Sandpoint Is Worth the Trip for Mountains, Music and Family Fun
Alpine country, a 43-mile lake, and a rich, local arts scene make Sandpoint a great daytrip from Spokane or long weekend getaway from the Puget Sound. Whether you’re riding solo or getting the whole family in on the fun, 48 hours in, out and about in this Idaho adventure town will never be enough.
With the Selkirk and Cabinet mountain ranges in Sandpoint’s backyard, hiking, skiing and mountain biking are all popular pastimes for locals. In the summer months, tackle the forested Gold Hill Trail for a moderate 3.7-mile loop just south of town. If you’re aiming for a more low-key trek with stunning views, take the Mineral Point Interpretive Trail (pictured above), a brief, 2.1-mile route that traces the shoreline of Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced pond oh-RAY).
For mountain bikers, the Sherwood Forest Trails — also known as the “Syringa Trails” — offer year-round access on 143 acres of conservation easement land. The extensive trail system is ideal for mountain biking, but is also popular for hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
No matter the season, Schweitzer Mountain Resort is set up with a wide variety of outdoor enthusiasts in mind. The mountain’s 2,900 acres of terrain and virtually non-existent lift lines render it an undiscovered winter paradise for skiers and snowboarders. There are also 32 kilometers of Nordic trails with varying levels of terrain for cross-country fanatics. Schweitzer is just as appealing in the summer, with more than 20 miles of hiking and biking trails.
Arts and Events
An unspoken hotspot for festivals in the Northwest, Sandpoint has a plentiful array of cultural events and creative endeavors to engage visitors throughout the year. The most famous is the Festival at Sandpoint (pictured above), an eight-day lineup of eclectic concerts on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille each year. With general admission seating and maximum of 4,000 attendees, the festival’s intimate atmosphere makes it one worth returning to each year.
Schweitzer Mountain also hosts events throughout the summer, including the Northwest Winefest, a two-day tasting event that’s complemented by quality food and live music (remember to plan a safe ride home). If your Labor Day Weekend plans for aren’t yet, visit during Schweitzer’s annual Fall Fest, featuring four days of live music accompanied by regional microbrews, ciders and wines (again, remember to enjoy safely). There’s even a soda mixing tent for those with little ones.
Sandpoint also has a thriving arts scene that is apparent through its galleries and public art displays. For an ever-changing collection of local works, visit the Pend Oreille Arts Council Gallery. Other notable galleries on First Avenue include ArtWorks and Hallans. The Pend Oreille Arts Council hosts an annual art walk from late June through September each year.
Opened in 1927, Panida Theater is another attraction worth visiting. The theater’s distinctive architecture has been carefully preserved by the city, eventually earning the Panida a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
For families visiting the area, City Beach at Lake Pend Oreille is a good place to start. In addition to six acres of sandy shoreline, the park has volleyball and tennis courts, a playground, scenic views and more. Head to the boardwalk to rent a couple paddleboards or spend the afternoon kayaking as a group. The lake also offers private charters and public cruises for those looking for a more lax experience with opportunities for bird-watching and wildlife viewing. If you’re looking to catch your next meal, consider a Go Fish! Charters tour with the family.
If conservation is more your cup of tea, the Waterlife Discovery Center on the shores of the Pend Oreille River offers 3.5 acres of interpretive exhibits in addition to 6.5 acres of protected wetland. Explore the habitat education facility’s nature trails, fish hatchery, wildlife watching and underwater viewing areas.
Just 30 miles south of the city is Silverwood Theme Park (pictured above), the largest of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. Operating from May through October, its more than 70 rides and attractions make the park an easy day-trip for the whole family. From carousels and relaxed lazy rivers to air coasters and extreme waterslides, the park’s diversity appeals to a wide age range, including adults.
–Written by Maggy Lehmicke, last updated in September 2022.