Want to traverse an entire state in one ride? It can be done in northern Idaho on the paved, scenic Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.
Named for the Native American tribe that used this route before it was a railroad and now a rail-trail, the “CdA” is a 72-mile-long asphalt path with plenty of nature and a few creature comforts. It’s pretty far between espresso stands, so come prepared.
Read my Seattle Times story for my full report on the CdA.
In the Times story, I didn’t have the space to discuss another of the area’s cycling treats: The Route of the Hiawatha. This 15-mile rail-trail is stunning in many ways, starting with the 1.6-mile tunnel. Bundle up and power the lights, because it’s dark and cool in there.
After bursting out into sunlight, you traverse a number of high wooden trestles (all quite sturdy and safe) and six other, shorter tunnels. At the bottom end of the trail, you can turn around and slog your way back up the long grade, or you can do what most people do: hop on the shuttle bus that transports you and your bike back to the top.
Skinny-tire road bikes might have a problem with the long tunnel’s slippery rock path, or with the gravel sections of the downhill ride that follows. But a touring bike with wider tires or, of course, a mountain bike, would do just fine. If you have the wrong kind of bike, they will be glad to rent you the perfect ride at the start. Buy your trail pass at the Lookout Pass ski area.
Here are photos and resources to whet your appetite for a north Idaho cycling excursion.
These whimsical bike sculptures alongside the Pedal Pushers bike shop in Harrison were crafted by Cathy Britschgi for the owner, John Kolbe.
Chuck Carlson keeps the restrooms clean and the trail free of debris. If you see him on the trail, give him a high-five for his meticulous work.
The Chatcolet Bridge over the St. Joe River, an old “swing span” bridge that saw rail traffic until 1989, had to be raised on new pilings to finish the trail, which resulted in a fun set of ramps to ride on each side.
Downtown Wallace hosts a number of buildings that survived the big 1910 fire, and one of them houses a microbrewery.
Wallace acknowledges its rowdy past with the Oasis Bordello Museum.
The Red Light Garage in Wallace offers food and drink in a fun, kitschy diner, and welcomes cyclists with hanging bikes.
Amy and Tarra from Coeur d’Alene tackled the trail for a century ride while training for an Ironman (should be Ironwoman) competition. This scene — trees on one side, water on the other, few riders on the smooth asphalt — is typical of the south half of the trail.
The oldest building in Idaho is this church at Old Mission State Park in Cataldo. Its visitors center also serves as the central trail office.
The CdA runs along the Coeur d’Alene River. This scenic spot is appropriately called Restless Rapids.
Cyclists emerge from the dark and chilly 1.6 mile tunnel that begins the Route of the Hiawatha.
The Route of the Hiawatha has 10 tunnels. Most are very short and easy.
One of seven trestles you’ll traverse on the Route of the Hiawatha.
Idaho Parks & Recreation trail information
Nonprofit group Friends of the Coeur d’Alene Trails
Amazon page for the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes Unofficial Guidebook by Estar Holmes
Information on the Route of the Hiawatha