There's no shortage of lakes and rivers in Northern Idaho, and sometimes smaller is better. Round Lake State Park, surrounded by the Pend Orville River and Cocolalla Lake near Sandpoint, offers non-motorized quiet, and calm paddling and swimming water that is hard to find on the big lakes.
Round Lake is a 123 acre glacially formed lake surrounded by dense woods, and home to a variety of wildlife in and around the water. Three hiking trails, a medium-sized campground, and a non-motorized boat launch provide access to the park year round.
In season, Round Lake SP is known for swimming and boating, with a large sandy area that extends into the lake, as well as a boat dock and a park rental service for canoes, pedal boats, and stand-up paddle boards.
Spring and fall finds hikers and mountain bikers exploring the trails and getting to see many birds and animals inside the park. Beavers are active on the lake, constantly building dams and lodges from the trees that grow on the shore. Turtles are abundant in the shallows, and moose and bears are sometimes seen as well.
The park is open year round for ice and snow recreation. The lake often freezes hard enough for ice fishing. The loop trails make great cross-country skiing and snowshoeing terrain, and this can also be a nice place to ice skate. The level terrain also attracts fat-tire bikers in the winter as well.
The park gets very busy for a few weekends in the middle of summer, and then you'll have the place to yourself the rest of the year. Some visitors have had difficulty with the lack of parking. Any vehicles which do not fit inside of your campsite are charged a nightly fee.
This is not the place for anything beyond very small trailers and RVs. The sites are short and compact, and the campground loop road is tight with very large trees right beside the road. Come with a small setup and have a blast. Extra blocking might be needed as some sites are not level.
There are plenty of spaces here, but they are on the small side. Round Lake offers 51 campsites, and 16 of those have water and power hook ups. The largest spaces are 24 feet, and the entire park is back-in. There are picnic tables and fire rings. The restrooms have flush toilets and showers. There is drinking water, a dump station, a small non-motorized boat launch and a visitor center. Reservations are a must in the warm season, as the lake is very popular.
There are three main hiking trails within the park. The Trapper Trail is a three and a half mile easy loop that skirts the lake and marshes closely enough to offer excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. The trail is mostly level and passes many interpretive signs explaining the beaver activity seen around Round Lake.
Framed in by the long boat dock, the swim area at Round Lake has a nice sandy shore and bottom, and is shallow enough to warm up nicely on a sunny summer day. There are no life guards, but you'll find plenty of room for beach chairs and sun shades so that you can keep an eye on the kids while enjoying a good book. Bring all of of the pool toys, this is the place to float around.
When the lake finally warms up the State Park rents paddle boats, canoes, and paddle boards. There are some flowering lily pads, and often you'll spot fish in the lake just by looking down. You'll probably see turtles warming themselves in the sun, osprey hunting fish, and beavers working on the dam. The lake's small size is perfect for paddle boats.
Round Lake has been stocked with fish several times a year going back decades. This non-motorized lake is the place to catch rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, bluegills, large mouth bass, bullhead catfish, yellow perch, and brook trout. There is a small boat launch for your craft, or a rented canoe. It is difficult to access the shore, so the dock is the only other option. Check with the IDFG for regulations.
Northern Idaho is wild! The natural wildlife are thriving at Round Lake SP, and depending on the time of year when you visit, there will be many opportunists for viewing and photography. Beavers, turtles, moose, bears, osprey, ducks, and bullfrogs all make the park their home. Early morning hikes in the summer, or any time in the off-season will be optimal viewing conditions.
A blanket of white covers the trees around Round Lake most winters. The snowy season is incredibly peaceful and scenic at the park. Three miles of trails to cross country ski, and the entire lake to explore on skates make this a great off season destination. Give the moose and bears a wide berth - these animals are wild in every sense of the word.