There’s not a bad time of year to visit Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Situated on Lake Coeur d’Alene, the destination is an outdoor lover’s mecca. Historically, this area in northwestern Idaho was a timber and mining region. Today, it’s a year-round destination for adventure amidst stunning scenery and a laid-back vibe.
Warm-weather months bring hiking and cycling on relatively level, paved rail trails and winding mountain paths. A bounty of activities center around the lake — from sunset and brunch cruises to boating or simply dining al fresco overlooking the water. When the snow falls, three ski areas offer abundant activities. During the holidays, no one skips the holiday lights lake cruise.
Here are some of the activities that attract visitors to Coeur d’Alene in every season.
When the snowfall begins, locals and visitors bundle up and head for the slopes. With three nearby ski areas, skiers of all abilities will find their sweet spot. The area’s largest ski resort, Schweitzer Mountain, is about an hour north of town. Silver Mountain touts one of the longest gondolas in North America and is approximately 35 minutes east of town. The scenic 20-minute gondola ride delivers skiers to the top-of-the-mountain lodge, where lifts branch off to numerous trails. Beyond Silver Mountain, the Lookout Pass ski area straddles the Idaho-Montana border.
In town, McEuen Park’s new outdoor ice skating rink, Coeur d’Alene on Ice, offers a DJ booth, private heated igloos and party spaces. Five minutes from downtown, Canfield Mountain features groomed paths for snowshoeing and fat-tire biking. From mid-November to early January, visitors can opt for the Journey to the North Pole cruise and holiday lights show on Lake Coeur d’Alene. Thousands of twinkling lights along the shoreline feature more than 250 holiday displays, and the evening concludes with fireworks. Farther from town, Fourth of July Pass has three groomed trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing that loop through the towering forest.
“Fourth of July Pass is a great place to head in the winter because of the high-altitude view that you’ll find at its summit,” said Mark Robitaille, executive director of the Coeur d’Alene Convention and Visitors Bureau.
With the spring snow melt, ski resorts switch to warm-weather events, such as mountain biking, brew fests and concerts. Family-owned Silverwood Theme Park opens each May with 70 rides, shows and attractions. As the largest theme park in the Pacific Northwest, Silverwood has landscaping to rival other major theme parks in the nation. Last year, the park debuted the region’s first single-rail coaster: Stunt Pilot.
Coeur d’Alene is a bicyclist’s paradise. The Silver Mountain Resort and the Canfield Mountain Trail system offer world-class mountain biking trails. The 23-mile North Idaho Centennial Trail extends from the Idaho-Washington border and travels right through town. Converted rail-to-trails paths include the 72-mile, paved Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes and the noteworthy 15-mile Route of the Hiawatha that starts in Montana and crosses back into Idaho. Bikers begin by riding through the 1.66-mile-long St. Paul Pass Tunnel before traveling through nine more tunnels and over seven high trestles. Shuttle service returns bikers to the top.
“People come to our area just to ride Route of the Hiawatha,” said Robitaille. “The grade is pretty mellow because it’s a train conversion, and the first tunnel that’s over a mile long is pitch black. Bikers need a light, which they can rent.”
Summer in Coeur d’Alene means fun on the lake. The city park’s sandy beach is a great place for a lazy afternoon in the sun. Pontoons, sport boats, personal watercrafts and paddleboards are available for rent at several marinas. Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruises hosts cocktail hours, sunset dinners and Sunday brunch with the option of live entertainment, an onboard photographer and a full no-host bar. Guests learn about the lake’s history, see wildlife and view secluded lake homes along the shoreline. Cruises range from 90 minutes to six hours and accommodate 30 to 300 guests.
Hiking opportunities start right in town at Tubbs Hill, which boasts numerous trials on 165 acres and overlooks the lake. Eight-mile Scotchman Peak Trail #65 takes hikers to the highest point in Bonner County, and mountain goats are often seen along the way.
“Tubbs Hill has a really cool trail system,” said Robitaille. “It’s considered easy, but it borders the lake for a beautiful and quick getaway.”
Golfers will want to play the Floating Green on the 14th hole at the Coeur d’Alene Resort. Breathtaking lake views from nearly every hole make this course a memorable one. Top golf magazines have written about the course because of its stunning design, luxury carts and personalized forecaddie service.
“On the 14th hole, they shuttle golfers out by foursome in a little boat called the Putter,” said Robitaille. “The entire property used to be a timber mill, and it’s amazingly beautiful.”
Summer weather often dovetails into autumn, according to Robitaille. The area’s trails showcase the forest’s stunning color. In September, the CDA Fondo challenges cyclists of all skill levels with four distances. Two shorter routes, totaling 50 or 39 miles, offer one-way shuttle service across the lake and an e-bike option.
Row Adventure Center provides a variety of ways to enjoy the fall color on professionally guided half-day and full-day trips. Row rafts paddle the area’s many rivers, and interpretive guides lead biking and hiking tours. Fully guided fly-fishing trips to catch westslope cutthroat trout are available on the Coeur d’Alene and St. Joe rivers.
For a memorable stay in any season, most every room at the Coeur d’Alene Golf and Spa Resort affords a lake view, and the shoreline patio makes a terrific gathering spot. The resort hosts a variety of year-round events and lakeside activities. Opt for an afternoon of award-winning golf or a spa treatment and lunch at the spa bistro overlooking Lake Coeur d’Alene. Resort dining includes the Cedars Floating Restaurant. Founded in 1965, it is a few miles away at the confluence of Lake Coeur d’Alene and the Spokane River and features fresh-caught fish, aged steaks and an expansive wine list.