If you’re planning a trip to Schweitzer, you might be wondering… How, exactly, is the best way to get to there?
Sure, you can plug in some directions into maps and hope for the best, but how about a insider’s perspective?
Fresh off a recent ski trip to the mountain, I thought I’d share everything you need to know about getting to Schweitzer.
- Where is Schweitzer Mountain?
- What is the nearest airport to Schweitzer Mountain?
- Driving from Spokane to Schweitzer
- How far is Schweitzer from Sandpoint?
- Alternative Option: Take the Train to Sandpoint, ID!
Where is Schweitzer Mountain?
Schweitzer Mountain sits in Northern Idaho, at the very tip of the Idaho Panhandle. (You know, that very top portion of the state that most people forget is even part of Idaho!)
The nearest town is Sandpoint, Idaho. If you’re not staying on the mountain, Sandpoint is usually your best bet for lodging.
For more information – Schweitzer Mountain: Where to Stay (A Visitor’s Guide to Lodging)
What is the nearest airport to Schweitzer Mountain?
The closest major airport near Schweitzer is Spokane International Airport. (GEG)
Spokane International has nonstop flights from several cities, including Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, and several West Coast cities. Note that this list doesn’t anywhere on the East Coast. Sorry New Yorkers, you’ll probably need a connection!
While there is technically an airport in the town of Sandpoint (Sandpoint Airport), don’t be fooled. This is a tiny little airstrip mostly limited to prop planes. (Same story with the Coeur d’Alene airport, by the way!)
Otherwise, Kalispell, aka Glacier Park International, aka FCA, is the other closest nearby airport. But, it’s over 3 hours away, and through mountain roads, to boot. And at that point, why not just ski Whitefish?
Driving from Spokane to Schweitzer
Spokane, and more specifically the GEG airport, is 90 miles from Schweitzer Mountain. This totals a little less than two hours of driving.
Staying in Sandpoint will cut off 30 minutes of that time, meaning you can go from airport to town in less than an hour and a half.
How is the drive from Spokane to Sandpoint?
In two words, not bad!
As someone used to ski vacations usually starting with a little bit of white knuckle driving, I was relieved to find the drive to Schweitzer relatively uneventful. On my trip, it was even raining and foggy throughout, but the drive was still pretty easy.
That’s because the Spokane to Sandpoint drive is pretty flat overall.
The road even starts as large, multi-state interstate driving in the city of Spokane.
About half an hour in, you’ll turn onto Highway 53. Highway 53 is a somewhat remote, two lane highway that seems like it’s mostly used for logging trucks and rural purposes. You stay on this for about 25 minutes (15 miles) before linking back up with US-95.
US-95 is a four lane highway, sometimes featuring a median and sometimes just a double-yellow line. The good news is that it continues to stay pretty flat. I would certainly not describe this as mountain driving at all, although you do catch glimpses of some peaks along the way.
How far is Schweitzer from Sandpoint?
Schweitzer Mountain is about 25 minutes from Sandpoint, Idaho.
The access road to the mountain is about 10 miles long, and includes seven hairpin turns along the way.
How is the drive from Sandpoint to Schweitzer Mountain?
While the hairpins are steep, and it’s definitely mountain driving at this point, I actually found the drive to be much better than it sounds. Personally, I get most nervous about mountain driving at higher speeds, but the speed limit on Schweitzer Mountain Road only 35 mph.
Plus, the hairpin setup means you are basically driving straight for a while, then breaking to a near stop for the hairpin, then driving straight again.
I even made the drive up Schweitzer Mountain in a rain/snow mix, and did not need to engage four wheel drive at any point. That said, perhaps true winter blizzard conditions would be a different story?
Of course, if the weather is too bad or you’re worried about the capabilities of your rental car, I recommend taking the FREE Schweitzer Shuttle. It’s picks up from parking lot located at the base of the mountain, before the road gets too steep. This lets you avoid the mountain drive completely!
But overall, I’d say if you’re used to driving on Colorado’s I-70 or similar mountain environments, you should have no problem with the drive to Schweitzer.
And if the weather is nice, the scenic overlooks can’t be beat!
Alternative Option: Take the Train to Sandpoint, ID!
If you’ve got a little more time to burn and you’re willing to take the scenic route, the most unique way to start your ski trip to Schweitzer is to take the train!
The Amtrak’s Empire Builder line has a stop right in downtown Sandpoint.
This line run all over the country. Depending on which direction you’re coming from, you’ll either travel through beautiful Montana mountains or thick Washington forests.
This is definitely the long and scenic route! When I looked into it from Minneapolis, the travel time was over 27 hours each way. Although at less than $300 round trip, it was also cheaper than flying.
You can find more info bout the Sandpoint Train Station on Amtrak.com.