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Coeur d’Alene

Explore the Lake City

Coeur d’Alene (pronounced Core-duh-LANE) is the largest city in the panhandle. Located on the north shore of its namesake lake just east of the Spokane River outlet, it’s known as “The Lake City.” To the east, the forested Coeur d’Alene Mountains rise to heights exceeding 5,000 feet. Urban growth since 1990 has extended the municipal area into the lowlands to the north and west, where it has effectively merged with the eastward expansion of Spokane. This multistate urban region now encompasses more than 730,000 people.

French trader trappers named the shrewd local indigenous people “Coeur d’Alene,” which translates as “heart of the awl.” General William Tecumseh Sherman established a fort in the area in 1878. The town built around the fort soon became a strategic transshipment point for freight and passengers, and the railroad arrived in 1887. By the turn of the 20th century, Coeur d’Alene had become a popular travel destination, offering immensely popular lake cruises, and swelling the population above 7,000 by 1910. Today’s economy still revolves around retail trade and tourism.

“National Geographic” once included Lake Coeur d’Alene in a list of the “World’s Five Most Beautiful Lakes.” Tucked amid pine-clad mountains, the lake measures 30 miles long by 1 or 2 miles wide. Its scenic shoreline, indented by numerous bays, totals 109 miles. The largest concentration of ospreys in the western United States nests in trees on its shores, and in winter bald eagles feed on salmon spawning at Wolf Lodge Bay.

Things to Do

Downtown Coeur d’Alene is a vibrant mix of specialty retailers and restaurants. Sherman Avenue, lined with shops, antique stores and galleries, is the main shopping hub. The proximity of the waterfront gives the district a resort air. The public docks and marinas offer lake cruises and boat/kayak rentals. At the end of City Dock, Brooks Seaplane offers scenic flights. City Park, at the western edge, has a swimming beach and playground. Its band shell is the scene of free summer concerts.

Boating is immensely popular here, and summer lake cruises are available at Coeur d’Alene and Heyburn State Park. Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruises depart from City Dock at Independence Point from late April to late October. Their narrated cruises last at least 2 hours. ROW Adventures on Sherman Avenue in downtown also offers a wide range of outdoor adventure trips including whitewater rafting and fly-fishing.

The 18-story Coeur d’Alene Resort dominates the shoreline at the southern edge of downtown. The resort’s Floating Boardwalk encircles the 371-slip Boardwalk Marina. Extending 3,300 feet, it is the world’s longest floating boardwalk.

Tubbs Hill Park crowns a wooded, hilly peninsula that rises to the south and east of the resort. This 164-acre nature area has a 2.2-mile interpretive trail looping around the peninsula that passes hidden coves and sandy beaches. Other trails lead up to the 2,533-foot summit, where panoramic views extend across the city and lake, 410 feet below. East of the park are Sanders Beach and the famous Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course, noted for its unique floating green.

Hiking

For other hiking options, check out the North Idaho Centennial Trail, a 24-mile, paved, multiuse trail that passes through the heart of Coeur d’Alene. East of the city, the trail follows the scenic north shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene 7 miles to Higgens Point. From downtown the trail continues west 17 miles to the Washington state border where it links up with the 36-mile Spokane Centennial Trail.

Avid hikers and bikers also will enjoy the Canfield Mountain Trail System, a 32-mile network of hiking and mountain biking paths that loop through the rugged Canfield Buttes east of Coeur d’Alene. Take Fernan Lake Road (Forest Road 268) from I-90 at Exit 15 on the east end of town.

Education and History

For educational pursuits, head to the Museum of North Idaho and the Human Rights Educational Institute, both located on the east side of City Park. The museum has exhibits about Fort Sherman, railroads, lake steamboats, logging and mining, while the institute (housed in a 1904 railway substation) features exhibits on human rights, tolerance and respect for diversity.

History buffs also might enjoy a stroll through the campus of North Idaho College, which overlooks the lake and Spokane River west of downtown. Its park-like campus of lawns and old trees occupies the site of Fort Sherman. Several old fort structures are scattered around the grounds, and the Fort Sherman Museum, located on campus, has exhibits about the post and local history.

Read more about things to do in Coeur d’Alene.

– Written by John King, last updated in September 2022.
– Top Image of Coeur d’Alene Resort courtesy of Visit Idaho

Interested in planning your next road trip with AAA Washington? Call your travel agent directly or your nearest AAA store to get pro tips, TripTik maps, and more. Find more Pacific Northwest scenic drives and road trips.

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