Shoshone Ridge to Little Guard Lookout Loop

Connecting two former lookout tower sites, the relatively level ten-mile Shoshone Ridge loop dishes out phenomenal views across the Coeur d’Alene River drainage and towards the Idaho-Montana state line. Little Guard Lookout is still standing and on the National Historic Lookout Register. The first iteration was built in 1919, and today’s version is available for rent during the summer months.

Location Coeur d’Alene Mountains
Rating 3.6 out of 5
Difficulty Moderate (off-trail portions more difficult)
Distance 10.0 miles
Duration 3:31 hours moving time (hiking)
Elevation Gain 1,909 feet
High Point 6,130 feet (Pond Peak)
Low Point 5,456 feet (trailhead)
Trail Type Lollipop
Trailbed Packed dirt, loose rocks, talus, forest road
Trail# 81
Water None, except for a spring within half a mile of Little Guard Lookout (according to the advertisement; we did not verify)
Status Unprotected
Administration Coeur d’Alene National Forest
Conditions Very good, even the off-trail sections weren’t too difficult
Permits None required
Camping At the trailhead and a few spots along the ridge, Pond Peak, ridge beyond Downey Peak. The Little Guard Lookout can be rented during summer months.
Maps USGS Pond Peak
Trailhead From I-90, take Exit #43 (Kingston) and drive 24 miles north on Forest Highway 9 to Prichard junction. From there, continue on Forest Road 208 for about 5 miles to Forest Road 602 (on the right just past Shoshone Base Camp). Drive a bit over 8 miles to the gate. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended.

Google Directions (47.809535, -116.023893)

Season June – October
Squirrel Density Fabulous!
Features Mountaintop, Meadow
Distance From
  • Coeur d’Alene 68.0 miles
  • Lewiston 184.8 miles
  • Sandpoint 113.1 miles
  • Seattle 378.5 miles
  • Spokane 100.7 miles
Resources
Nearby Hikes
Date September 30, 2017

Rock outcropping near Bennett PeakThe trail starts out in an elbow of FR #602, just ahead of the gate blocking access to Little Guard Lookout. There is parking for a few cars and a nice enough campsite if you want to spend the night. The single-track starts near the rock slab, dropping lower at first, then gaining as it moves along the side of Shoshone Ridge beneath a shady coniferous canopy. There are occasional filtered views to the west, but these are getting more frequent and better as the trail ascends towards the saddle between Bennett Peak and Downey Peak. The trail bypasses Bennett Peak, moving along its western side with good views of majestic rock outcroppings above. It then gains the ridge just below Little Sentinel and view galore starts in earnest. After 2 miles the trail climbs Little Sentinel, the first in a series of 6000-footers. Take in the views, then head down the other side and bypass Sentinel Peak by also moving along its western side. On the far end, the trail regains the ridge and heads up towards Pond Peak, crossing a few talus slopes along the way. After a short ascent, the trail spills out onto an abandoned forest road. Going downhill leads to the northern trailhead of the Shoshone Ridge hike; instead, follow it uphill for a short distance to Pond Peak.

Clouds whipped fiercely across the peakPond Peak is the site of a former lookout tower, but little of the ruins remain. The views likely are phenomenal, but unfortunately a fierce wind shoved heavy and low storm clouds across the ridge. The peak, incidentally, isn’t a pinnacle in the strictest sense at all; rather, it’s a ridge that extends south for quite a bit. We followed that ridge in hopes of better views and were rewarded at the southern tip. From that point we bushwhacked downhill to get back onto the abandoned forest road and find the single-track for the return route.

View along Downey ridgeFor variety, we ascended Sentinel Peak (another 6000-footer) on the way back. Just stick to the ridge in the saddle below, at the point where the trail leaves the ridge. This isn’t much of a bushwhack at all, the game trail obviously having been traveled frequently. Plus, Sentinel Peak is mostly a pile of talus with excellent views. We descended on the far side across talus and a patch of forest, then hopped back onto trail #81 and followed it back to the saddle beneath Bennett and Downey Peaks. Here we selected a narrower trail that leads up to the ridge, then followed a game trail along the ridge to Downey Peak. This involved a bit of bushwhacking, but nothing terrible. Downey Peak (also a 6000-footer) offers more views and a geocache. Then the “trail” continues along the ridge, which is pretty much bare and easy to follow and provides frequent glimpses of the lookout tower on Little Guard.

Little Guard Lookout, boarded up for the winterThere is one more hill to climb, Guard Peak, also above 6,000 feet, and then the trail declines and rejoins FR #602 just below Little Guard. Follow the road to the peak, where the views from the lookout’s platform are excellent all around. There’s even a functional privy and another geocache. To complete the loop follow #602 about a mile back to the car.

