73-miles of Paved, Mostly Flat Pathway Make for Fun and Easy Riding
The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, named one of the 25 top trails in the nation by the Rails to Trails Conservancy in 2010, is one of the longest paved biking trails in the Northwest. Much of the trail is flat with frequent restrooms and wayside rest stops, making it the perfect biking destination for anyone looking for a trip with several days’ worth of easy-to-moderate enjoyable bike rides.
Stretching across the Idaho Panhandle between the towns of Plummer and Mullan, the trail takes riders past lakes, along a wild river, and through woods and wetlands with frequent wildlife sightings. Riding the trail, which is designated a state park, is a unique experience during all seasons, although the cooler daytime temps, fewer people on the trails, and typically smoke-free skies make autumn one of the best seasons to plan a visit.
Completing the full, 73-mile trail length all in one day is too daunting for many riders, but it’s easy to take on several shorter sections of trail between trailheads or towns. Here are three of the most scenic sections that will make for perfect out-and-back or shuttled rides. Take a look at the interactive digital trail map here and plan to spend anywhere from a long weekend to a full week exploring this incredible corner of the Northwest. For shuttle options, contact the Cycle Haus Bikes & Brews, Lou’s Bicycle Shuttle Service, or Wallace Inn. The Silver Express Bus, which runs from Kingston to Mullan weekdays 3 times per day is another free shuttle option.
Harrison to Lake Chatcolet (8 to 16 miles)
This trail section travels along the sparkling waters of Lake Coeur d’Alene’s southeast shoreline. At one end is Heyburn State Park, where the bike trail crosses over Lake Coeur d’Alene along a former railroad draw-bridge, which marks the boundary with Lake Chatcolet. At the state park day-use area, you’ll find a trailhead restroom, picnic shelter, and water spigot (some facilities may be closed depending on the season). At the other end of this route is the charming, historic lake town of Harrison with a city park, beach, marina, shopping/dining services, and a bike shop with shuttle service. Ride this section as a 16-mile out-and-back adventure or a more mellow 8-mile pedal with a shuttle.
Harrison to the Chain Lakes of the Coeur d’Alene River (multiple distances)
Starting from the Harrison trailhead right in town, enjoy the serenity of nature as the trail travels along the Coeur d’Alene River, passing a series of small lakes connected to the river by narrow channels. Moose, deer, and many types of birds are frequently seen along this section of trail through the Coeur d’Alene River Wildlife Management Area.
There are four trailheads along this stretch, including Springston, Medimont, Blackrock, and Bull Run with access near Harrison from Highway 3, making it easy to choose the perfect length ride. The full distance between the towns of Harrison and Cataldo that bookend this section of trail is 20 miles and can also make for a great day ride with a shuttle.
Cataldo to Enaville (10 miles or longer)
This flat, tree-shaded section of trail along the Coeur d’Alene River connects two small towns with post-ride dining options. The trailhead in Enaville at the I-90 Kingston Exit is a short drive from lodging in nearby Kellogg and Wallace too. Near the small town of Enaville, the Coeur d’Alene River splits into the North and South forks, and the trail keeps heading east along the South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River. For those looking for a longer, shuttleable ride from Cataldo it’s 11.5 miles to Kellogg and Silver Mountain Resort and 23 miles to the historic mining town of Wallace, which is a rare city that is entirely listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Also worth a visit, the Sacred Heart Mission, at the Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission State Park near Cataldo, is the oldest standing building in Idaho. Constructed in the early 1850s, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Because the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes doesn’t directly connect with the state park, you can either drive there or ride from the Cataldo Trailhead on low-traffic side roads (take E Canyon Road to Dredge Road and then on to the park).
Extend Your Ride with an Electric-assist E-bike
Electric-assist bicycles, which provide an electric motor boost in addition to the rider’s pedaling, are allowed on the full length of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. The e-bike rules for the trail allow both Class I e-bikes that provide electric motor assistance only when the rider is pedaling and Class II e-bikes that provide electric motor assistance with a throttle even when the rider isn’t pedaling. Class III e-bikes that continue assisting a rider to higher speeds of up to 28 mph, however, are still prohibited on the trail. You can rent e-bikes and other bikes from the Cycle Haus Bikes & Brews in Harrison, Silver Mountain Resort, or Spokehouse E-bike Rentals in Wallace.
Be Prepared for a Safe Ride
Especially when riding the trail in the fall, winter, or spring, it’s essential to be prepared. Weather in the mountains can change rapidly, so dressing for the season and daily conditions as well as bringing along extra layers of warm clothing and a rain-and-wind-proof jacket in a backpack or bike bag are critical. Every rider should always carry plenty of water and food in case you end up out on the trail longer than you expected. A headlamp or flashlight, first-aid kit, phone and backup charger, map, bike pump, helmet, bike light, and tire patch kit are also essential riding gear when out on the more remote stretches of the trail.
As long as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, hand sanitizer and a mask are also a good idea for any restrooms, stores, or restaurants you might visit on your ride. Be sure to check out the State of Idaho’s guidelines for recreating during the COVID era too.
As you explore the trail and the region’s history, the trail-side communities of Harrison, Kellogg and Wallace each continue to offer lodging and dining options during the COVID-19 pandemic, but always play it safe and follow the latest guidelines for protecting yourself and others. You can find more information about overnight accommodations and restaurant options in many of the towns along or near the trail here.
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