Trail System

Location and Snowpack

The Palouse Divide Nordic Ski Area lies 39 miles northeast of Moscow,
Idaho on Idaho State Highway 6. The area is labeled “North South
Ski Area” in red letters on the map below:

The base elevation of the trail system is approximately 3,600 feet above sea level. During many winters, the ski area’s elevation, coupled with its position in an orographically favored mountainous region, is sufficient to catch many storms and sustain a deep snowpack.

Trail System

Through the hard work and sustained efforts of many local volunteers and the NationalForest Service, motorized vehicles are officially prohibited on the Palouse Divide Trail System. This makes it more favorable as a nordic ski area than many other areas in the region.

The Palouse Divide Ski Area boasts five groomed trails on the east side of Highway 6, and another two groomed trails on the west side of Highway 6. In all, there are over 20 miles of groomed trails, many of which are on gently sloping terrain and many other miles of ungroomed routes. Consult this trailmap of the Palouse Divide area  (256 KB JPEG) for further details on the trail system: Palouse_Divide Trail Map

Trail Descriptions:

Trailhead elevation is 3600’.  All trail distances are calculated from the trailhead.

Trails from west side of highway (dogs allowed)

East Dennis Loop. Difficult.  5.7 miles roundtrip.  Estimated time:  3 – 4 hours.  Highest elevation is 4400’. This loop trail starts on the northwest side of the highway and traverses on forest service road 377 for 1.6 miles before branching onto a side road and circling around East Dennis mountain. The first .4 mile is relatively even terrain but then the trail climbs 600’ in the next 1.2 mile to a trail junction.  At the junction,  the recommended direction for skiing is to circle East Dennis in a counterclockwise direction by taking a right turn at the junction.  The trail circles around East Dennis with moderate elevation change until it is about 1.5 mile past the junction.  At this spot (marked by a blue sign) the ski trail deviates uphill from the skid road and goes straight up hill for about 400 yards to a saddle. This portion of the trail is very difficult for skiing and some skiers remove their skiis to hike up to the saddle.  At the saddle,  the ski trail meets road 377 and returns back downhill and eventually to the trailhead.  Views from the saddle and many places along the East Dennis loop are excellent – both to the east (towards Emida) and west (towards Potlatch).

Samson Road to Loggers Saddle. Moderate. 6.0 miles roundtrip. Estimated time: 2-3 hours roundtrip. Highest elevation is 3800’ at the turnaround. The Samson trail starts at the west trailhead and proceeds along the FS Road 377 for .4 mile to the junction of Samson Road.  At the junction, take the left branch and proceed on the groomed road. After approximately 1/2, take the right branch (slightly uphill) at the Y intersection and continue towards Loggers Saddle.   Samson Rd is moderate in difficulty and only 2 short steep sections.  There are occasional view points and an excellent view point at the turnaround.  There are several spur trails along the way and at the turnaround for the adventurous skier looking to break their own trails.

Trails from east side of highway (dogs not allowed).

Divide Road. Easy.  1.7 miles each way to the Hume Road junction.  Estimated time: 1-2 hours. Highest elevation is 3650’. The Divide Road starts at the east trailhead and proceeds along the groomed forest service road for 1.7 miles to the junction of Hume Road.  Left at the junction is Hume Rd.  Right at the junction is Meadow Loop.  The Divide Road actually continues straight ahead at this junction to Lanes Lookout (1.6 miles) and Bald Mountain Lookout (approximately 7 more miles). Grooming usually stops at Lanes lookout.

