Post Summary: The best things to do in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, and a complete guide to visiting the small town.
Bonners Ferry, Idaho, sits at the top of North Idaho, the last stop for many before crossing over to Canada or Montana. With its old-world charm and laid-back persona, Bonners Ferry is a place to slow down and steep in nature.
Bonners Ferry is a historic little town that we always make sure to visit a couple of times a year for its quiet nature and surprising delights. It’s easy to do when we live 30 minutes away from it!
Whether you’re driving through for the day or spending a couple of days, we’ve got you covered on what to do in Bonners Ferry ranging from yummy food to breathtaking waterfalls.
We’ve also included a guide to the city, including where to stay in Bonners Ferry and tips on how to enjoy your time there. Scroll through to the end for all the insider details!
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BONNERS FERRY AT A GLANCE
- Bonners Ferry was formally founded in 1893 and named after Edwin L. Bonner, who established the ferry that crossed the Kootenai River. The ferry allowed easier access for prospectors and Native Americans heading to Canada.
- Bonners Ferry has a population of just over 2500 people.
- Bonners Ferry’s natural beauty comes from being surrounded by the majestic Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains as well as the Kootenai River that runs right outside the edges of the town.
- Bonners Ferry has the largest hops farm in the world. Elk Mountain Farms has over 1700 acres of hops and is owned by Anheuser-Busch.
Interested in more Idaho trivia? Check out these 57 Fun Facts About Idaho.
HOW TO GET TO BONNERS FERRY
Spokane International Airport (GEG) is the nearest major airport to Bonners Ferry. The airport is 108 miles away and just over a 2-hour drive.
With little to no public transportation, a car is a must in Bonners Ferry. While you can get car rentals in Sandpoint, we highly suggest renting a car at the airport in Spokane where it’s more convenient and cheaper.
You can search for the best deals through rentalcars.com.
THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN BONNERS FERRY
KOOTENAI NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
The highlight of Bonners Ferry and the best free thing to do in Bonners Ferry is a visit to the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge. It’s one of our favorite things to do in Bonners Ferry and is perfect for anyone who loves the outdoors and wants something that’s easy to get to. The sanctuary spans over 2,700 acres and is home to a variety of animals, including moose, elk, deer, and a wide variety of birds. Visitors can explore the refuge’s trails, which wind through the wetlands and forests, providing a unique vantage point for observing the local flora and fauna.
In the fall, we like to walk the flat 2.2-mile Deep Creek Trail and enjoy the apricot hues from the row of cottonwood that line the trail.
Popular activities include nature photography (bring a zoom lens!), biking, hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and the Auto Tour. The Auto Tour is a 4.5-mile one-way route that takes you along Myrtle Creek and open grasslands where you can spot birds, moose, and elk. There are a few pullouts where you can sit on a bench and enjoy the tranquility. You can also bike, walk or cross-country ski the Auto Tour.
Myrtle Falls is a popular waterfall hike that starts near the Visitors Center. It’s a short .9 mile out and back trail with a moderate incline that’s suitable for all ages. At the top is a lookout with a bench to view the 100-foot waterfall. A must-do for waterfall lovers!
Read on for other beautiful waterfalls near Bonners Ferry!
SNOW CREEK FALLS
Snow Creek Falls is about a 15-minute drive away from Myrtle Falls and can easily be combined for a day of short waterfall hikes. The hike is 1.7 miles out and back and fairly easy. It’s rated moderately difficult on All Trails, but most people in good physical condition will find it to be easy. My four-year-old had no issues with the hike.
There’s an upper and lower falls, with the upper falls being the far superior waterfall. If you have time, see both, but if you don’t, we suggest only seeing the upper falls.
It’s not the biggest or tallest, but Snow Creek Falls is my personal favorite.
Copper Falls is a bit further away than Snow Creek and Myrtle Falls (about a 40-minute drive from downtown Bonners Ferry), but it’s a great choice if you want to explore and drive all the way up to the border of Canada. It’s the tallest waterfall of the three and drops a whopping 225 feet. It’s a thin sliver of a waterfall and a delight to see in spring when it’s at its fullest.
The hike is an easy 1.4-mile loop trail that takes you along Copper Creek and to a lower and upper view. Be prepared for a cooling waterfall mist on the upper deck!
Copper Falls is also a popular spot for ice climbers, so lace up your snowshoes in the winter if you want to see daring ice climbers on the frozen falls.
