50th in coeur d'alene

Top Things to Do in Coeur d’Alene

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History of Coeur d’Alene

Coeur d’Alene is located east of Spokane, Washington in Northwest, Idaho.  With a population of 50,000+, it is the largest city in Idaho’s northern region and is the county seat of Kootenai County.

Coeur d’Alene was named after a Native American Tribe who lived along the rivers and lakes in the region.  The city began as a fort town when Fort Sherman was constructed on the north shore of the lake.

Thereafter, it morphed into a mining town when silver was discovered in the Silver Valley.  With the arrival of the railroad in 1883, Coeur d’Alene expanded further.  In 1920, the discovery of white pine transformed the town into a logging community.

Coeur d’Alene relied heavily on logging for decades.  It wasn’t until the 1980’s that its economy became more balanced with an influx of tourism.

Currently, Coeur d’Alene is known for its premier golfing, the nearby Silverwood Theme Park, the Ironman Triathlon Event, one of the largest holiday light shows in the USA, and for the surrounding ski mountains.

There are many other things to do Coeur d’Alene as well, and we made the most of our three-day stay for my 50th birthday.

Where to Stay in Coeur d’Alene

First, we had a group of six girls.  We could have gotten multiple hotel rooms at the Coeur d’Alene Resort which is in town, but instead we found an Air Bnb 20 miles south of Coeur d’Alene on the lake.  The 5 bedroom, modern house with remarkable views remarkable views overshadowed the layout that was better suited for couples and families, rather than six girls. Regardless, it wasn’t too far from town, and it was a great retreat, despite the volatile owner who accused me of having more than six guests when I asked about a pullout couch!

We went into Coeur d’Alene daily.  We hiked, biked, took a boat tour, bar-hopped, shopped, and ate at a variety of restaurants.  Below is a list of things to do in Coeur d’Alene.

Go for a Hike

Tubbs Hill

While we visited Coeur d’Alene, we took three hikes.  The first was an easy two-miler that circles Tubbs Hill.  It is located on the edge of McEuen Park in downtown Coeur d’Alene.  How lucky for locals that they can access a hike through the woods with lovely intermittent views from downtown anytime they want.  It is nice for tourists as well, since it is so close to so many attractions.

tubbs hill coeur d'alene

Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail

The second hike we took in Coeur d’Alene was located just east of town in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.  The Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail is a three-mile lollipop loop.  Signs indicate following a counter-clockwise direction as the single-track climbs up the mountain through the forest via a number of switchbacks.

It is easy to go to the cabin and bench at the top, take in the view, and descend, which would be closer to a two-mile hike, but I highly recommend taking the spur trail which leads to magnificent views, even with the highway in the photo!

mineral ridge national recreation trail in coeur d'alene

Post Falls Community Forest and Q’emlin Park

The third hike we took was in the nearby town of Post Falls.  It is just to the west of Coeur d’Alene.  We hiked 5.2 miles in the Post Falls Community Forest and Q’emlin Park.  The park features a network of trails all marked with different colors.  We ended up on the yellow, blue, purple, and orange trails to make the loop.

Some of the trails were roads, both dirt and a limited paved portion, while others were single track.  We followed the Spokane River, passed the dam, scrambled over some rocks, took in some views, and even enjoyed a splash of fall colors.

Of the three, most of us liked the Mineral Ridge Trail the best.  It also had the most elevation gain.  The effort begets the reward. All of these trails and directions may be found on AllTrails, a great hiking app.

Bike the Centennial Trail

When we weren’t hiking, we were biking, boating, eating and drinking, or shopping.  The biking was freezing cold for our early morning jaunt from Riverstone Village to Higgins Point, but we expected it in the brisk October temperatures.

We rented electric bikes from Electric Adventures for two hours.  They don’t have a brick and mortar building, so Luke met us with his van of bikes in the parking area near Orvis Outfitters.  After a short lesson on how to operate the pedal assist and throttle, we were off on the Centennial Trail.

