International Selkirk Loop

Photo © Monica Meadows

The pristine Priest Lake and the surrounding communities are located in the center of an area known as the International Selkirk Loop. The 280-mile/450 km scenic drive encircles the spectacular Selkirk Mountains of Northern Idaho, eastern Washington and southeastern British Columbia and is North America’s only multi-national scenic route. If you have some extra time during your stay, hit the road and discover the awe-inspiring sights on this Two-Nation Vacation!

No matter the season, the area is brimming with a wide variety of outdoor adventure to satisfy every family member, and well-maintained roadways means that access to the Selkirk Loop’s playgrounds is possible year-round. While summer is the most favored time of year for many travelers, autumn is a close second. The snow-capped mountains come alive with the most beautiful fall colors and you will find yourself reaching for your camera to catch the perfect shot. As the snow begins to creep into the valleys the area’s winter activities become the main attraction. There are five ski resorts located on the Selkirk Loop along with back-country skiing, heli-skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and ice skating opportunities.

Driving the International Selkirk Loop is truly a spectacular experience often following lakes and rivers along the way. The most delightful aspect of the Loop’s scenery is its variety, from narrow river canyons to broad fertile valleys and vibrant village scenes, from lowland meadows to breathtaking mountain vistas. Surprises await around every corner!

One of the biggest surprises for many travelers is the ferry that takes you across Kootenay Lake in British Columbia. The ferry is part of the BC highway system and is the longest FREE ferry ride in the world. The 35-minute ride gives you time to get out of your car stretch your legs and take in the views of Kokanee Glacier as you cross the lake. A second ferry is added during the busy summer months and they run about 50 minutes apart. The schedule can be found in our travel guide or mobile app.

Another popular activity for many travelers is hiking, with options for both day hiking and backpacking in the region. Hundreds of trails in the area suit any ability, from handicap accessible trails to rigorous backpacking trails. Pick up a free copy of Day Hikes of the Selkirk Loop. These three regional maps are designed to identify favorite “must do” hikes for each region: Idaho and Western Montana, Eastern Washington, and the East and West Kootenay Region of B.C. There are 30 day hikes identified along with 17 waterfall strolls. You can find a copy at any local Selkirk Loop Visitor Center in any of the Selkirk Loop communities. The hikes are intended to be accessed spring, summer and fall and are suitable for most people.

You’ll marvel at the abundant wildlife as you explore the Selkirk Loop Region. Common sightings of white tail deer, elk, moose and the occasional black bear can be expected especially at dawn and dusk. Present, but very rare to see, are wolves, grizzly bears, wolverines and woodland caribou. An excellent place to spot deer and moose and an abundance of waterfowl is the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge five miles west of Bonners Ferry, Idaho. The Creston Valley Wildlife Area in British Columbia and the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge in Washington are also great places to take the family to learn about the local wildlife. Hiking trails, photo blinds and auto tours are available. The Creston Wildlife Area offers guided canoe tours in the summer through the marshes for an excellent way to spot and learn about wildlife.

The Selkirk Loop has garnered heaps of recognition. Rand McNally selected it as one of the five “Best of the Roads” for its 2009 atlas. The US Department of Transportation designated the Selkirk Loop an “All American Road”. And Sunset Magazine named it “The West’s Best Scenic Drive.” So order a travel guide and download the mobile app, and put yourself in the driver’s seat for one fabulous drive chock-full of scenery and friendly towns on the International Selkirk Loop.