The Trail of the Coeur D'Alenes
The Trail of the Coeur D'Alenes is in North Idaho. It is a 72-mile paved bike trail that spans the Idaho panhandle from East to West. It is part of the Rails to Trails project, so it follows the path of an old railroad grade from Idaho's silver mining days. Paving the bike trail helps to contain contamination from unsafe pollutants like lead. It also brings tourism to the North Idaho towns that have struggled since the ore deposits were depleted.
The Trail of the CDA is a luxuriously long, flat, smooth trail that is perfect for riders of all ages and abilities.
The Trail of the CDA is easy riding, and you may be able to ride farther than you expected. However, a certain level of physical fitness is advisable. You should prepare by taking shorter rides closer to home and building up your strength and stamina. Perhaps take a Saturday to see how far you can ride on a local trail before getting tired. Then you will know how far you can plan to ride per day on your trip!
Bring plenty of water, although there are lots of little towns along the way where water can be found easily.
The Trail is free to ride. You do not need to get a permit in advance unless you are bringing a group of more than 25 people.
You can get on this trail from either end: Plummer, on the Western edge, or Mullan, on the Eastern side. There are also 17 more trail heads along the way, such as Harrison, Cataldo and Enaville.
If you follow the trail in the same direction as the original railroad, you will see the following destinations in this order:
Mullan to Wallace
In this section, you will be heading downhill at a noticeable grade. You probably won't even have to pedal. Mullan and Wallace are both old mining towns, although Mullan is somewhat depopulated. You will see historical buildings (some abandoned, some functioning). In between them, you will be biking through a valley, with small mountains soaring up on either side. You will pass over several small rivers. Plant life in this section includes tall pines and wildflowers. This section of the trail follows the highway, so cars will be visible (although they will not be close enough to present any danger).
Wallace to Smelterville
Wallace is another old mining town, but it appears more populous and prosperous than Mullan. It has a Bordello Museum and a dinner theater, as well as numerous small restaurants and shops. The trail flattens out at this point, and remains flat all the way to Chatcolet. You will ride through more tall pines and wildflowers, and you will pass several streams and a couple of hot springs. You will go through Kellogg, home of the Silver Mountain ski resort. They operate the ski lift even in the summer, so you could go for a quick ride to catch a bird's eye view of this lovely area. Kellogg also has several small restaurants. In Smelterville, you will suddenly come upon a Wal-Mart supercenter. Fear not, this only happens because you are about to ride under the highway and then jog away from the road so that cars are no longer visible. You could pick up groceries at the Wal-Mart if needed.
Smelterville to Harrison
After leaving the highway in Smelterville, you start to follow the Coeur d'Alene river through true wilderness. A little while later, you will pass the Snakepit, a restaurant over 100 years old that also served as a bordello during mining days. The food is good, but the building is worth a stop even if you don't plan to eat. After passing the Snakepit, you will not see any cars, and relatively few people. Plant life is a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees, many wildflowers, and small shrubs and ferns along the river. You will follow the river for many miles and then begin passing through a series of small lakes: Killarney Lake, Medicine Lake, Cave Lake, Swan Lake, Black Lake, and Blue Lake. Each is charming, and in this section the forest opens up and becomes more marsh-like. You will see water lilies in abundance, as well as other marshy plants and flowers. Moose and herons frequent this area.
Harrison to Chatcolet
Upon reaching Harrison, you will see your first view of Lake Coeur d'Alene. This tiny town offers sweeping views of the lake, and has many attractions for tourists, such as boating, a swimming beach, a bike shop, a pretty park and central square. It also boasts numerous restaurants, and an ice cream parlor that offers "The Biggest Scoops in Idaho." The path continues through Harrison, around the lake for about 6 miles and eventually crosses the lake on the Chatcolet Bridge, unusual because of its "lumpy" shape. Kids and adults will enjoy riding up and especially down this "roller-coaster" bridge.
Chatcolet to Plummer
In Chatcolet, you will have reached Heyburn State Park, which offers camping, fishing, and boat docks.
Moose are frequently spotted on this trail. While these animals are not especially aggressive, they are very large and should not be approached. This applies especially to mothers with calves, who will be very protective of their young.
Cell phone reception is spotty at best. If something goes wrong with your bike, you could be stranded along the trail. For this reason, you should bring: innertube patches and/or a spare innertube, a small hand pump, an adjustable wrench, and extra water. You should have a basic knowledge of how to change your bike tube and how to make minor repairs such as re-setting a chain, adjusting brakes, etc.
Route of the Hiawatha
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho