Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes offers 72 miles of paved path
By Jamie Lynn Morgan
Photo at right: A moose stops to watch cyclists near Enaville Resort. Photo courtesy of the Friends of the Coeur d’Alene Trails
Scenery, wildlife, and 72 miles of high-mountain splendor is what you get when you ride the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes in North Idaho. It is one of the many popular bicycling opportunities in the Panhandle that also includes the Centennial Trail, the Route of the Hiawatha, miles of single track trails (for the mountain biking enthusiast), and an abundance of scenic byways for road cycling.
The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes follows the old Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way from Mullan, a mining town near the Montana border, to Plummer, a prairie town near the Washington border. The paved path meanders through the historic Silver Valley, into the wildlife-rich Chain Lakes region, along the shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene, and ultimately climbs to the Palouse prairie. The Trail is directly under Interstate 90 as it passes above Wallace, following the South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River.
CDA Indians’ path
The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes was originally a path traveled by the Coeur d’Alene Indians. It evolved into an important rail line that carried rich silver and lead ore from mines in Mullan, Burke and Kellogg to terminals on the Palouse prairie from 1887 to 1992.
Today, the Trail is a year-round recreational opportunity. In the winter, it’s open for bikes, walkers and cross-country skiers depending on snow coverage. When appropriate, ski tracks are laid between Enaville and Wallace. In addition, the six miles between Wallace and Mullan are also available to snowmobilers as long as there is at least three inches of snow covering the path.
However, in the other seasons, it is really a cyclist’s dream. I have pedaled from Wallace to Kellogg, Kellogg to Wallace, and Harrison to Plummer. Every time it is a new adventure that provides wildlife aplenty, dining delights, thirst-quenching beverages, and lasting memories.
Although there are many small towns on the Trail, the historic mining town of Wallace, Idaho (population 784) is my favorite place to set up my “bicycling base camp.”
Wallace is nestled beneath Interstate 90, halfway between two ski and recreation areas in northern Idaho’s beautiful Silver Valley. The town has long been famous as the “Silver Capital of the World” with 1.2 billion ounces of silver produced in Shoshone County since 1884.
From Wallace, we start off the day with lunch at one of the many restaurants found downtown. We can take our pick from the 1313 Club Historic Saloon and Grill, Smoke House Barbecue and Saloon, Pizza Factory, Red Light Garage, or the Jameson Restaurant. After filling our bellies, we set off on our ride either going west toward Kellogg or east toward the town of Mullan.
After a day’s riding, it’s tradition to celebrate our day in Wallace, which has two great craft breweries, the City Limits Pub at the North Idaho Mountain Brewery and the Whorehouse Tasting Room at the Wallace Brewing Company. If you aren’t a beer enthusiast, check out one of the best bakeries in Shoshone County, the D & G Bakery, or the Price Tag Antiques & Silver Tea Room for a good old-fashioned tea party.
Wallace is notable because every downtown building is on the National Register of Historic Places because the government finally had to go over them instead of through them to complete the Interstate Highway system in 1991. Have fun exploring the town’s three museums, antique shops, Sierra Silver Mine tours, and the newest attraction, Silver Streak Zipline.
The self-described “prime minister” of historic Wallace is Rick Shaffer, who not only sends a personal email to each person who requests a map of the Trail, but helps fashion customized itineraries for prospective visitors. Besides helping with cycling trips of any length, he’ll include information on fly fishing, white water rafting, hikes, and festivals in and around the Wallace area to round out your visit.
Whether you choose to enjoy the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes as a day trip or a several day excursion you will find several options to make your trip memorable—72 miles of options to be exact!
Other nearby routes:
Plummer to Harrison: 15.3-mile ride downhill to Heyburn State Park on Lake Coeur d’Alene, across the Chatcolet Bridge and along the lake shore to Harrison.
Harrison to Enaville: 31.8 miles of flat terrain from the Lake along the Coeur d’Alene River through the isolated Chain Lakes region to Enaville on the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River.
Enaville to Mullan: 24.3 miles gradually climbing through a series of small towns that make up the famous Silver Valley, until Wallace, when the grade increases to a maximum of 3 percent as the trail follows the South Fork uphill to Mullan.
CDA Trail Resources
Jamie Lynn Morgan is a beverage- and bicycle-loving wife and mother of three living in beautiful North Idaho. She’s in the business of promoting tourism-related companies. Contact her at Twitter: @jamiemorgancda; Facebook: www.facebook.com/jamielynnmorgan