The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes winds through both history and beauty as is saunters and turns around the Gem State. Established as a trail and adopted as an Idaho State Park in the early 2000s, the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes has a lengthy past. And now, what was once an old railroad to support the booming mining industry, has transformed into one of the longest continuously paved trails in the United States, spanning an impressive length of nearly 73 miles.
Silver and other heavy metals were discovered in the area around 1884. Dubbed ‘The Silver Valley,’ the land developed quickly to accommodate the growing industry. Alongside this expansion came a Union Pacific Railroad. But as many came to find out, mining was a huge environmental hazard and resulted in long-standing ecological issues within the area—one of which: lead poisoning.
After the mines closed down, the railroad lost its primary passenger (millions of pounds of heavy metals) and promptly shut down as well. It didn’t take long for people to begin to realize the harmful impacts that mining took on the surrounding land. And thus, the idea for the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes came to fruition.
The Union Pacific Railroad, The U.S. Government, and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe members formulated a plan to transform the railway into a paved trail. The paving would trap whatever contamination that lie underneath and prevent it from spreading, while simultaneously creating an incredible expanse of Idaho outdoor recreation.
Leo Hennessy, one of the masterminds behind the trail, was a continuous advocate for its development, despite the litigations that carried on for years. “It truly is a world-class trail. It’s resurfaced on a regular basis, so it’s probably the smoothest trail you’ll ever ride. It goes through the historic city of Wallace, Idaho; along the shore of the Coeur d’Alene Lake, 20 miles of wetland area, an old steamboat town called Harrison, and connects two state parks, Heyburn and Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission.”
Tips & Stops
The entire length of the trail spans from Mullan, Idaho (near the Montana border) to Plummer, Idaho (a prairie town near the Washington border). At 73 miles, it is completely possible to cover the entire length of the trail in one day. At the average leisurely pace of 15 mph, it would likely take you under five hours, plus stops.
But there are options if you want to extend your trek.
A trip down the scenic Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes
*Note: There is no camping along the trail, but there are various campsites nearby, including several in Idaho State Parks.
Heyburn State Park
A short distance away from Plummer, Idaho is the oldest park in the Pacific Northwest and Idaho’s first state park. Various camping options available, plus who could resist those flowerfilled meadows.
Old Mission State Park
Within the Old Mission State Park lives the oldest standing building in Idaho—The Mission of the Sacred Heart, constructed between 1850 and 1853. Visit the Sacred Encounters Exhibit and immerse yourself in the historic artifacts.
Kingston 5 Ranch Bed and Breakfast
Just 25 miles passed Mullan, Idaho is the Kingston 5 Ranch Bed and Breakfast. If you are heading from Plummer, the B&B is about 2/3 of the way to the end and the perfect stop along your route for some comfy lodging and tasty homemade food.
Pine Meadows, Latour Creek, Backwater Bay, Pinecreek
Meander through the forest and meadows and follow alongside the Coeur d’Alene River. There’s no shortages of stops to take on this trail but this stretch between Cataldo and Smelterville is absolutely stunning. You’ll definitely want to slow your pace as you move along the tree-lined rivers.
There are seemingly endless expanses of stops and sight-seeing to be had on the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. Whether it’s a race to the end or a leisurely trek across the panhandle, Idaho never ceases to amaze.