Round Lake State Park: geocaching, picnicking and hiking
Round Lake State Park is small but mighty. It is a hidden gem in the Idaho panhandle and a great stop if you are exploring this area. We found it an excellent location to try out geocaching for the first time (without an experienced cacher).
State Park Overview
“As the surrounding area is starting to fill up with housing developments, the park provides a corridor for wildlife and helps preserve the natural areas for visitors to learn, appreciate and make memories.”Mary McGraw
Mary McGraw is the Park Manager at Round Lake State Park and she has been working at the park for 24 years. We were there for much less time, but we can attest to Round Lake being a great place to make memories.
- Easy to explore (that is the small of the small but mighty part)
- Easy hiking
- Pretty views (particularly at sunset)
- Because the park is small, there are limited facilities and space
What To Do
- Go on a hike around the lake. Trapper Trail is 1.8 miles and is a great way to see most of the park. You can also snowshoe in the wintertime.
- Camp. Space is limited, so be sure to make a reservation.
- Try geocaching. We did and it was fun.
- A picnic is always a good idea. If you can snag a spot in the park shelter, you will have excellent views of the lake.
- Fish. We did not do any fishing, but we saw several people trying their luck.
- Get out on the water. Canoe, kayak and SUP rentals are available in the summer.
The park has a nice visitor center and all of the usual picnic tables and such. For all of the specifics, check out the parks and rec’s website for Round Lake State Park.
We visited the Round Lake State Park at the end of the day on Labor Day weekend. There were others enjoying the park as well, but it was not too busy. I imagine if we had visited earlier in the day, there would have been a bigger crowd to contend with. But in general, it sounds like this is a quiet park when it comes to crowds.
Unique to Round Lake State Park
Because this state park is small (by Idaho standards), there are limited camping options. This is not a bad thing. Apparently, the camping atmosphere is reminiscent of camping in the 1950s. The only campground loop is occupied by smaller units which, along with the tents and the campfires, provide an intimate and nostalgic experience…even for one who never camped in the 1950s.
A little history about Round Lake State Park
The visitor center at Round Lake State Park is actually an old family home. When the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation purchased the 143 acres around Round Lake in 1973, the house came with it. It was then renovated and turned into the visitor center. Unfortunately, we arrived too late to visit the inside of the visitor center. But we saw the outside and we exclaimed out loud, “It’s adorable!”
- Sandpoint, Idaho, is located 10 miles north of Round Lake. This is a good place to pick up supplies and find a place to stay.
- Farragut State Park is about 25 minutes away.
- Priest Lake State Park is a little over an hour away to the north.
- Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is less than an hour away to the south. You can visit Coeur d’Alene Parkway State Park while you are there.
- Spokane, Washington is a little over an hour away. This will be your best bet for an airport.
Our experience at Round Lake State Park
A picnic and a sunset
We picked up a pizza in Sandpoint and headed south. I would provide the name of the pizza place, but we did not have that great of an experience. However, there are plenty of places to grab some food in Sandpoint. When we arrived at Round Lake State Park, the first thing we noticed were a couple of empty picnic tables with a view of the lake. It was dusk and lovely. I wanted to eat, but I also wanted to take some photos. It was a tough choice. Once the pizza was eaten and the photos were taken, we headed out on the Trapper Trail.
Geocaching at Round Lake State Park
For some reason, we decided to try our hand at geocaching while visiting Round Lake State Park. We had done it one other time with a group of friends (although, to be honest, we didn’t pay much attention to the particulars). I reached out to my cousin to figure out where to start. Turns out an app is a good idea. So I downloaded a geocache app and looked for options at Round Lake. Surprisingly, they were quite a few. We picked an easy one and headed toward the cache. We had no clue what we were doing, but somehow, we managed to find that cache. I don’t know that I am a geocache convert, but I know I felt a sense of accomplishment after we found it. Plus, it made for a good memory of Round Lake State Park.
Hiking at Round Lake State Park
Trapper Trail circles Round Lake and is 1.8 miles long. We figured we would complete it easily. And I suppose we did, but it was little too dark by the time we finished. I do think it was worth our effort to see the sunset the way we did, but it would have been a good idea to bring a flashlight. As someone who does not enjoy hiking very much, I can recommend this trail.
I will conclude my post about this park with a few more words from Mary McGraw (since she knows a lot more than I do):
“After being at Round Lake State Park for 24 years, one of the things that sticks with me is the family atmosphere of the park. Families come here and enjoy the Park by swimming, hiking and fishing, sometimes for the first time. Kids can explore the outdoors with their Mom and Dad or Grandma and Grandpa, in a safe, relatively small area. There are very diverse habitats within the park, with a lot of wildlife and different plants. We encourage the exploration of the park by providing interpretative programs, interpretive signs and self-exploration with our loaner backpacks that are chucked full of activities. The park visitor center and many of the programs we present are geared to the kids to help create stewardship of our natural resources.”
Note: we visited Round Lake State Park as part of our Idaho State Parks Challenge. The challenge consists of visiting all of Idaho’s state parks in one year. We made up this challenge to see a bit more of our beautiful state and help alleviate the restlessness caused by Covid-19 travel restrictions. Feel free to join the challenge!
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