Wherever you travel in Idaho you will find spectacular scenery with beautiful mountains, rivers, streams, valleys and friendly towns and cities.
Nestled against the western side of the continental divide of the Rocky Mountains, Idaho is really a special state. Recreational opportunities abound with an unspoiled land, people and spirit.
Forbes’ list of “Best States for Business” rated Idaho No. 7 out of 51. There is a great business climate here, as well as one of the best states in which to vacation. Idaho is loaded with geographic diversity and home to hundreds of miles of mountain biking trails and more whitewater than any other state in the lower 48. There are mountains and sand dunes to climb, lakes to fish, 18 ski resorts and water parks.
Almost any road through northern Idaho will lead you to blue bodies of water. Pend Oreille, Coeur d’Alene, and Priest are the largest and have marinas, resorts and full facilities for complete enjoyment of these natural areas of beauty. You’ll find scenic drives, state parks, many campsites and recreation galore. Two of Idaho’s best trails are here. The paved 73-mile Trail of the Coeur d’Alene’s and the high mountain Route of the Hiawatha with its trestle bridges and tunnels are to be explored. You can tour historic Wallace, an entire town on the National Register of Historic Places, and learn about its mining heritage.
The city of Coeur d’Alene has a population of 42,300 with a summer average high of 80 degrees. The scenery, the lake, the people are all there to please. You can’t go wrong here if you choose to stay a day or two and explore the countryside. The city is set on the north shore of Coeur d’Alene Lake and offers activities including lake cruises, seaplane tours, hiking Tubbs Hill, rafting and kayaking excursions, plus side trips to historic Wallace and Old Mission State Park.
North of Coeur d’Alene is Silverwood, the Northwest’s largest theme park, home to 65 thrilling rides and attractions including four roller coasters. At Boulder Beach Water Park are a charming Victorian Main Street and a 1915-era steam train added to the fun. If you are a golfer you might want to try the famous floating green at the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course. There are three more courses in the area.
Not far away is Post Falls where a river runs through it and makes a mighty roar. Here, on the Spokane River, Frederick Post secured a treaty with the local tribe in 1871 and built his sawmill and town. This is a great place to boat, take a river cruise, or view wildlife. The popular Q’emlin Riverside Park invites you to swim, picnic, or launch your boat.
North of Post Falls, on highway 41 and scenic route 2 is Priest River feeding into 25-mile long Priest Lake. Here, you will find a world of dense evergreen forests carpeted with ferns. It is actually two lakes connected by a placid two-mile river in the shadow of the Selkirk Mountains. The lake is renowned for record Mackinaw and trophy rainbow trout, and several fishing outfitters are available to lead you to their favorite spots. Here, you will also find horseback riding, golf, and canoeing as well as all the water sports you can imagine.
Back in Coeur d ‘Alene you will find summer theatre, Opera Coeur d’Alene, the symphony and other musical treats found in local pubs. Sandpoint offers a musical festival each summer. For the best in dining, try Beverly’s in the Coeur d ‘Alene Resort. The chef uses Northwest products such as huckleberries, seafood and potatoes for an unforgettable dining experience.
In Wallace, gold and silver were discovered in 1882 and the area became the largest silver mining region in the world. Today, you can experience firsthand the glories of years gone by. Go underground to tour the Crystal Gold Mine of the Sierra Silver Mine. Learn about the railroad history at the Northern Pacific Depot Museum. You will also want to drop into the towns of Cataldo and Kellogg on Route 90 to learn about their history and to enjoy the scenic area.
The city of Moscow is situated in the grain country and home to the University of Idaho. Here you will find small-town friendliness and college-town energy. Its downtown area is full of interesting shops and restaurants and is adjacent to tree-lined neighborhoods. The Appaloosa Museum celebrates the breed’s noble history with the Nez Perce Tribe.
From Moscow you can make a loop drive through rolling fields, past beautiful mountain meadows up into timber country to see some magnificent stands of cedar, tamarack and fir.
Lewiston, at the confluence of Clearwater and Snake Rivers, is the lowest point in Idaho at only 738 feet above sea level. Here you will see river traffic at the Port of Lewiston — barges start here loaded with Northwest wheat or paper products. You may wish to use this city as a base when exploring north central Idaho, with many lodging and dining options from which to choose. You can walk or bike along the Snake River and pause at Hells Gate State Park for a cool water retreat and a visit to the park’s Lewis & Clark Discovery Center. Lewiston has a quaint downtown area with historic buildings and the campus of Lewis and Clark State College.
Hells Canyon, America’s deepest river gorge, should be considered a must see. Experiencing the rapids from a jet boat will make it even more memorable. I did this a few years ago and it was a genuine thrill. Guided excursions are available from Lewiston and White Bird.
A loop tour from Lewiston will bring you to Orofino, where Dworshak State Park offers boating and camping on the 54-mile, tree-lined shoreline of Dworshak Reservoir. Here you can see the largest straight-axis dam in North America. Continue on to Pierce, a mining town celebrating its 150th birthday this year. Explore the region’s history by stopping in at the Clearwater Historical Museum (Orofino), the Bradbury Logging Museum (Pierce), or by attending Pierce’s 1860s Days Celebration.
The Elk River Backcountry Byway is a 57-mile wildlife viewing road beginning at Orofino or Bovill on Highway 8 and meanders past small ranches, through evergreen forests deep into the backcountry. At Elk River, take a short hike to see Elk Creek Falls.
The Northwest Passage scenic byway along Highways 12 and 13 is the easiest way to trace the Lewis & Clark Expedition route along the Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers. The Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail lies on the mountainous ridges above the 191-mile drive.
Between White Bird and Riggins, you’ll follow the mighty Salmon River through the valleys and canyons it has carved into the mountains. Along the way, you’ll see whitewater rafts, for this area is Idaho’s whitewater capital. You can book a half-day or week-long river trip in Lewiston, White Bird and Riggins. From White Bird, you can drive down into Hells Canyon to Pittsburg Landing, a picnic area and boat launch on the Snake River. Riggins, with its numerous river outfitters beckoning you, is a fun place to stay with its casual, small town atmosphere. Just east of the Seven Devils Mountains, Riggins is the closest town to Heaven’s Gate, a vantage point into Hells Canyon. Be aware that the drive takes you up over 8,400 feet and the road can be challenging.
Fishing enthusiasts will love the area’s steelhead runs in the fall. Idaho is the only inland western state with ocean-run salmon and steelhead.
In southwestern Idaho, you can roam through a variety of diverse climates and dramatically different landscapes. Go from rural farmland to bustling city, to endless vistas of high country desert. Boise is Idaho’s capital city with a population of more than 200,000. In summer it averages 90 degrees. More than a dozen magazines have put Boise on their “best cities” list and once you experience it for yourself you will understand why. Boise sits at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains along a clear mountain river. Downtown offers everything you would expect in a city of its size including lively art district, fine dining a major university, sports, museums and friendly folks.
The newly resorted and expanded Idaho capitol building gives tours and you can obtain more information at www.capitolcommission.idaho.gov.
There is much more to Idaho than discussed here so give it a try this summer and explore.