Plan Your Visit

Otter with pondweed

Kootenai NWR provides numerous recreation opportunities to thousands of visitors every year. People enjoy viewing the unique geology and diverse wildlife, whether driving or hiking. Regulation of recreation activities allow for public enjoyment of the refuge while still protecting the wildlife and habitats.

The refuge is open from sunrise to sunset, 365 days a year.  The auto tour road entrance/exit gates open and close automatically; open about sunrise and close about 1/2 hour after sunset.  During the winter, the tour road is closed to vehicles.  It is open to snowshoers and cross-country skiers.  Roads throughout the refuge are graveled and visitors must maintain the posted speed limit. Parking is allowed in designated parking areas only. No overnight parking or camping is allowed on the refuge.

Hiking is allowed on four designated trails open to the public. Wildlife observation and photography are encouraged. Please stay out of closed areas to minimize disturbance to plants and animals. Bicycling and leashed dog walking are allowed only on the auto tour road. 

Fishing is allowed as per state regulations. Bank fishing is permitted from the banks of Myrtle Creek only.

Sport hunting is permitted on the refuge in accordance with all state and federal regulations. Hunters should consult the Idaho State hunting regulations. Special refuge hunting regulations also apply.


For driving directions, questions about recreation, please contact the refuge office.


The Refuge can be accessed from three entrance points.  The primary entrance, which is about five miles west of Bonners Ferry on Riverside Road, the south entrance on Lions Den Road, and the northwest entrance on Westside Road.  Boating of navigable water surrounding the Refuge is common; however, accessing the Refuge from these waters is not allowed and constitutes trespass beyond the refuge boundary.

There are four asphalt parking lots near headquarters, two gravel lots on the southern portion of the Refuge, and two gravel parking lots along Riverside Road.  Near the primary refuge entrance in the East parking lot is an illustrated welcome sign, orientation map, and kiosk with information.  There are two other kiosks and an observation scope near the headquarters building.

Public restrooms and a picnic area are provided to the public that are located near headquarters.  No campgrounds are on Refuge property and no overnight parking or camping is allowed.



There are four trails available for walking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing while observing wildlife and views of the Refuge. Visitors should remain on designated trails, county roads, and the Auto Tour Road. Leashed dog walking, jogging, and bicycles are allowed on the Auto Tour Route only to reduce disturbance to wildlife.  Bicycles or dogs are not allowed on any of the foot trails.  Island Pond trail is now closed.

Deep Creek Trail – a 2.2 mile (one way) level trail on top of the Deep Creek Dike. This well maintained trail is largely forested with cottonwood and other broad-leaved trees. 

Chickadee Trail – is a flat, 1,000 foot long ADA accessible trail with benches and interpretive signs.

O'le Humpback Trail – this steep, one mile long trail winds its way through forest habitat up to land owned by the U.S. Forest Service. Short Loops offer vantage points of the Selkirk and Purcell Mountain Ranges.

Myrtle Creek Falls Trail – this 1/4 mile long trail takes visitors off Refuge property and onto U.S. Forest Service land to an observation point of the 100 foot tall Myrtle Creek Falls. The Refuge trail is fully ADA accessible up to and including the bridge over Myrtle Creek, but is not accessible the remainder of the trail as it becomes a dirt trail with switchbacks past the bridge. 

Cascade Pond Overlook – Accessed from Westside Rd, this overlook offers excellent opportunities to view wildlife at close range.


Auto Tour Road

This 4.5 mile long level road offers views of the Refuge's wetland and grassland habitats and Myrtle Creek.  The one-way gravel road has three pull-outs and is open to licensed vehicles, bicycles, walkers/hikers, joggers, and leashed pets.  The road is open from dawn to dusk.  During the winter, the Auto Tour Road is not plowed but is open to snowshoers and cross-country skiers.  No snowmobiles are allowed.  The route does have interpretative panels viewable to visitors, with an audio CD is available for daily use to accompany the drive.  Stop in at headquarters to pick one up or download the podcast here:


Vehicles and Parking

Vehicles may drive on county roads and the refuge Auto Tour Road. Parking is only allowed in designated parking areas and vehicles are not permitted off roads or on dike trails. Only vehicles registered for highway use are permitted on the refuge.

The Refuge contains facilities that are accessible to persons with disabilities.  ADA accessible blinds are available for waterfowl hunters at South Pond and the North Hunt unit. The auto tour route is designed for wildlife observation from the comfort and safety of one's personal vehicle.  The Refuge headquarters and restrooms, and the environmental education center, are of modern accessible design with paved approaches and ramps to the facilities.  The parking lot at the headquarters is paved with sidewalks connecting to the accessible Chickadee Trail and to the Myrtle Falls Trail, which is accessible to and including a bridge that offers excellent views of Myrtle Creek.  The Cascade Pond overlook is also ADA accessible.