For the last three years, Larry and I had expressed interest in taking a summer trip to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. But the breadth of this adventure evolved into so much more than we had anticipated as we began planning it in March 2022 while in Aspen. It eventually tied in with the purchase of our 2022 Winnebago FLX 2108DS travel trailer and had encompassed many other areas within the Idaho Panhandle as well as Canada. This trip also marked the first time that we had taken a long-distance trip with a travel trailer.
There was another purpose of this trip beyond the pleasure of adventuring somewhere new. We thought perhaps we would be interested in relocating to somewhere within the Idaho Panhandle area since it is so close to the Canadian border. Everywhere we went the scenery was gorgeous, with plentiful mountain ranges and numerous large lakes. However, we decided against considering the Panhandle area for two reasons.
First, summers there are just too hot for us, myself in particular. The entire duration of our trip to the Panhandle, with the exception of one day, the temperature was over 100 degrees with high humidity, like that of the Midwest. Second, the elevation in all of the places that we had visited was only around 2,000 feet, which would pose a big problem for us in the winter. Living at that low of an elevation would significantly impact our performance while snowshoeing and cross-country skiing at high elevations. We revel in long, difficult treks high up in mountains, which demands a higher level of oxygenation. That being the case, we are returning to our previous interest in Alpine, WY and Irwin/Swan Valley, Idaho.
Before embarking on our adventures, we always have a carefully planned itinerary. On this trip, some things went as planned and some did not. We ended up switching around some of the days activities based upon the weather and how much driving we wanted to do each day. Please continue reading about our Idaho Panhandle-Canada Adventure!
July 23 ~ Left Base Camp in Grand Lake, Colorado. Traveled to Montpelier, Idaho where we stayed overnight at the Montpelier Creek KOA.
July 24 ~ Late afternoon, we arrived at my parent’s ranch in Challis, Idaho. On their property, they have water/sewer/electric hook up so we were able to stay in our RV right next to the house.
July 25 ~ After breakfast, my parents, Larry and I took off for Stanley. We have been to Stanley many times and we are always eager to return; the Sawtooth Mountain Range is one of the most beautiful places in the country. We parked our trucks at the North Shore Picnic Area and took off our on bikes to tour the campground. Even though we have biked there many times, it is always memorable. The entire time my mind was immersed in thoughts of my childhood summers spent at Redfish Lake, as well as ways for Larry and I to retire immediately and just do what we love. We biked a total of 9.96 miles.
Once our bikes were securely stored, my parents, Larry and I began our paddling adventure around Redfish Lake. They did not plan to kayak as far as us, so we each set off on our own watery paths. Paddling around the lake is an awe inspiring experience because most of the land has been kept in its natural state and the water is very clear many feet down; the majestic Sawtooth Mountains loom overhead. My mind always ponders about how the Native Americans may have felt living in such a beautiful place, completely untouched at the time, and about what wonders may still lie uncovered, deep within the forested land. Redfish Lake is a central part of my novel, 18th Winter, for this reason. We kayaked a total of 9.08 miles.
July 26 ~ Early that morning, we all took off for Stanley again. After a delicious breakfast at Stanley Baking Co., we headed to Stanley Lake. The lake sits at the foot of the Sawtooth Range, and is fed by Stanley Lake Creek to the west/southwest. It drains to the northeast and into Valley Creek before finally joining with the Salmon River. The lake is bordered by a pine laden forest along the southern shoreline and camping on the northern shores. However, an earthquake at the end of March 2020 changed the western shoreline causing the beach area around the inlet from Stanley Lake Creek to slid into the deeper parts of the lake.
My parents did some biking around the area, while Larry and I used our stand up paddleboards to navigate around the lake. It had been a wonderful paddle that morning, with warm sun and calm water. We paddled a total of 2.52 miles.
We had wanted to paddle around it perhaps a few more times, but my parents were eager to do some hiking. I, however, was not eager to hike at that point in the day because it was too hot for me. That being the case, Larry and my parents hiked on the forest trail 640 or the Bridal Veil Falls Trail from the Stanley Lake Trailhead, while I sat in my beach chair with my feet in the lake. I enjoyed reading a book for the first hour until a few things transpired around me that had made it impossible to enjoy the tranquility of my surroundings.
