In the “Heart” of Idaho Cycling Territory
Google Maps might just be the best thing that’s happened to cycling in the past decade. With the cycling setting turned on, up pops all sorts of squiggly green and brown lines depicting cycling trails. Few green lines are longer or more enticing looking than the one that rambles through the hills south of Coeur d’Alene in northern Idaho.
Some quick research revealed that it’s the “Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes”, a former railway bed converted into a spectacular cycling route. Stretching for 73 miles (117km), the smooth asphalt contours around part of Lake Coeur d’Alene and beside the winding Coeur d’Alene River.
Although we were tempted to ride from one end to the other, figuring out a shuttle proved more challenging than we could wrap our heads around. Instead, we drove south from the city of Coeur d’Alene and parked at Heyburn State Park, just east of the small town of Plummer. An out-and-back route would have to suffice. Fortunately, that meant that we got to spend twice as long on some of the route’s most scenic stretches.
The ride eastwards starts off with a kilometre long bridge perched just above the lake. With no roads in sight, it’s a surprisingly quiet and peaceful experience. The dedicated cycle path continues on to the east shore of the lake, winding its way north along the water until the quaint town of Harrison.
For those seeking an easy and short ride, heading to Harrison and back is ideal. At 26km roundtrip and no elevation gain, it’s just enough to work up an appetite for fresh baked goods or a hot (or cold!) beverage, depending on the season. We chose to push on, and stocked up on sandwiches to keep us going.
The trail leaves the lake at Harrison and follows the meandering course of the river towards I-90. A word of caution – make sure you stock up in Harrison because there are no services ahead for a long time! What the route lacks in services it makes up for in scenery and silence.
As we neared the small settlement of Medimont about 18km east of Harrison, something large caught our eyes in the brush. We slowed down to take another look. To our great surprise we found two moose only a few feet away, contentedly foraging in the forest. It was a fitting sight amidst the rolling hills and river valley teeming with wildlife.
Although we had hoped to make it to the interstate, an impending storm convinced us to double back a little sooner. And just in the nick of time too, as the rain arrived shortly after we made it back to the shelter of our vehicle.
As with all good cycling trips, a nourishing beer was our reward once we returned to Coeur d’Alene. The only problem was deciding where to go, as the bustling city offers no shortage of watering holes. Two of our favourites were Filling Station on 5th (a tiny hole in the wall with an amazing selection of curated drafts) and the much larger and polished Crafted Tap House & Kitchen. Both offer a tantalizing selection of taps and nibbles to cap off a memorable day in the saddle.