Enjoy this hike? Let us know in the comments below!

View from trailhead
View from trailhead
Much of the trail is a well-maintained packed-dirt single-track
Much of the trail is a well-maintained packed-dirt single-track
Mountain ash in autumn clothing
Mountain ash in autumn clothing
Rock outcropping near Bennett Peak
Rock outcropping near Bennett Peak
Views are splendid along the ridge
Views are splendid along the ridge
Huckleberries turned purple
Huckleberries turned purple
Heavy cloud cover limited views somewhat
Heavy cloud cover limited views somewhat
View towards Montana
View towards Montana
There are a few talus sections
There are a few talus sections
The saddle past Little Sentinel Peak
The saddle past Little Sentinel Peak
Sentinel Peak is mostly talus
Sentinel Peak is mostly talus
Dead beargrass stalks abound, indicating that would be a perfect early summer hike
Dead beargrass stalks abound, indicating that would be a perfect early summer hike
The clouds nipping at Pond Peak in the distance
The clouds nipping at Pond Peak in the distance
The old access road to the Pond Peak lookout
The old access road to the Pond Peak lookout
Pond Peak was largely shrouded in clouds
Pond Peak was largely shrouded in clouds
View east from Pond Peak, but we couldnt spot the pond below the peak
View east from Pond Peak, but we couldn’t spot the pond below the peak
Clouds whipped fiercely across the peak
Clouds whipped fiercely across the peak
Ruins of the lookout on Pond Peak
Ruins of the lookout on Pond Peak
A pretty campsite on Pond Peak
A pretty campsite on Pond Peak
Rather than a distinct pinnacle, Pond Peak is more of an elongated ridge
Rather than a distinct pinnacle, Pond Peak is more of an elongated ridge
View from Pond Peak
View from Pond Peak
Naughty taking in the view from the south end of Pond Peak
Naughty taking in the view from the south end of Pond Peak
And view of the other side…
And view of the other side…
A hard living straddling the ridge and anchor in nothing but talus
A hard living straddling the ridge and anchor in nothing but talus
Heading back towards Sentinel Peak
Heading back towards Sentinel Peak
View from Sentinel Peak
View from Sentinel Peak
The trail less travelled towards Downey Peak
The trail less travelled towards Downey Peak
View along Downey ridge
View along Downey ridge
Wind-whipped conifers on Downey ridge
Wind-whipped conifers on Downey ridge
Once you gain the ridge, the terrain flattens out and is relatively bare
Once you gain the ridge, the terrain flattens out and is relatively bare
Knife-edge ridge along the southern part of Downey ridge on approach to Guard Peak
Knife-edge ridge along the southern part of Downey ridge on approach to Guard Peak
View from Downey ridge
View from Downey ridge
First views of the Little Guard lookout tower
First views of the Little Guard lookout tower
Keeping an eye on the prize…Little Guard Lookout
Keeping an eye on the prize…Little Guard Lookout
The lookout tower getting closer and closer. Shortly past Guard Peak the trail rejoins the forest road
The lookout tower getting closer and closer. Shortly past Guard Peak the trail rejoins the forest road
Little Guard Lookout, boarded up for the winter
Little Guard Lookout, boarded up for the winter
Panorama shot west from Little Guard
Panorama shot west from Little Guard
View north of Guard Peak, Downey Peak, and Bennett Peak
View north of Guard Peak, Downey Peak, and Bennett Peak
Panorama from Little Guard
Panorama from Little Guard
Guard and Downey Peak
Guard and Downey Peak
Rock pile near Little Guard
Rock pile near Little Guard
Little Guard privvy. Theres an elegant rock stairway leading to it
Little Guard privvy. There’s an elegant rock stairway leading to it
Cloudy sky, taken from forest road
Cloudy sky, taken from forest road
The markers are geocache locations
The markers are geocache locations

Alternate Routes

  • To skip the bushwhacking, hike Pond Peak out-and-back, about 8.5 miles. Alternatively, hike it one way and continue on the abandoned forest road to a shuttle at the northern trailhead.


© 2016 – 2017 NaughtyHiker. All rights reserved. No duplication without permission.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. montucky says:

    Really nice views on that trip! It reminds me a little of a section of the Cabinets west of here between Vermillion Peak and Seven Point Mountain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. naughtyhiker says:

      I wish the weather had cooperated a bit better. I’m planning to do a bit of hiking in the cabinets next year. The hiking season is probably over pretty soon—I ran into snow below 5000 ft last weekend

      Liked by 1 person

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