It is possible to see all three waterfalls in one day. Get an early start and start at Copper Falls before making your way to Myrtle Falls and Snow Creek Falls.
Kootenai National Forest is a natural habitat for grizzly bears, so remain bear-aware and bring bear spray.
Waterfall Tip: North Idaho has long winters so the best time to view the waterfalls is LATE spring when the snowmelt will create big gushing waterfalls.
TAKE A HIKE
All of the above waterfall hikes are short and easy, making it great for someone traveling with kids or anyone who is short on time. The Bonners Ferry area is jam-packed with hiking trails that are longer, with many of them leading to alpine lakes.
We haven’t done any of the longer hikes in the area (yet!), so we can’t personally recommend them, but you can check out All Trails to see what users recommend in the area.
STROLL THROUGH DOWNTOWN BONNERS FERRY
Strolling through downtown Bonners Ferry is a charming and relaxing way to spend an afternoon or evening. The downtown area is filled with historic buildings, unique shops, and restaurants, making it the central hub of the town. Visitors can take a leisurely walk along the main street, enjoying the architecture and taking in the sights and sounds of the city. Standouts in the downtown area include Bonner Books, The Nest, and Under The Sun.
BOUNDARY COUNTRY HISTORICAL MUSEUM
For history buffs and anyone interested in learning more about the region’s past, a visit to the Boundary County Historical Museum is a must-do. The museum features a variety of exhibits that showcase the history of Boundary County, including displays on the area’s Native American tribes, early settlers, and industries such as logging and mining. Visitors can learn about the area’s rich cultural heritage through artifacts, photographs, and interactive exhibits that bring the past to life.
The Boundary County Museum is open from Thursday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. Hours could change according to the season, so check the website for the most accurate info.
HUCKLEBERRY LEMONADE FROM UNDER THE SUN
With huckleberry being the official state fruit of Idaho, you’ll want to make sure to try out something huckleberry-flavored while you’re in the area. Our top pick is a huckleberry lemonade from the endlessly charming store, Under The Sun. When you first walk in, it will seem like a home decor and goods store, but tucked into the back is a cafe serving excellent lunch and drinks, including a delicious huckleberry lemonade.
There’s also fantastic used clothing for sale downstairs. There’s a lot of stuff going on at the store, but somehow it works! It’s one of our favorite stops whenever we visit Bonners Ferry.
BONNERS FERRY FARMERS MARKET
The Bonners Ferry Farmers Market is a vibrant weekly tradition that offers visitors the opportunity to experience the best of the local agricultural community. Visiting a local farmers market is one of the BEST ways to get to know an area and get off the beaten path. The market features a variety of vendors selling fresh produce, baked goods, artisanal crafts, and more. Visitors can browse the stalls, sample the local fare, and pick up fresh ingredients to take home. A great way to support the local economy!
In addition to the vendors, the Bonners Ferry Farmers Market also features live music, special events, and educational programs throughout the season. The market is held on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and runs from the last Saturday in April through the 1st Saturday in October every year.
KOOTENAI RIVER BREWING COMPANY
Beer lovers will want to swing by the Kootenai River Brewing Company to experience the handcrafted beers brewed on-site with locally sourced hops. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, with a rustic feel that is perfect after a long day exploring the trails or fishing the river. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly, and they are always happy to help you choose the perfect beer to suit your taste buds.
In addition to the IPAs, stouts, lagers, and seasonal brews, they also offer a full menu of pub-style food. They offer standard pub fare like burgers, but they are known for their sockeye salmon shipped from Bristol Bay. The brewery also hosts live music events and other special events throughout the year, making it a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.
TIP: If it’s warm, sit on their outdoor patio adorned with dangling hop vines.
MIRROR LAKE GOLF COURSE
Golf enthusiasts will love spending time at Mirror Lake Golf Course. Spectacular views of the Kootenai Valley and the Selkirk Mountains make it one of the most beautiful courses in North Idaho. The nine-hole course is well-maintained and offers a variety of holes that cater to players of all skill levels.
THE GATHERING PLACE
Three miles north of Bonners Ferry is the endlessly charming Gathering Place. Made up of three distinct sections, you can stop by the Produce Stand for locally sourced produce, Sharon’s Country Store for coffee, bottled jams, and local goods, and The Bakery for deli sandwiches, freshly baked bread, and home-baked pastries.
