Snowshoeing is probably my new favorite winter activity. It’s a great way to get outside in the winter without the risk of torn ligaments and bruises from falling, unless you happen to be extraordinarily klutzy. But for me, one of the best parts of snowshoeing is our proximity to some pretty awesome trails.
One of the closest trail networks to us is up at the Fernan Saddle, about a 15-30 (depending on road and weather conditions) minute drive from downtown Coeur d’Alene. During hunting season, the saddle is a buzz with trucks, four-wheelers and guys dressed head to toe in camo, but before and after hunting season, the saddle is a great place to get in a good, long hike or go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.
There are two main forest service roads that divert from the parking area, and several trails that connect to those. I have yet to go more than about four miles in either way, but each time I feel like we make it a little further in.
Fernan is situated just inside the Coeur d’Alene National Forest, one of three national forests that make up Idaho Panhandle National forest in conjunction with the St. Joe and Kaniksu forests. As I mentioned before, Fernan is a popular spot for hunters, snowmobilers and the occasional thru hiker (definitely an item to add to my Idaho bucket list). Deer, moose, elk, and bear all call the forest home and I’ve even heard the occasional mention of a wolf or cougar passing through. Although I haven’t had much luck in the wildlife department, I thoroughly enjoy the quiet views and solitude this space provides.
Not to mention, there are thousands of miles of trail and forest road for Juneau to run wild on. A tired dog is always a big plus.
Sure, snowshoeing is pretty much just hiking in the snow, but there are a few things to consider, especially if you plan on bringing your dog along.
- Dress appropriately: Like with any other snow sport, dress in layers you can remove if you get hot and bring an extra in case temperatures drop.
- Bring water: Just because it’s cold and you may not be sweating isn’t an excuse for not hydrating. Make sure you have enough for everyone in your group, and bring a bowl or separate bottle for your dog. She’s working just as hard, if not more so if the snow is deep.
- Bring food: You wouldn’t go on a long hike with our bringing at least a protein bar, right? Same goes here. Bring some snacks with good carbs and protein, and make sure you have a few treats on hand to keep you pup’s energy level up too. You don’t want to get a few miles in and feel like you don’t have the energy to make it back.
- Extra supplies: Not everywhere has a plowed lot and road to make access easy, in fact, most places worth going don’t. Bring a small shovel, sand or cat litter, a couple blankets, and a warm beverage and extra food to keep in your car in case you get stuck.
Take Sherman Avenue to Fernan Rd. and follow it for about five miles until it changes into Forest Service Road 268. Follow the forest service road for another five-ish miles until you reach a large dirt parking area.