First, two little kids dove into the water right next to my chair and screamed – unremittingly – at the top of their lungs – for over half an hour straight – “fishy, fishy!” At the same time, a young family set up camp on the other side of my chair where other bothersome issues had occurred. I tolerated all of this for about 45 minutes before I moved my chair to the parking lot while waiting for the hikers to return. Peace again at last, although I gritted my teeth when the parents with the two screaming kids came to the parking lot, got in their car and left less than ten minutes after I had moved. 🙁
When the hikers had returned, Larry told me that I had made a good decision to not join them because I would have been miserable. The majority of the trail was open so it was extremely hot, dusty (I didn’t have my hiking shoes so my only pair of tennis shoes would’ve been ruined) and there were tons of bees. I then proceeded to tell him about my experience(s) on the beach. I still am not sure who had a more enjoyable time.
THE HIKE: Though hot, we jumped onto the Bridal Veil Falls trail and started our trek to Lady Face Falls, an out and back hike and relatively easy, except for the trek down to Lady Face Falls. The trail meanders for 2 miles through an alpine meadow before starting an uphill climb. Pay attention around the 2.5 mile mark as there is a small sign indicating the direction to Lady Face Falls. A short scramble later, we found ourselves overlooking a slot canyon with the falls below us. For those who are more adventurous, there is a way to continue down to the creek for a better a look. After spending a bit of time at the falls, we reversed course and started our journey back to Stanley Lake. We hiked a total of 5.52 miles.
July 27 ~ This was a free day for us to relax before we left for our big trip the following day. I stayed with my mom at the ranch, while Larry went four-wheeling with my step-dad to the lookout tower on Twin Peaks.
July 28 ~ We left Challis and arrived at Beyond Hope RV Resort late afternoon. This was where we stayed for the duration of our trip, which was a central location to everywhere we planned to go. By the time we got there, it was still over 100 degrees with sticky humidity. And, this was the day when we had learned yet another value lesson about parking an RV. (We will detail this situation in a separate post under the General RV tab on our website). Even though it had still been early enough to take our paddle boards out on the water, we were frazzled and exhausted from that situation. We decided to just shower and go to bed early so we would be rested for the next day.
July 29 ~ That morning, Larry decided that he was not comfortable keeping the RV parked in that spot so we moved the RV to a different site that was more level. Once finished, it was time to hit the water! Lake Pend Oreille (Pond-e-Ray) is the fifth deepest lake in the United States and the largest in Idaho. The lake was carved by glaciers and is fed by the Clark Fork and Pack Rivers before emptying into the Pend Oreille River. The Pend Oreille River joins the Columbia River north of the border in Canada. With roughly 148 square miles of waters to explore, the paddling adventures are endless.
We launched our stand up paddleboards on the beach at the RV resort and went south into Owens Bay towards Memaloose Island. Paddling around a small marina, we crossed the channel to explore the shores of Memaloose Island. We turned backed after paddling down the western shore and headed back in the direction of the resort and Sam Owen Campground. From there, we made our way towards Hope Point admiring the views of the vast waters of the lake. Turning about, we set our sights on our next adventure. We paddle boarded a total of 5.57 miles.
We then drove to Sandpoint City Beach Park so we could see the lake from a different vantage point. The Park is well equipped with beautiful picnic areas, volleyball court, basketball court, tennis court, boat launch and lake, clean restrooms. It also has a large sandy beach, with ample space.
After launching the kayak from the boat ramp, we headed south following the US Hwy 95 bridge across the lake, paddling towards Sagle Slough. After exploring the area, our course took a northerly direction toward the train trestle, before paddling back towards the boat launch. At the boat launch, we crossed below US Hwy 95 and headed into Sand Creek, paddling north to the rail crossing before reversing course and making our way back to the Sandpoint City Beach Boat Ramp. We kayaked a total of 8.87 miles
July 30 ~ We left early in the morning and headed to Priest Lake, referred to as the “Crown Jewel” of Idaho. Technically two lakes, Priest Lake and Upper Priest Lake are connected by a 2.5 mile thoroughfare. Priest Lake is approximately 19 miles long and almost 4.5 miles wide. Upper Priest Lake is much smaller, though equally as beautiful. Upper Priest Lake is about 3.5 miles long by 1 mile wide. Both lakes sit in the southern end of the Selkirk Mountain Range.
We parked the Tahoe at the Lionhead Campground, located at the North end of the lake. It is an extra drive to get to this spot, but the sandy beach makes it well worth it (we had heard that the other beaches are rocky). We were very eager to kayak 15-20 miles that day, but our friend the wind thwarted that. We initially set out from Mosquito Bay and paddled towards Beaver Creek. However, as mentioned, the wind prevented us from continuing our journey on Priest Lake. We doubled back and kayaked into the Priest Lake Thoroughfare, which took us to Upper Priest Lake.
