This week’s travel crush has us eyeing the first place we want to go when the U.S.-Canadian border opens up again (thanks, COVID-19).
Sometimes you just want what you can’t have. Like most, I’ve had road trips on the brain. Unfortunately, my research led me to lust after one route that’s prohibitively truncated by our current border restrictions: the International Selkirk Loop.
The 280-mile route snakes through the Selkirk Mountain Range in Idaho, Washington, and the Canadian province of British Columbia. It’s the only multi-national scenic loop in the U.S., and it’s got beautiful scenery and unique wildlife for days, under-the-radar historic sites to explore, and several off-shoot tributaries for some worthwhile side trips along the way.
The Loop is an amalgamation of 12 different scenic highways in both the U.S. and Canada. It was officially designated a National Scenic Byway in the U.S. in 2006 and an estimated 25,000 roadtrippers do all or a portion of the Loop and its various side trips each year (compared to the hundreds of thousands who make the Route 66 trek each year, it’s relatively uncharted territory). The Selkirk Loop organization offers a wealth of materials to support travelers while on the loop, from elevation guides for cyclists to the best pit stops on your route (complete with a no-data app for the loop’s more remote regions).
Sure, I could make do with a partial trip to the U.S. portion of the loop, but some of the most epic stops are on the Canadian side—like the Kootenay Lake Ferry, the longest free ferry in the world, and the Ainsworth Hot Springs in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park.
I can only temper my frustration with the fact that I’ve already made it six months in this pandemic following guidelines to a tee—I can wait however long is needed until it’s safe to cross borders once more. In the meantime, here’s what I’m looking forward to most.
If ever there were a route for a souped-up camper van, it’s the International Selkirk Loop. While there are plenty of hotels that dot the scenic byways, this is an outdoor lover’s road trip begging you to immerse yourself in nature. Outdoorsy offers RV and camper rentals in areas all across the country, and the International Selkirk Loop website has a list of public and private campgrounds to park.
Washington and Idaho Highlights
The Washington portion of the loop includes some of the more remote scenery in the state’s northwest corner—and it is breathtaking. Metaline Falls is just one example of some of the surprising natural beauty this route has to offer.
Over in Idaho, charming small towns like Sandpoint and Bonner’s Ferry are abundant in both recreational activities (skiing, camping, hiking) as well as Old West charm.
British Columbia Highlights
Nelson, BC, is often referred to as as the No. 1 Small Arts Town in Canada for its diverse arts community (which can be enjoyed at the weekly Cottonwood Community Market) and a high concentration of good restaurants, bars, and coffee shops.
Of course, I couldn’t miss the longest free ferry ride in the world or fly fishing in the Salmo River.