About the Forest


The Idaho Panhandle National Forests were created in 1973 to administer the Coeur d'Alene, Kaniksu, and St. Joe National Forests which encompass 2.5 million acres.

Map of Idaho Panhandle National Forests
The IPNF is comprised of 5 ranger districts. Click here or on the map for a larger copy.

We administer lands in 3 states: Idaho, Montana, and Washington and have agreements with Canada and Mexico.

Elevation on the forest ranges from 2100 to 7600 feet with as much as 80 inches of precipitation at high elevations.

There are approximately 400 species of wildlife, including lynx and grizzly bear.

There are 73 fish species in the many streams and lakes.

The IPNF is a large forest employing over 300 permanent employees working in all resource areas and hundreds more employees during the field season.

The forest houses a working tree nursery that provides planting stock of native plants for forests all over the west.

Over 11,000 miles of classified roads exist in the forest.

There are 850,000 acres of inventoried roadless lands (48 areas totaling 34% of the land base) and a portion of one wilderness, the Salmo-Priest administered by the Colville National Forest.

Recommended Wilderness Area include: Salmo-Priest (Idaho portion), Selkirk Crest, Scotchman Peaks, and Mallard-Larkins.

Estimated forest growth is 400 million board feet annually on the suitable acres with over 100 million board feet of mortality on all acres annually.


Most of the IPNF is a moist forest type, influenced by maritime air masses riding the prevailing winds from the coast.

Lookout Mountain, above the thorofare between Priest Lake and Upper Priest Lake

The IPNF is a lakes region with Idaho's three largest lakes: Pend Oreille, Coeur d'Alene, and Priest. The lakes are very important for tourism and recreation in the region.

The IPNF is part of the Upper Columbia River Basin. The forest has significant watersheds and water resource management is very important to the forest. The forest has one designated wild and scenic river, the St. Joe.

There is extensive trail use for stock, OHV, hiking, and winter snowmobile and cross country skiing. The forest is rich with backcountry trails in the Bitterroot, Selkirk, Purcel, Cabinet, and Coeur d'Alene mountains.

Hunting and fishing are important to the region and outfitters and guides are very active on the forest providing a variety of outdoor experiences.

The forest is heavily influenced by urban populations. Spokane, an urban area of over 500,000 people, lies 30 miles to the west. The forestlands are present in many communities in the Panhandle and are parts of community watersheds, provide recreation opportunities, and sometimes are needed for utilities such as sewer expansion and communication sites.

Our trailheads, day use areas, campgrounds, and dispersed sites close to town are at or near capacity on the weekends but more remote sites provide opportunities for solitude.


Prior to European settlement the area was home to many Native Americans including the Coeur d'Alene, Kalispell, and Kootenai people.

Fur traders, miners, loggers, missionaries, and the military were early settlers in the area.

Logging brought the first permanent settlers around 1880. Remnants of flumes, railroads, steamboats, lookouts, work camps, and old settlements remain in the area.

The 1910 fires devastated 3 million acres of forest in Idaho and Montana, including portions of the town of Wallace. The fire resulted in the deaths of 61 people - mostly firefighters. This event shaped the fire management philosophy of the Forest Service for decades and defined the boundaries of some of the largest roadless areas on the IPNF. Today, one can traverse a portion of the forest burned in 1910 on the Hiawatha Trail, a railroad grade converted to a biking and hiking trail.

Management Philosophy

We strive to maintain a balanced management program on the IPNF.

We work in partmership with our communities as a standard practice.

We recognize our role in providing a variety of goods and services for the communities in the Inland Northwest.

We meet our commitments to water quality and provide important fish habitat.

We are active in an ecosystem approach to land management addressing a variety of forest health issues, including embarking on a white pine restoration strategy.

We are aggressively providing habitats for endangered species including woodland caribou, grizzly bear, and lynx.

The result of this philosophy is many recreation and aesthetic benefits for people while also providing basic resources such as timber to the local communities.

Management Issues:

Forests have been significantly altered by past management actions, including fire suppression, from their historic composition.

  • National forests are the favorite playgrounds for increasing numbers of people.
  • Public access to public lands is a major issue to many of the rural communities in the West.
  • Integrated forest restoration continues to be the key to regain healthy forest conditions.
  • Many communities have evolved with the administration of the national Forests.