The mountains of the Coeur d’Alenes are known for their abundance of huckleberries, a round, purple berry native to North Idaho and the official state fruit. Sunlight enhances production, so the best berry picking is usually found along abandoned logging roads, in areas where timber has been harvested or where forest fires have occurred. When venturing into the forest, remember bears like berries, too. High in carbohydrates, they are one of the primary food sources for grizzly and black bear. If you encounter or see a bear, it is best to retreat and not to infringe on the bear’s berry territory. The huckleberry is an erect shrub ranging from one to five feet tall. By mid-June, berries on south facing lower slopes are ripe. Good picking is as late as October on north slopes. Abundant huckleberry picking spots are available throughout North Idaho. Best picking is between late July and early August. Visit parksandrecreation.idaho.gov or contact the Priest Lake Ranger District, (208)443-2512 www.fs.fed.us/ipnf/priestlake
If you’re not inclined to compete with the bears and birds for Idaho’s official state fruit, there are multiple other ways to enjoy huckleberries:
The Beachouse Ribs & Crab Shack on Lake Coeur d’Alene is the home of the original Huckleberry Ribs. The tangy sauce is so addictive, plan to go back again and again.
Baskin Robbins in Coeur d’Alene features dozens of toppings including fresh huckleberries.
Paul Bunyon Burgers has been a local favorite since 1952. What do the locals love about Paul Bunyon in the summertime? Huckleberry milkshakes!
Sargent’s on Government Way in Hayden not only serves up the best steaks in town, but also the best huckleberry pie!
Huckleberry topped salads and cheesecake are a must try at 315 Martinis, Tapas and Dinner at the Greenbriar Inn. The proprietors also produce Wildbeary Huckleberry products which are available through their website: www.gbrfoods.com
Huckleberries are the star each August when the Huckleberry / Heritage Festival takes place in Wallace the 3rd weekend. Besides a bake-off and Huckleberry pancake breakfast, vendors have huckleberry goods along with other arts and crafts. There’s also live music, a fun run, downtown bicycle race and a bicycle hillclimb to the top of Dobson Pass.