This was the point in the trip where we were supposed to turn north and head for Banff, long on my travel wish list! But alas, due to stupid Covid and the US’s inept handling of stupid Covid, Canada didn’t want us. (Spoiler: we made it to Banff in 2022!) So we picked a cool-looking point on the map and drove west to Sandpoint, Idaho. Sandpoint exceeded our expectations! It’s a sweet little town edging Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced “ponderay”), the largest lake in Idaho, with a main drag filled with shops and restaurants, stellar hiking nearby, and a fantastic brewery we kept going back to. We’re big fans of 7B!
Sandpoint RV Park is itself nothing special, basically a parking lot on top of noisy railroad tracks. But exit the park and cross the street and you’re in the (not dog-friendly) city park with a little beach! Early in the morning and late at night the no-dogs rule didn’t really seem to hold. It wasn’t just us, honest! Even better than the no-dogs beach is the proximity to town: walk a couple blocks away from the beach and you’re in the thick of the commercial area.
All three of these hikes are close to Sandpoint and are dog-friendly!
Scotchman Peak is incredible. The views of Lake Pend Oreille and the neighboring mountainsides are bonkers, but you pay for those views with a brutal climb up, initially switching back through the woods and then exposed to the sun, finishing with a steep rock scramble. Ouch. But the work was so worth it. The total hike distance is only about 8 miles but holy cow it’s a rough 8 miles. We loved it.
The trail to the private beach under the cliffs of Maiden Rock descends gradually through a lovely forest–except for the really steep sections. Pack a lunch and have a peaceful lakeside picnic. The out-and-back total is about 4.6 miles, and the hike is a treat for a water dog!
Our last morning in town, we hiked the very popular in-town Mickinnick Trail. Go early! After a pleasant climb through the woods you get lovely views of Sandpoint and the lake. This hike totals about 7 miles. Bugsy was allowed on this hike, but opted to stay home after tiring her little legs on the previous two hikes.
From J the beer man:
There are three breweries in Sandpoint proper and a fourth – that we somehow missed even though it was blocks from where we got our RV repaired – just north of the city. Laughing Dog Brewing is the one that got away, a shame as Bugsy would have loved their dog-friendly tap room and patio.
Our favorite brewery by far in Sandpoint was Matchwood Brewing Company. We liked it so much that we wound up having our final beer (or two) of the evening there all three nights. They have a large and really cool outdoor patio in a complex that was once a grain warehousing facility (now the heart of the Granary District), located right next to the railroad, which is now a rails-to-trails walking / biking path (that same complex also being home to Evans Brothers coffee).
Aside from the atmosphere, we just really loved one beer they were serving, a milkshake IPA. L really gravitates to milkshake IPAs but I find typically find them a bit sweet. This one was perfect, so good that we left with three crowlers to cram into our tiny fridge and oddly didn’t try any of their other beers.
A few blocks further east of Matchwood is Utara Brewing, where we sat on a spacious asphalt patio (thankfully we didn’t roast: we went after the sun was almost down, and didn’t have Bugsy) and ate bland Indian food and drank their New England IPAs. The beer was a good bit better than the food, and the staff was fun to interact with.
Finally, there is MickDuff’s Brewing Company, which has a brewpub right on First Avenue (not inviting in a Covid age) and the much more appealing brewery, tasting room and beer garden (their “Beer Hall”) a few blocks west of the brewpub. We sat in their nice garden with Bugsy and shared a flight of hazy IPAs and pales and sours. It’s definitely worth a stop in nice weather.
Across the courtyard from Matchwood is the excellent Evans Brothers Coffee roasters and cafe. The Matchwood owner told us to check it out and she did not steer us wrong. We sat outside on the lively patio with sleepy Bugsy, sipping beverages and doing some computer work. It’s a great spot with a strong community vibe.
We also got quick and tasty lattes from Northern Grind Coffee Shop while exploring downtown, and Bugsy got some regional treats–freeze-dried minnows and yak cheese balls–from the snack room at Shakapaw Pet Market next door!
We spent so much time drinking beer at Matchwood that we had to try their food, and it didn’t disappoint. Healthy bowls, and less-healthy tater tots hit the spot.
We were really excited to see that Utara serves Indian food! But it seemed to be dumbed-down a little for American consumption. It was just ok. Photo is above in the beer section.
Two restaurants on the main drag just a couple blocks from the RV park caught our eye: City Beach Organics and Beet and Basil. We ordered fab quinoa bowls from City Beach Organics to take hiking, and for our last dinner in town, we got healthy veggie-heavy carryout from Beet and Basil. Yum!
Last but certainly not least, we made a quick stop after a morning hike for a treat at Murphy’s Donuts, across the street from our favorite coffee spot. You must go there.
TO DO: Check out the food trucks at Oak Street Food Court
Sandpoint was a really fun stop!