Scotchman Peaks is an iconic trail located just outside of Clark Fork, Idaho. The steep, 4-mile hike up into the Cabinet Mountains is a staple for locals and visitors. This hike has been on my to-do list for several years, and was thrilled at the chance to take in the views.
The last weekend in September, we decided to take a spontaneous one-night trip up to Sandpoint with the hopes of summiting Scotchman the following day. We camped at Green Bay (a small nook off of Garfield Bay on Lake Pend Oreille) and were enjoying a cool, quiet evening by the water as the wind started to turn and pick up.
Throughout the night, the wind carried in a weather system and tore across the lake. Laying in bed, my eyes wide open, all I could do was listen for the sound of a potential tree snap. Needless to say, sleep didn’t find me that night.
We met up with some good friends and their dogs the following morning and headed toward Clark Fork. After a couple wrong turns (do NOT follow the current directions on All Trails for this one) we found ourselves on a winding dirt road, taking us closer to the mountains and forest. We finally felt like we were heading in the right direction.
The trail was indeed steep, but not undoable. I was thankful for the cooler temperatures as we all began peeling off outer layers and stuffing them in our backpacks. Juneau and her good pal Dottie trotted up and down the trail as if it were nothing. The trees and shrubbery were just starting to turn gold and red, I’m sure this trail is quite the sight in mid-October.
At the halfway point Kyle and I bid adieu to our friends as they headed back toward the warmth of MickDuff’s in Sandpoint. Looking up, the peak was hidden in the clouds, and rain seemed to be moving into the area as well. We pushed on, hoping the sun might burn off the haze, but as we climbed our view became more obstructed, it started to rain, and then hail.
Just a little way past the halfway mark, we decided to call it – not because of weather but because of the cloud cover. Everyone says the reason to hike Scotchman Peaks is for the views. We thought, “Why keep going if there’s no view to be had?”
Besides, a burger and a drink at MickDuff’s with our friends sounded quite awesome at this point.
I know we’ll go back up to Scotchman soon, the epic views and famed mountain goats are still calling. In the meantime, I strongly urge you to go check it out on your own and take a photo from the top just for me.
Like I mentioned before, as of September of this year, the directions on All Trails were all kinds of wrong – so please don’t follow them. Here’s what to do instead:
- Take Highway 200 to Clark Fork
- Turn left onto Main St. by Clark Fork Jr. High School
- Follow Main St. until it takes a slight right and turns into Mosquito Creek Rd.
- Follow Mosquito Creek Rd. and then take a slight right onto NF-2294
- Follow the markers for Trail #65 until you get to the trailhead
You may have heard about Scotchman Peaks in recent years as a bill was introduced to make it a protected wilderness area and passed (woohoo!). Lean more about this amazing area and how you can help keep it protected and maintained at scotchmanpeaks.org. They also offer great trail maps, information about news and events, ways to volunteer, and an annual photo contest.
Hope to see you out on the trail!