Can a bike trail make you faster, with more endurance? Can you imagine riding 140 miles or more — in a single day? A trail exists that can help you do that.
The 72-mile Coeur D’Alene bike trail in the rugged panhandle of Idaho is such a path. Designed with the hardest, smoothest blacktop you can imagine, it’s purpose is to cap-off heavy metals leftover from the Silver Valley Rail line. Paid for by the United States Government, the State of Idaho, and the Coeur d’ Alene Tribe, the 10-foot-wide, well-maintained path provides cyclists with a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Gliding along with almost no effort, the Trail of the Coeur d’ Alene is like glass. You can’t even feel your bike on this trail, and it’s easy to cruise at 20 mph all day. The miles drop away as you pass through chain lakes, pastoral settings, over high-bridges, and through deep, forested tunnels….and most of the people you’ll see are cyclists just like you, and maybe a few deer, bear, raccoon, moose, elk, herons, etc.
The trail starts at Plummer Idaho, and ends at Mullan Idaho, but there’s options to enter it at regular intervals. One of the best options is to leave your rig at Heyburn State park, and start your journey by climbing the Chatcolet bridge over lake Coeur d’ Alene.
Designed with bikes in mind, the draw bridge is refurbished with a series of built-in rollers. It’s the fastest part of the trail. Because it’s so smooth, intrepid cyclists can hit 40 mph — if life insurance is paid up.
Your next stop, only about 10 miles from the bridge is the lake-front town of Harrison. It’s a bike-friendly town where you can grab an icy caramel frappacino, stop at the bike shop for advice, and visit with other like-minded cyclists.
The remainder of the trail is relatively flat — because trains can’t climb. If the path climbs at all, it’s unnoticeable.
Going the distance from Plummer to Mullan and back is about 140 miles. It’s easier than you think. But if that’s a bit intimidating, plan an overnight stay at the historic Ryan Hotel in Wallace — the center of the universe — it’s an experience you won’t soon forget. It’s right across the street from the Oasis Bordello Museum where you could get a, “straight, no frills” for $15, until about 1988 when it closed its doors.
If Wallace seems like too many miles, the scenic town of Kellogg is only about 40 miles from Chatcolet, where you can ride one of the longest gondolas in the world to the top of Silver Mountain. Rent a downhill bike and practice your downhill skills.
The ride from Harrison to Kellogg is remote. There’s bathroom facilities at regular intervals on the trail, but make sure your water bottles are filled, you’ve got a few snacks, a tool kit and a spare tube. Forget your cell phone, it’s probably not going to work out there anyway.
The trail ends 6 miles from Wallace at the small town of Mullan, an old mining town. But the biking adventure doesn’t end there. The Trail of the Hiawatha is another 10 miles via interstate 90 where you can rent at mountain bike in Montana, enter a two-mile long tunnel, and emerge in Idaho. Locals in Wallace will often give you a lift to Lookout Pass where they have bikes with the necessary headlights to navigate inside the tunnels. Some people ride their bikes from Wallace to Lookout pass on the interstate, but it’s best to ask around at the hotel for a lift, they’re used to it.
The Coeur D’Alene bike trail is what cycling is all about. Do it fast on a high-speed carbon bike for a training ride. Do it slow on a cruiser to escape the rat-race. Take a side-trip on a cushy downhill bike for an adrenaline rush, or combine them all for a trip you’ll never forget. The Coeur D’Alene bike trail is waiting.