A great place to pick up breakfast or lunch before hiking to Copper Falls!
VINTAGE SHOPPING AT 3 MILE ANTIQUE MALL
The 3 Mile Antique Mall in Bonners Ferry is a treasure trove of vintage and antique items that will transport you back in time. The packed store features a wide selection of items from a variety of eras, including furniture, clothing, jewelry, and home decor.
If you love searching for antique finds, you could easily spend a couple of hours browsing the aisles looking for one-of-a-kind items that they won’t find anywhere else.
KOOTENAI RIVER INN CASINO & SPA
If you’re feeling lucky, swing by the Kootenai River Inn Casino and Spa to try your hand at one of the 400 slot machines across the three casino rooms. There’s also a rotating selection of live entertainment and a full-service spa that offers a variety of treatments and services.
TAKE A SCENIC DRIVE DRIVE ON THE WILD HORSE SCENIC BYWAY
Take a scenic drive and explore more of North Idaho on the Wild Horse Scenic Byway. The byway spans 48 miles one way and takes you from Sandpoint, Idaho to the border of Canada, with Bonners Ferry sitting in the middle. The route takes you through some of North Idaho’s most pristine lands and is a lovely drive year-round.
The byway is part of a longer road trip, The International Selkirk Loop, a 280-mile scenic drive that winds you through Idaho, Canada, and Washington.
Many of the sights mentioned in this post will naturally take you along the byway, so if you want to see something different, you can add in the Pend Oreille Scenic Byway or the Panhandle Historic Rivers Passage Byway for a longer driving day. Both of those byways starting points are in Sandpoint, Idaho.
You can see a video of the byway in this reel we made in partnership with Visit Idaho. Give us a follow while you’re there!
EXPLORE THE NEARBY TOWNS
What’s great about this area of North Idaho is that there are so many other fun and unique towns to visit. You can visit them all by taking a North Idaho road trip or going on day trips from Bonners Ferry.
Here are some of our favorite nearby towns along with guides on the best things to do in the town.
Sandpoint, ID: 37 minute drive, 32 miles
Farragut State Park: 1.05 hour drive, 61 miles
Coeur d’Alene, ID: 1.5 hour drive, 78 miles
Wallace, Id: 2.13 hour drive, 125 miles
Whitefish, MT: 2.37 hour drive, 154 miles
FAQS ABOUT VISITING BONNERS FERRY
When is the best time to visit Bonners Ferry?
Bonners Ferry is a year-round destination with each season offering something different. We prefer summer for the beautiful weather, the opportunities to swim and kayak, the farmers market, and the excellent hiking. That being said, Fall brings beautiful colors, a respite from the heat, and fewer crowds so it’s my second favorite time!
Winter brings freezing temperatures and a winter wonderland perfect for people who love skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding. Spring will be cool with rain, but late spring will mean gushing waterfalls and wildflowers galore.
For a full rundown of the weather in Idaho, check out our full post on the best times to visit Idaho.
What should I pack for Bonners Ferry?
Like most of Idaho, Bonners Ferry is a laid-back town so you’ll be fine with comfortable clothing and a good pair of waterproof walking shoes. You can check out our full post on what to pack for Idaho. It goes into all four seasons so you’ll be covered no matter when you visit.
Where should I stay in Bonners Ferry?
Bonners Ferry has a decent amount of lodging that will suit most travelers. Here are our top picks for where to stay in Bonners Ferry.
Northside Bed and Breakfast: A charming B&B located in an old school house that provides an excellent breakfast and an outdoor pool. Each room has its own bathroom. A sought-after spot with a small amount of rooms, so book it right away if you like it.
Best Western Plus Kootenai River Inn And Spa: A standard hotel room with comfortable beds and easy access to downtown Bonners Ferry. The hotel has a spa and a casino plus an arcade/game room for kids. The pool and free breakfast make it a good choice for families.
Kootenai Cabin: A one-bedroom vacation rental that sleeps four is perfect for anyone who wants their own space and to cook their own meals. Also, the cabin is super cute and has beautiful mountain views.
Contemporary Tiny Home: A tiny home with two separate sleeping areas makes it perfect for families or friends traveling together. The tiny home is sophisticated and has beautiful views of the mountains.
That’s our roundup of the best things to do in Bonners Ferry! Enjoy your visit and let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.
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