After a brief glance at the map, the trail is very easy to follow.  For the 20 mile roundtrip, the trail passed along the Spokane River, between downtown Coeur d’Alene and McEuen Park, through a neighborhood, briefly along the highway, and then skirted the lake.  While much of it is flat, it doesn’t matter with an e-bike.  We turned up the pedal assist or twisted the throttle anytime we needed help up a hill! 

Only two of the six of us had ever ridden an electric bike, and despite numb toes and fingers, most of group thought riding the e-bikes along the Centennial Trail was the most fun activity we did in Coeur d’Alene.

Enjoy a Cruise on Lake Coeur d’Alene

Taking a cruise with Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruises was also enjoyable.  I mean how can you go to Coeur d’Alene known for its enormous lake and not get out on the water?  Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruises offers a handful of 90-minute tours throughout the day, and a sunset cruise which includes a meal.  The 90-minute cruises offer refreshments at a steep price.

We took an afternoon cruise which loops in a counter-clockwise direction around the northern portion of the lake.  The tour is narrated, but the motor drowns out the speakers if sitting in the back, so scoot forward if you want to know about the lakeside houses and resort.

boat cruise on lake Coeur d'alene

Where to Eat in Coeur d’Alene

When we weren’t outside having fun, we were usually eating!  We found some great restaurants, though none were in the quaint downtown area full of shops and breweries.

A few restaurant selections include Garnet Café, Café Carambola, and Trailsend Brewery.

Garnet Café

The Garnet Café is known for its breakfast, and in fact was written up in Food & Wine Magazine as having the best breakfast in Idaho.  We arrived closer to lunch and most of us defaulted to the lunch menu, though breakfast is available all day.  The portions served in the cute house were very large and satiating which made up for our pitiful server who spent most her time talking to a local at the bar.

garnet cafe in coeur d'alene

Café Carambola

Café Carambola is located in a little strip mall on the way to Post Falls, so we stopped at this sandwich shop on the way back from our hike in Post Falls Community Forest.  The small, order at the counter restaurant hardly had room for its patrons, but we squeezed in at the table and enjoyed SPECTACULAR sandwiches.  Most of us got a half so we could try to salads in the display case too.  While the salads were good, the next time around, I would just get the sandwich.  They were delicious and the service was outstanding.

cafe carambola in couer d'alene

Trails End Brewery

At Trails End Brewery, we ended up visiting during their Octoberfest celebration.  As a result, the menu was limited, but I have to say the German pizza with sausage, sauerkraut and mustard was surprisingly good!  We would have gone outside to enjoy the band had we not still been thawing out from our e-bike ride.

trails end brewery

Bar Hop

In addition to restaurants, we made a few bar stops as well.  There are many to choose from in downtown Coeur d’Alene. My fellow comrades ended up at Taphouse Unchained, The Crafted Bar Room, and Chalice Brewing.  Chalice Brewing is where they met Ryan Reynolds.  Just kidding, but check out this 3 second video for a laugh.  On a different note, if you are stranded by Southwest like we were on Sunday, you can find any football game at Paddy’s.  Cowboy’s for the win!

Shop in Downtown Coeur d’Alene

Visiting Coeur d’Alene isn’t complete without browsing the boutiques.  I’m far from a shopper, but this downtown had some cute stores.  All of us managed to buy a souvenir.  Mine was a chew toy for my dog, but my friends found Christmas ornaments, T-shirts, patches, stickers, hats, and the like.  We even found a candy store which sold blue pixy dust so we could recreate a photo from 24 years ago!

colored tongues 1997 to 2021

In all, we had a great time in Coeur d’Alene for a fall getaway.  And we weren’t the only ones to enjoy it.  Travel + Leisure labels it as one of the top eight small towns in which to buy a vacation home.  In fact, in May, Coeur d’Alene was ranked as having the fastest growing real estate prices in the country! 

One of the best characteristics of Idaho, besides the state’s natural beauty, are the friendly people. I can’t get over how nice and helpful they are all around the state. Not only did we experience the friendliness in Coeur d’Alene, but I also experienced it back in May when I visited Boise, Idaho City, Sun Valley, and McCall. ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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