unpicked.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles whenever recreating on national forests!

Safety

  • Always inform someone where you are going and when you plan to return. Many areas of the forest have little or no cell service. Plan your route in advance.
  • Drive safely and be alert for wildlife and changing conditions.
  • Grab a Motor Vehicle Use Map before you go! They are provided free of charge at Forest Service offices, on the IPNF website, or through the Avenza Maps app.
  • Check ahead for fire restrictions and always leave your campfire DEAD OUT! Fire restrictions can be found at http://www.idahofireinfo.com/
  • Be bear aware, carry bear spray, make plenty of noise and keep dogs leashed. 
  • Store food in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof containers when camping.
  • The Bonners Ferry, Priest Lake, and portions of the Sandpoint Ranger District all have a Food Storage Order in effect from April 1 to December 1 every year.