Saint Joe National Forest in western Idaho is an incredible wilderness. It's home to a wide variety of species and beautiful hiking trails.
Saint Joe National Forest is one of the three forests that are part of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. The other two are:
Coeur d'Alene National Forest
Kaniksu National Forest
Today, the three forests are generally regarded under the communal title "Idaho Panhandle National Forests." It's very common to see both names used.
Facts about Saint Joe National Forest
Saint Joe National Forest is a vast wilderness with infinite outdoor adventure possibilities.
Saint Joe National Forest is 867,882 acres in total
The forest stretches between four counties, including Shoshone, Latah, Clearwater, and Benewah.
The national forests are filled with incredible wildlife, including wolves, cougars, golden eagles, owls, grizzly bears, black bears, and elk.
Saint Joe National Forest is well-known for its large population of elk.
You may see "Idaho Panhandle National Forests" used to describe all three western Idaho national forests (including Saint Joe.)
Did you know? In total, Idaho Panhandle National Forests contain over 2.5 million acres of forest.
Saint Joe National Forest Map
Use the map below to explore Saint Joe National Forest.
5 of the Best Hikes in Saint Joe National Forest
Traverse the Pacific Northwest has explored the best hikes in Saint Joe National Forest and decided on the following 5 as the "not to be missed" selection of the bunch. Let us know what you think in the comments!
Sand Mountain Lookout Trail
The amazing Sand Mountain Lookout Trail is a pretty hard trail in Saint Joe National Forest. It's just east of Harvard and north of Stanford and Avon. The trail is just over 6 miles long and is out-and-back (meaning you'll have to turn around).
As hiking in Saint Joe National Forest goes, you won't find better than Sand Mountain. It'll take you up to just over 4,000 feet with views for miles. Some people choose to hike down a parallel trail, usually used by ATVs.
White Pine National Recreation Trail
This lovely loop trail is far easier than Sand Mountain. But you'll still get a great workout along its 3.5 miles and just over 700 feet of elevation gain.
The trail is very, very well-maintained and pretty popular. You can also hike it all year long. But you're likely to need snowshoes in the winter!
Logger's Saddle Trail
While this trail is pretty long, almost 7 miles, it gains little elevation, so it's not too difficult. It is an out-and-back trail, though, so you'll need to keep that in mind!
If you're visiting Saint Joe National Forest in the winter, this is probably your best snowshoeing option. It's also used as a snowmobile trail and by cross-country skiers.
There aren't a lot of good backpacking options in Saint Joe's, at least along established trails, but if you're looking for something a bit longer, we highly recommend Checking out Route of the Hiawatha (a 15-mile trail just north of Saint Joe's) and Arid Peak via Slate Creek Divide (a hard, 14-mile trail).
Wildlife in Saint Joe National Forest
If you love exploring natural areas for their wildlife populations, Saint Joe's is a great choice. The most commonly seen animal species are Columbia ground squirrels, white-tailed deer, and Columbia spotted frogs. You might also get to see American robins and red-breasted nuthatches, which are quite common in the area.
Plant Life in Saint Joe National Forest
The forest is filled with beautiful (and sometimes poisonous) plant life! If you're lucky, you might get to see some of the following plants:
Trees in this part of Idaho that you're likely to see on any of the hikes we've explored include:
Saint Joe National Forest Camping
Here are a few of our favorite campsites in Saint Joe National Forest.
Laird Park Campground
The Laird Park Campground is in Saint Joe National Forest. It's a great option for those with tents or RVs. There is also a group site.
Amenities include drinking water, picnic tables, toilets, firewood, fire pits, and trash pickup.
This campground is only reservable on a "first-come-first-serve" basis. It should be around $12 a night.
Giant White Pine Campground
The Giant White Pine Campground is another good option for camping in Saint Joe National Forest. It's named for the white pine tree and is located at a trailhead of the same name (which is where you'll start for the White Pine Trail if you're planning on hiking).
It's open seasonally, from May 20th to October 1st, and is $12 a night. There is water, no garbage service, and a 30-foot camper limit.
Emerald Creek Campground
The Emerald Creek Campground contains 18 individual sites that you can choose from in Clarkia, Idaho. It has a basic trailhead toilet and potable water, and is only $10 a night (with an extra $5 charge for a second vehicle).
Tips for Visiting Saint Joe National Forest
Pick a campsite ahead of time! Even if it's only first-come-first-serve, you'll want to have at least one site in mind (especially during the summer when the area is far busier).
Bring your hiking boots! There are a few really wonderful trails in this area of Idaho you'll want to check out.
If you're camping, bring everything you need with you (and pack it out!)