Over 65% of Idaho is mountainous terrain. Elevations range from 12,662 feet on Mount Borah in the Lost River Range to only 736 feet above sea level at Lewiston,Idaho. More than 200 summits reach over 10,000 feet and nine are over 12,000 feet. Due to its formidable mountain barriers, Idaho has always consisted of parts – north, west, east and south.
Trails lead to over 100 Idaho summits. A thousand more are nontechnical climbs. All the trails of interest to Canadians are in the north end of the Idaho Panhandle. Chimney Rock is a fantastic granite shaft that sits square on top of the Selkirk Range east of Priest Lake, is visible from Spokane and has been of interest to local climbers.
The Selkirk range begins on Mica Peak west of Coeur d’Alene, and runs north, paralleling the Idaho/Washington border FOR over 100 miles. The range, which is up to 30 miles wide in places, surrounds the Priest Lake Basin. They are formed of granite from the Kaniksu Range.
While the highest point of the Selkirks reaches only 7,670 feet (Parker Peak), valley to summit elevation differences are nearly 5,000 feet in places and the terrain is extremely rugged. The Ice Ages removed much of the Precambrian rock that covered the Kaniksu Batholith and carved the underlying granite into an appealing collection of alpine peaks. The glaciers also gouged out Upper and Lower Priest Lakes.
Land ownership is a hodgepodge, with the State of Idaho (most of Priest Lake basin) and the Panhandle national Forest being the two larges landowners. The Idaho Constitution says that state lands must be managed to maximize a continuing rate of return. The BLM manages a few small borderline areas and several large timber companies own a good portion of range. Much is managed almost exclusively for logging. Recreational use, while having a very high potential, has a low priority with Selkirk land managers. Only the highest peaks and ridges are protected. The Salmo-Priest area is home to both the grizzly bear and the rare mountain caribou.
Selkirk peaks offer a wide variety of climbing and hiking opportunities with remote summits and rock climbing.
The Purcells, Cabinets and Coeur d’Alene mountains of the north panhandle are Precambrian 850 million to 1.5 billion years old, once an extremely shallow sea on the edge of an ancient continental plate. The sea received sediments from the many rivers that emptied into it. These sedimentary rocks are in many areas lightly metamorphosed. 100 million years ago, the North American plate began to move west, overriding the Oceanic Pacific plate. The denser oceanic plate is forced down and under. The resulting pressure and friction liquefy the rocks, forming magma, As magma is lighter than rock, it rises toward the earth’s surface, where it either forms massive bodies of granite rock known as batholiths. The resulting uplifting of the earth’s surface resulted in mountains. In the late Mesozoic, in the centre of the state, large amounts of granite intruded forming the large Idaho Batholith covering 300 miles (N to S) by 100 miles E to W). The Kanisku Batholith is the foundation of the Selkirk Mountains. This batholith has since eroded into the present-day mountain terrain, but is still covered by extensive amounts of exposed sedimentary and metamorphic rock.
Although the Pleistocene Ice Age began 2.5 million years ago, it was not until the last hundred thousand years that the ice moved out of BC and invaded Idaho to cover the Selkirks, Purcells and Cabinet Mts. The 4000-foot deep ice cut and shaped the mountains and dug out the deep beds of Priest, Pend Orielle and Coeur d’Alene lakes.
Bitterroot National Forest (Bitterroot Mountains, Clearwater Mountains)
316 North Third St, Hamilton, MT 59840 (406) 363-3131
Idaho Department of Lands (Selkirk Mountains)
Route 1 Box 284, Coolin, ID 83821 (208) 443-2516
Panhandle National Forest (Bitterroots, Cabinet, Chilco,, Coeur d’Alene, Purcell, Saint Joe, and Selkirk Mountains)
PO Box 310, Coeur D’Alene, ID 83544 (208) 667-2561
Idaho Panhandle National Forests Supervisor’s Office
3815 Schreiber Way
Coeur d’Alene, ID 83815
Priest Lake Ranger District
32203 Highway 57
Priest River, ID 83856
Bonners Ferry Ranger District
6286 Main Street
Bonners Ferry, ID 83805
Sandpoint Ranger District
1602 Ontario St.
Sandpoint, ID 83864