Huckleberry hunters in the Pacific Northwest love their fruit, so much so they are reluctant to share their favorite berry picking locations. “Oh, they taste fabulous,” said Allison Hatzenbuhler of Donnelly, Idaho. “They are a cross between a blueberry and a raspberry. Once you know where there’s a good place to pick, you go back every year, but you don’t share your place with anybody. My husband doesn’t even know my spot.” Huckleberry connoisseurs cook with them, bake with them and even blend milkshakes with them. They also offer tips for a successful outing. Berries ripen at different times depending on elevation and climate. Pick them by hand at their ripest, when the small berries are dark purple and sweet, explained Hatzenbuhler, president of the Donnelly Chamber of Commerce and organizer of the city’s annual Huckleberry Festival each August. For safety, be sure to carry protection when picking. Bears love huckleberries too. Here are five not-so-secret locations in Idaho and Oregon where the berries are sweetening on the bush.
Huckleberries grow best between elevations of 2,000 and 11,000 feet. Schweitzer Mountain resort, at 6,400 feet, is a sweet spot in late July and August. Follow a hiking trail and begin the search or sign up for the resort’s Huckleberry Shuttle and go straight to the best fields. Guided e-bike huckleberry tours are also available.
Huckleberries can be found on about 300 of the park’s 1,500 acres with the best hunting between the park campgrounds and the Payette Lake boat ramp. The berries may be ready as early as late June and last until early August, but the trick is getting there after the berries have ripened, but before they’ve been discovered by anyone else. Develop a strategy; a park official said that about two dozen families a day search during peak season.
Ride a scenic chairlift on a late summer day to the mountain summit at Lookout Pass. Wander among the bushes in search of the ripest berries. Taste a few, collect many more, and then hike or take the chairlift back down. The lift operates from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during August and early September.
Huckleberries flourish on all sides of Mount Hood. Lost Lake on the mountain’s north slope, for example, is a popular hunting spot in late July and early August, as is Trillium Lake, near Government Camp. Moderate to challenging hiking may be required here, depending on the trails taken on a scouting mission. Pickers can forage up to three gallons per year for personal use in order to protect the culturally significant resource.
For those who wait for berries to ripen in late August or early September, ample opportunities will be found on trails along the Coastal Range. Look for huckleberries along the full length of the Oregon Coast Trail extending 363 miles from Washington to California. Some of the best picking can be found between Ecola State Park and Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint on the north coast. Look for purple- to black-colored huckleberries in evergreen bushes along hiking trails at lower elevations in the coastal mountains. The tart skins disguise sweetness inside and may be best eaten in the moment or saved to stir into a seasonal pancake treat.
North Powder, Oregon | July 29-30
Donnelly, Idaho | August 11-13
Trout Creek, Montana | August 12–13
Whitefish, Montana | August 11–13
Wallace, Idaho | August 19–20
Bingen, Washington | September 8-10