Northern Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille is so deep that it supports U.S. Navy submarine tests and persistent reports of mysterious lake creatures. Its 111 miles of largely undeveloped shoreline, much of it U.S. Forest Service lands, also offer uncharted territory – if you’re willing to walk, boat or paddle. Below, find three great places to sleep under the stars on Lake Pend Oreille that are only accessible by foot or boat.
One of two hike-in beaches on Lake Pend Oreille, Maiden Rock comes with a country-ballad backstory: Legend tells of a distraught lover who climbed the fin-like prominence and flung herself to the deep water below. The name belies a peaceful camping area on a secluded sand-and-pebble beach. Big pines shade four dispersed campsites with picnic tables. A vault toilet is a welcome amenity for beachside camping.
From the Maiden Creek Trail No. 321 trailhead, descend 1,000 feet down two miles on the south side of Blacktail Mountain. The trail begins as a steady but pleasant descent through western red cedars and moss on the banks of Maiden Creek before concluding with a dizzying drop to the shore.
Hikers take note: The beach is very popular with boaters, so an empty trailhead may conceal a full beach below.
A short distance down the shore from Maiden Rock lies Evans Landing, which gets slightly less traffic than its more northerly cousin. The two-mile hike on Evans Landing Trail No. 64 offers only two mostly unobstructed views of the lake and its surroundings – one of distant Maiden Rock and the other of the Green Monarchs – but when the hike gets to the good stuff so quickly, who needs to stop for views?
Three picnic tables accompany metal fire rings. A well-loved rope swing will tempt daredevils. The site does not feature potable water, but a small stream a 10-minute walk north on the shore provides water for boiling or treating. The vault toilet at Evans Landing has been removed; plan accordingly and pack a shovel for digging a cat hole.
Long Beach, Green Monarchs
The Green Monarchs, on the east side of Lake Pend Oreille, crown the Coeur d’Alene Mountains and tower almost 3,000 feet above the least-developed stretch of Lake Pend Oreille shoreline. A narrow ribbon of shore separates the mountains to the southeast and the thousand-foot-deep lake to the northwest. Fire rings and a vault toilet are the only amenities on this remote beach. This might be the wildest camping experience on the lake.
Paddlers usually put in at Johnson Creek, paddle up the Clark Fork Delta and swing around the shoreline to the Monarchs. However, boaters need be mindful of the sometimes-strong winds that blow up the lake and can quickly tip a kayak. Prudent paddlers hug the shore.
As rugged as the setting is, the beach around the vault toilet still fills with boats on summer weekends. However, there’s plenty of room to roam. Long Beach boasts offshore mooring buoys, but your best bet is a small vessel capable of landing on a rocky shore.
More Information and Directions
Contact the Sandpoint Ranger District for directions (1602 Ontario St., Sandpoint; 208-263-5111), or consult the guidebook “Legendary Lake Pend Oreille: Idaho’s Wilderness of Water” (Keokee Books, 2010). //