The heart of Idaho.
The city of Coeur d’Alene, and the 25-mile-long lake going by the same name—both nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in the Idaho Panhandle (the northern part of the state)—offer outdoor enthusiasts something to do or see all year round. From fishing, rafting, or sailing to strapping on a snowboard or a pair of skies and gliding down some of the best slopes around, this bit of wild country never disappoints with the spectacular natural beauty on offer here.
Biking the North Idaho Centennial Wilderness Trail
The North Idaho Centennial Wilderness Trail offers biking enthusiasts 23 glorious miles of paved trail. The trail, which stretches from the Washington state border to Idaho’s Lake Coeur d’Alene, serves up a variety of scenery, from the shorelines of the Spokane River and Lake Coeur d’Alene, to (unfortunately) a decent-sized stretch of Interstate 90 (I-90). Despite the patch of trail near the freeway, you’ll still come across enough wooded and natural areas during your ride to make up for any time spent pedaling near an artery for cars and trucks.
Summer and Winter Fun at Silver Mountain Ski Resort
The once-booming mining town of Kellogg, ID, only 30 miles east of Coeur d’Alene, now hosts Silver Mountain Resort. This all-seasons destination is home to North America’s longest gondola, which makes Silver Mountain an excellent spot for skiing and snowboarding fun come wintertime—and thanks to the 3.1-mile-long gondola and vertical terrain, a prime locale for some hardcore downhill mountain biking come spring and summer. For folks who neither ski nor ride mountain bikes, the indoor water park, along with the scenic gondola ride, should be more than enough to fill up their recreational time.
Bald Eagle Spotting
Come autumn and winter (as early as late November and as late as February), bald eagle spotting is the coolest thing to do around Lake Coeur d’Alene’s Wolf Lodge Bay. Most years, with more than 200 migrating bald eagles (numbers vary from season to season) hanging about the lake shore—come for the kokanee salmon buffet—these massive winged predators are exceptionally easy to spot. Good binoculars, a penchant for bird watching, and a bit of endurance for the biting cold are all you’ll need to catch plenty of bald eagles swooping down from the trees as they pluck their scaly lunch out of the water.
Red Horse Mountain Ranch
If the idea of a Western-style dude ranch holiday speaks to the inner cowboy or cowgirl lurking inside your soul, look no further than Idaho’s Red Horse Mountain Ranch. With 560 deeded acres, and more than 300,000 acres to ride through, plus various programs for kids, single folks, women only, adults and families, this massive ranch, located at the foot of Red Horse Mountain near Blue Lake Creek, offers its guests wonderful panoramas of the surrounding countryside, plenty of lengthy rides, as well as comfortable lodging to relax in while reflecting upon the days riding activities.
What better way to take in Lake Coeur d’Alene and the surrounding hills then by booking a cruise and heading out onto the water? And if nature-based sightseeing isn’t your cup of tea, you and your companions can always opt for a specialty lake cruise, taking in the Fourth of July fireworks perhaps, or a party out on the lake with a live band jamming the night away, or maybe a Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day or “Journey to the North Pole” cruise when the season is right. Regardless of the time of year, you’ll always be able to find an excuse for an outing on Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Coeur d'Alene From the Sky
If for some strange reason, you don’t want to check out the lake from the water, why not take it all in from the sky? Two options are available for airborne tourists here: either book a flight on a sea (lake) plane, or else go with the wind blasting through your hair, and try your luck with a parasailing excursion. Irrespective if you’re in the cockpit of a plane, or dangling from a parasail screaming your brains out, the lake views from above are breathtaking, and well worth the lofty ride.
Exploring the St. Joe River
The stunningly beautiful St. Joe River, 140 miles long, feeds into Lake Coeur d’Alene. When spring runoff rolls around, the upper reaches of the St. Joe make for a rollicking good time on a raft or a kayak. Paddlers, surrounded by pristine forests (full of fauna), can make their way down calmer stretches of the river, punctuated by turbulent rapids, and really experience the natural surrounds—along with plenty of water-soaked fun—in an intimate, slap-a-big-ole-grin-on-your-face kind of way.
Fishing on Lake Coeur d'Alene
If you fancy casting or sinking a fishing line for some bull, brook, or rainbow trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, yellow perch, chinook or kokanee salmon, Lake Coeur d’Alene and the region’s surrounding rivers and streams (like Coeur d’Alene River) should thrill you to no end. Once you get your Idaho Fishing License in order and read up on some of the local fishing regulations, of course, all you’ll have to do then is book a fishing trip, or else head out on your own and try to land a fish impressive enough to brag about to the folks back home.
There’s no shortage of wild, woodland nature in the foothills and mountains of Northern Idaho. From gentle strolls along paths cutting through thick stands of Ponderosa Pine, Douglas-fir, Mountain Hemlock, and a variety of other tree species, to more challenging hikes (as far as terrain and elevation go), the Coeur d’Alene National Forest offers a ton of wonderful hiking opportunities, including the Ridge National Recreation Trail, Stevens Lakes, Big Tree Trail, Chilco Mountain Trail, Marie Creek Trail, Revett Lake Trail and many, many more.
Kootenai County Farmers' Market
Every Wednesday and Saturday locals and tourist alike can sample the agricultural bounty and artisan creativity of Northern Idaho—and the people who live there—at the Kootenai County Farmers’ Market (come rain or shine, as the organizers proudly declare). Wednesday’ s market is held in Coeur d’Alene, while Saturday’s market takes place in Hayden, Idaho. Regardless of the event you attend, you’ll be able to get your hands on homegrown and locally crafted food and products (berries, bread, pottery, meat, toys, sweets, quilts, tea, and more) while mingling with friendly vendors, and lots of customers having one heck of a good time.
Seven Stars Alpaca Ranch
If you dig large, furry creatures, then a visit (or even an overnight stay in a small vacation cottage) to the Seven Stars Alpaca Ranch should top your itinerary while in Coeur d’Alene, as the ranch is only minutes away from downtown. Suri and huacaya alpacas are the superstars here, along with resident goats, llamas, cattle, and horses. It’s the perfect spot for young children and their curious parents to learn about the alpaca business, while also getting to spend some up close and personal time with these fascinating creatures.
Exploring Tubbs Hill
Cruising around Tubbs Hill, a 165-acre tree-laden patch of land (smack dab in the middle of the city), surrounded on three sides by Lake Coeur d’Alene, is a great way to indulge in some calming, serene nature literally only a minute or two away from the bustling Coeur d’Alene Resort. Boulders, trees, stunning views of the lake—plus the opportunity to jump into the cardiac-arrest inducing cold water should you be so inclined—abound along this easily accessible natural sanctuary in the heart of Coeur d’Alene, which is a city that already has a heart in its name (“coeur” means “heart” in French).