Winter Backpack on Mt. Roothaan

Rate this Adventure 4 miles 1200 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Nick Lake

Camp with fantastic views of the Selkirk Crest and Priest Lake. You may come across some rare wildlife including Grizzly Bears and Caribou too.

The Selkirk Mountains in northern Idaho don’t see nearly as many visitors as neighboring ranges in Washington and Montana, but it’s not for a lack of scenery and rugged backcountry. Mt. Roothaan sits along a jagged crest in the western Rocky Mountains above scenic Priest Lake in the Idaho Panhandle and the saddle below the summit is a perfect vantage for great mountain vistas, dark night skies, wildlife viewing and watching the sunrise.

Getting to the trailhead can be a challenge—the forest roads leading in aren’t always well marked and the last 1.5 miles are extremely rough, making a 4x4, high-clearance vehicle a necessity. Check this report for better details on navigating the maze of roads and if you come to a fork that doesn’t seem like it’s in the directions, stay left. Access to the road will likely be difficult through June before the summer meltdown, so be prepared to add miles on the road by foot.

The trail gains little elevation over the first 1.5 miles as it winds through subalpine spruce forest along Horton Ridge. Snowshoes make this section much more enjoyable. As you approach the two summit pyramids ahead, hug the ridge up the closer, unnamed mountain as it steeply ascends a talus field in a direct line to the summit. Crampons and an ice axe are necessary early in the day as the sun doesn’t soften the snow on southwestern slopes until late morning. Follow the saddle east toward Mt. Roothaan.

From your camp just below the summit, look northeast towards Chimney Rock, a popular climbing feature, and into Montana’s Cabinet Wilderness. To the north, Nelson, BC’s lights can be seen at night, and to the south, Gunsight Peak, Hunt Peak and its namesake lake, and the distant lights of Coeur d’Alene lay to the left of Priest Lake. On clear nights the Milky Way rotates across the sky and the Northern Lights can be visible twinkling on the horizon to the north.

If you’re looking to make a longer trip out of it, hike or ski down the steep north side of the saddle into the basin below Chimney Rock and take advantage of tons of backcountry ski lines. Reeder Bay Campground is a perfect lakeside spot to add a front-country night or two and Korners in Priest River has a decent tap list for a cold beer afterwards.

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