The Kootenai National Forest, home to the Skyline National Recreation Trail, is in the northwest corner of Montana and slightly into Idaho. This is wilderness country, and Kootenai's many trails crisscross the forest, often running beside a river. This is the case with Skyline, which stretches from Libby to Troy, following State Highway 2 and the Kootenai River, within the Purcell Mountains.
The surface of the trail is packed dirt, and it's only 18" wide in some places, so single file might be necessary, and your fur-pup should be under your control to avoid an unpleasant run-in with a grizzly or other large animal. Wildlife is abundant in the woods along this trail, so keep your eyes peeled. Many bird species live here or stop during migration, including eagles, falcons and other raptors, as well as songbirds. In the winter, the trail is open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and this is when you're likely to spy animals silhouetted against the snow.
There are 3 major lookouts on the trail: Quartz Mountain, Skyline Mountain and Arbo Mountain, from which the vistas of the Cabinet Mountain Range and beyond are magnificent. One of the popular attractions on the trail is the Kootenai Falls Suspension Bridge over the spectacular falls of the same name. It requires a short side-hike, but is well worth the time and effort unless suspended footbridges terrify you.
Horseback riding is another use of this trail, so don't be surprised if you encounter a rider or 2. It's also a perfect trail for picnicking, using a boulder or a shaded forest glade for your table. Primitive camping is permitted, but remember this is a carry in/carry out forest. Be sure to take waste bags for your pooch and plan to take them with you when you leave. If you're planning to camp along the trail, or if you're not familiar with the area, it's a good idea to check in with a ranger at the office on Highway 37 in Libby for guidance before setting out.
This rigorous hike will definitely satisfy the adventurous and their fur-buddies!
It may be worthwhile to take a satellite phone as cell service is poor in many areas along the way. Wildfires are common in this area during the summer so be sure to check the alerts before departing on your hike, and map an alternate way out if your trail should be cut off suddenly by fire.