The Moose Mountain Loop Trail is an approximately 9 mile, round trip trail that takes you past two great mountain lakes. This is a great horseback ride or hike. I rode this trail with my parents; Roley and Janice Schoonover, my brother and sister-in-law; Isaac and Libby Schoonover, and my two kids; Emily (4) and Gabe (2) on August 27, 2014. Gabe road infront of me and Emily road behind Libby as neither of them are ready to ride their own horse on this sort of trail.
How to Get There:
From Sandpoint, take Hwy 200 east 12 miles to Trestle Creek Rd 275; turn left onto Rd 275 and go 16 miles to Lightning Creek Rd 419; turn left onto Rd 419 and go 1 mile to Moose Creek Rd 1022; turn right onto Rd 1022 and go 2 miles to the end of the road and the trail head. The last 2 miles are the bumpiest although it had recently been graded and de-brushed when we drove up.
The trail head has a large parking lot with enough room for our 4 horse, goose-neck trailer and several other cars. There is also an outhouse at the trail head. Head up the trail toward Moose Lake for about a half mile. Turn right onto the Blacktail Lake trail and go 3 miles. This stretch of trail is a moderate climb with several long stretches of boardwalk. When you reach the sign for Trail 213 continue straight for just over a half mile to Blacktail Lake. This is a smaller lake but still beautiful. We took our lunch break here and the kids had fun catching tadpoles and baby frogs until Gabe fell in. We started a fire to dry off his clothes and keep the half naked toddler warm. There are a couple primitive campsites here and plenty of grazing space that would make for an excellent spot for the horses to stay overnight. To continue on our loop, we backtracked to the sign for Trail 213. Take a right and start climbing up. The trail levels out after the first short climb and is a very pretty ride through the high mountain trees. As you approach the summit of Moose Mountain the trail get steeper and rockier. With Gabe riding in front of me, it was still not too difficult. Riding the ridge up to the summit offers some great view of both Blacktail Lake and Moose Lake. The ridge narrows as you reach the top and I have to admit that last switchback made me thank God I was riding a great horse (I have a good healthy fear of steep drop-offs). As you come down off the summit, the ridge begins to widen and offer some beautiful eastern views. At this point in our ride, Gabe and I dismounted and mom led my horse. First of all, riding down hill with a two year old in front of you is not so easy and second of all that awesome horse I was thanking God for, is a bit mutton-withered and I would be riding on her ears by the time I got to the bottom. As you continue on the ridge begins to narrow again and you come to what looks like (from the back of the line and on foot) a dead end, but no! The trail drops off sharply to the left. This is where it gets a little western. Everyone dismounted here and Isaac led the way on foot leading his horse. Here the trail is a very steep, narrow side hill with a single switchback. We all turned our horses loose to follow Isaac down the trail while we scrambled down after on foot. After this interesting descent everyone re-mounted, except Gabe and I (remember my mutton-withered horse) and the trail continues with a moderate descent through the trees into Moose Lake. I was able to start riding again about a quarter mile from the lake. Moose Lake is about three times bigger that Blacktail Lake and has more primitive camping and fishing opportunities. The trail wraps around the lake and heads back out the nearly two miles to the trail head. About a mile out from Moose Lake, on the way back to the trail head, one of the bridges crossing a creek was broken in the middle and lay in the creek bed. It looked as if it had happened recently and my bet is that the Forest Service will have it repaired soon as this is a high traffic trail. We were able to get around the fallen bridge easily enough. Dad and Isaac rode and us ladies (plus Gabe) led our horses across.
This was a really great family ride with beautiful views, great horses, not so great fishing. This would also make a great day hike or overnight trip. I would not suggest taking small children on this ride unless they ride frequently and a hardy in the saddle. I was so proud of my little ones as they never got scared or tired. As we were leaving Moose Lake we told Gabe that we were headed back to the trailer and he started crying and said he wanted to keep riding. Oh and he wanted me to get off his horse!