Kalispell, Montana

Spruce Park On The River

August 15, 2020

Rather than taking the algorithmically suggested southern route from Coeur d’Alene to Kalispell, we called an audible and took the slightly longer path north along highway 2 through Bonners Ferry. Boy, are we glad we did! Although we can’t speak to the beauty of the southern route, we can say that our trip along highway 2 easily goes down as one of our favorite drives in nearly eight months on the road (at the time of this writing).

The drive was beautiful from beginning to end. Less than an hour into the journey, we found ourselves crossing the “Long Bridge” across the surprisingly big Lake Pend Oreille, a natural lake in far northern Idaho and the largest body of water in the state. Past this point, the scenery became dominated by a lush green as the towering pine trees grew thicker and thicker. We continued north until arriving in Bonners Ferry, where we met up with the Kootenay River and began following it back to the southeast.

Not long after crossing the state border, we were enticed to pull off for what turned out to be a really cool roadside natural attraction – the Kootenai Falls just outside Troy, Montana.

Neither of us had ever seen a river quite like this. The unique turquoise color of the water made for some mesmerizing views as it churned in the pools and splashed over the boulders.

The falls also came equipped with a long suspension bridge which spanned the river from each bank. In addition to allowing visitors to view the falls from more angles, the bridge had the added benefit of simply being fun to cross. Your heart really gets pumping when you are out in the middle of the bridge and no two steps feel the same – all the while there is a loud, torrenting river flowing just feet below.

Comfortable with our haul of photos, we got back into the rig and continued tracking the river to Libby, Montana where it eventually diverged from the highway. Fortunately, the gorgeous scenery had no plans of abandoning us just yet. Instead of a river, the landscape was now scattered with small streams which culminated into a series of crystal-clear mountain lakes before ultimately draining into the Flathead Valley – the home of Kalispell.

Our route took us through town before terminating on the east side of Kalispell at an RV park called Spruce Park On The River. Unlike “Lakeside” RV in Provo, this campsite was true to its name and was located, quite literally, right along the west bank of the Flathead River.

We were rapidly becoming big fans of Montana. In fact, Sam even went so far as to proclaim herself a “Montana girl” less than eight hours after entering the state.

We figured the best way to keep this Montana high going was to get up early the next morning and set out on one of the area’s many hiking trails. Once more, we would not be disappointed – it turned out to be one of our all-time favorite hikes!

If you consider yourself a big hiker, you must hit the Mount Aeneas and Picnic Lakes Trail if you are ever in the Kalispell area. The parking area gets congested quickly and the road getting to the trailhead is bit rough (probably requires four-wheel drive), but it is 100% worth it. Hell, just look at some of these vistas.

On top of the views, the area was teaming with all sorts of wildlife. Most notable among the animals we encountered was this burly male mountain goat, which barely even seemed to notice us as he passed right by!

This 6.2-mile hike was definitely on the tougher side (rated “hard” on Alltrails), but it was worth every ache and sore muscle that we felt the next day. We absolutely plan on coming back and exploring this area in more detail someday in the future.

We spent the rest of the week gradually coming down off the initial rush we got over the weekend. Unfortunately, we didn’t find the time to check out Kalispell proper as much as we would have liked. Other than running by Walmart one evening after work to replenish some supplies, we were largely resigned to hanging out at in the campground.

Thankfully, we didn’t mind just chilling out for a few days. Spruce Park On The River was a delightful place to stay – the cell signal was serviceable, the staff was polite, and the amenities were plentiful (good washers and dryers). Not to mention the wonderful sunsets that we were treated to each evening.

We were only there for a few days before it was time for us to move once more. Although it was a bummer putting Kalispell in our rearview, we were just too excited for our next location to get worked up about it. Tune in for the next blog where we detail perhaps the coolest stop along our entire journey – Glacier friccin' National Park!