When a Trail is Art

Biking Tungsten Trail

Cover photo courtesy of Ammi Midstokke

The Tungsten Trail is a little-known gem of North Idaho, tucked in the mountains north of Bonners Ferry. However long your drive to this destination may be, it will be worth it.  

Most riders access the trail from Brush Lake, making for an ideal weekend getaway, particularly for families. There is a dock on the waterfront and a family-friendly (intermediate) trail that circumnavigates the lake in a 5.6-mile loop, along with a fantastic campground. While that short loop is lovely, those looking for a longer ride and epic views can venture up the Tungsten Trail. 

Tungsten was designed by Scott Rulander, a name well-known amongst the pedalers of the region for his contribution to many local trails. But Tungsten, a 20-ish mile out-and-back, up-and-back-down adventure was manifested by the generous efforts of the US Forest Service and Rulander’s mountain-biker-creativity. If asked about the efforts, Rulander is eager to talk about all the people from individuals to the youth groups who made the project possible with their support.  

The trail begins on the Brush Lake Loop. Going counter-clockwise, one bumps into the connector to Tungsten after about a mile. Another two miles and it crosses road 397. Some riders park on road 397 and catch the trail at this junction, but the crossing is only marked by a flag between trees and difficult to see. From the road crossing, one winds through sloped clearings and birch patches before beginning the mellow but consistent climb up Tungsten Mountain.  

Courtesy Ammi Midstokke

The trail ascends through forested areas, shady much of the day, gaining the northern ridge then winding its way upward. Rock features and granite slabs provide the occasional patch of technical challenge. While it’s a steady incline, barring a few rock shelves the author didn’t want to chance and one ridiculous short section her legs were too smoked to attempt, it is all ridable. (Rulander noted that they spent hours trying to find a less steep grind at that 100-foot slope and finally succumbed to the will of the mountain.)  

The blend of towering coniferous and deciduous trees and the expansive views across the Purcell Trench to the Selkirk Mountains are breathtaking (though that could also be the elevation gain). Beyond the incredible views, the rolling, curving, undulating trail is everything that appeals to a biker’s soul. The descent will leave your face sore from grinning. It is a playful, expertly designed rollercoaster of whoopdie-whoo, hootin’-and-a-hollerin’ kind of trail that makes you feel like a kid all over again. 

As you make your calendar of destinations for the riding season, be sure to add Brush Lake and Tungsten to the schedule. And on ride day, pack your snacks and beverages, because it’s a doozy! 

Getting There: Drive north of Bonners Ferry, Idaho, for approximately 18 miles on US Hwy 95. Turn right (southeast) on Forest Service Road 1004 (Brush Lake Road) and go about 3 miles to Brush Lake. The campground is to the right, a parking and picnic area are at the lake. There is also trailhead parking and signage between the two. 

Trail stats: From the lake, approximately 10 miles and change, each direction, with 2,979 feet of gain.  

Camping details: Sites are free, first come-first serve, and there is a vault toilet. You can jump in the lake post-ride! 

Ammi Midstokke lives in Sandpoint, Idaho, where the local bike clubs, forest service, and trail lovers continue to create places for her to have fun in the wild, with less likelihood of getting lost. 

Share this Post

Scroll to Top