Big Loop. Moderate.  5.5 miles roundtrip.  Estimated time: 2 – 3 hours. Highest elevation is 3650’. The Big Loop trail starts at the east trailhead and proceeds along the Divide Road for 1 mile to the junction of lower Big Loop.   At the junction, take the left branch onto a narrow groomed trail (blue arrow sign) and proceed on Big Loop in a clockwise direction.  Approximately 1.7 miles from the junction,  the trail begins a steep climb until it meets Hume Road in about 400 yards.  This climb can be difficult depending on snow conditions and many skiers remove their skiis for the climb, others sidestep or herringbone up the hill.  At Hume Road,  the trail goes to the right (marked by a blue arrow sign) and returns along Hume Road to the Divide Road and back to the trailhead.   There are occasional views along both Hume Rd and Lower Big loop.  The terrain is heavily forested and the skiing is mostly level – with the exception of the steep portion at the turnaround.  Because much of Big Loop is north facing,  the snow conditions are often better on Big Loop and Hume Road than on Divide Road. Hume Road is especially nice skiing and is usually groomed for both classic and skate skiing.

Meadow Loop. Moderate to difficult.  5.8 miles roundtrip.  Estimated time: 3 hours. Highest elevation is 3650’. The Meadow Loop trail starts at the east trailhead and proceeds along the Divide Road for 1  mile to the junction where it makes a right turn – away from the Divide Road. This junction is across the Divide Rd from the entrance to lower Big Loop. The Meadow Loop trail proceeds downhill through the forest until it opens up in a clear cut for a short distance. At the bottom, there is a sharp right turn and continued downhill. The trail proceeds along the former skid road gradually downhill for about 1 1/2 miles to another junction where it makes another sharp right turn and begins climbing uphill. After about 1 mile of uphill, it meets the lower part of Little Loop trail and you can either climb steeply for 200 yards to meet the upper portion of Little Loop or ski to the left and follow Little Loop in a clockwise direction. Once you are on Little loop, the trail continues uphill about 1/2 mile and meets the Divide Rd about 1/3 mile from the main trailhead. Merge left at this junction and you will soon be back at the trailhead.  

Little Loop. Moderate.  2.3  miles roundtrip.  Estimated time: 1-2 hours. Highest elevation is 3650’. The Little Loop trail starts at the east trailhead and proceeds along the Divide Road for 1/4 mile to the junction where it takes a right turn – downhill and away from the Divide Road. In another ½ mile,  you will see where the return leg of the loop trail rejoins Little Loop on the left. Continue right and down the groomed road and you will circle Little Loop in a counterclockwise direction. Little Loop is a short .8 mile loop that will bring you back to Meadow Loop.  When you meet the Meadow loop trail,  you can turn left and trudge steeply uphill for 200 yards to meet the upper portion of Little Loop or take a right turn downhill and ski Meadow loop. The 200 yard uphill trudge is the only difficult portion of the Little Loop trail and some people take off their skis and walk up the hill here.

Hume Road. Easy to moderate.  8.6 miles roundtrip if you go all the way to the turnaround on Hume Road.   Estimated time: 3 hours. Highest elevation is 3650’. The Hume Road trail starts at the east trailhead and proceeds along the Divide Road for 1.7  mile to the junction of Hume Road.  At the junction, take the left branch onto a wide groomed road (Hume Road).  There are occasional views along Hume Rd.  The terrain is heavily forested and the skiing is mostly level, usually very good for skate skiing.  The turnaround is the wide spot in the road about 2.5 miles out where you will see the backside of a big metal sign that says “no vehicles past this point after Dec 15″. The snow conditions are often better on Hume Road than on Divide Road because it is north facing and generally protected from the wind.

Lane’s Lookout. Moderate. 6.6 miles from the trailhead. Estimated time: 2-3 hours. Highest elevation is 3900′ at Lane’s Lookout. Follow the Divide Road east of the highway to Hume Rd junction. At the junction, continue straight and slightly uphill for another 1.6 miles on the Divide Rd to a saddle. Lane’s Lookout is about 50 yards east of the main road at the saddle with exceptional views to the east. Grooming usually stops at Lane’s Lookout.

There are numerous other trail options at the Palouse Divide and parts of the listed trails can be combined for other trips.   The trails listed here are meant as suggestions for skiers new to the area. Please consult the map of the Palouse Divide ski area for more information. If you chose to ski on ungroomed and unmarked trails adjacent to the Palouse Divide area, make sure you know the area and pack extra gear for warmth in case your return takes longer than expected.