Paddling in the Thoroughfare was beautiful, with thick foliage on either side. It is a no wake zone, and the water was very calm since it was sheltered from the wind. This was also a neat spot to kayak because the numerous duck families were very people-friendly. Huge groups swam right up to everyone’s kayaks excitedly looking for handouts.
Once we had reached Upper Priest Lake, we stopped for a quick picnic lunch. But it was not quick enough for me to have avoided getting a bunch of mosquito bites that bothered me for days to come. We quickly got back into the kayak and paddled a bit past the Plowboy Campground before reversing course due to the wind.
When we were back on the beach, we sat in the shade and enjoyed the view of the lake for about thirty minutes before loading the kayak onto the Tahoe and heading to dinner. We were very disappointed with not being able to kayak as much as we had desired, but our delicious dinner that evening made up for it. That evening, we contemplated taking our boards out for an evening paddle, but our bellies were full and we were wiped out from the heat. We kayaked a total of 9.70 miles.
July 31 ~ The events that morning took a turn for the worst as I was preparing our packed lunch for the day. I sliced the side of my finger open with a knife to the extent where I could see down in, almost to the bone. It did warrant stitches, without question. Larry adamantly insisted over and over that I go the hospital, but I refused to waste the time and money. We were already behind schedule due to this incident. Instead, we went to the store and purchased some supplies. I pulled the skin together, bandaged it up and off we went to Hayden Lake for the day.
We had intended to put the kayak in at Honeysuckle Beach, but there was nowhere to park (you have to arrive there very early). My finger situation caused the delay. We then drove to Sportsman’s Park and put the kayak in there, and we got there just before all of the spots filled up. Once the kayak was in the water, we paddled east before following a southerly direction along the shoreline. Out trek took us south of McLeans Bay and into Skinner Bay before crossing Hayden Lake to its western shore. We paddled south of Evernade Point and just around English Point before reversing course following the western shore back to the boat launch at Sportmans Park.
Hayden Lake (originally known as Lake Hayden) has 40 miles of shoreline packed with homes tucked to the north of Coeur d’Alene. There are several bays to paddle into and explore, with many of those on the eastern and southern side of the lake. It was another 100+ degree day, and we found ourselves paddling much slower than usual. The last few days of being out in the heat were starting to take a toll. We kayaked a total of 8.41 miles.
After a fantastic dinner, we headed back to Hope for a sunset paddle on our boards, launching at the RV resort’s beach. Unfortunately, after paddling only a short distance, my bandage had come lose so we had to call it a day; I didn’t want to risk lake water contaminating it. I wasn’t too disappointed though because my entire hand was quite sore and we were wiped from the heat that day. We paddle boarded a total of 1.04 miles.
Aug 1 ~ We had something else planned for the day, but decided to go to Canada, which was originally planned for a different day. We entered Canada via Porthill/Rykerts and proceeded to Creston, located in southern British Columbia. We stopped at the visitors center to gain our bearings since we were uncertain of exactly what we were going to do there.
After chatting with the staff, we headed to Twin Bays Beach on the eastern shores of Kootenay Lake. Our thoughts were to possibly put the kayak in, but that would have been challenging because the beach is tucked into an enclave sandwiched between lake front homes. Plus, the winds appeared to be fiercely pushing the water across the lake. We decided that we would just have a relaxing drive, looking at stuff from the windows of the Tahoe.
We continued our journey along the eastern shore towards Crawford Bay and the ferry crossing at Kootenay Bay. Kootenay Lake is about 65 miles in length and smidge more than 3 miles wide, sandwiched between the Selkirk Range and the Purcell Range. The ferry runs year-round between Kootenay Bay and Nelson. After spending time admiring the views and seeing the ferry in the distance we started our journey back to Creston.
We stopped in Boswell, a long lost community from the mining days in the late 19th and early 20th century. The pilings remain from the time when steamships made daily trips around the lake. Unbeknownst to us, it was British Columbia Day or BC Day, which is celebrated on the first Monday in August so many of the shops and restaurants on the main street were closed. We stopped in the Creston Liquor Store looking for a local wine and another libation or two before heading to Ricky’s All Day Grill for dinner. We shared the Canadian classic “Poutine.” From there, we returned to the States via Kingsgate/Eastport as the border crossing at Porthill/Rykerts closes at 5PM.
Aug 2 ~ Early that morning, we headed south of Coeur d’Alene and parked at the Plummer Trailhead for a long biking trip. The Plummer Trailhead is the beginning point of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes on the west side. The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes is a 72 mile wonderfully paved trail that extends from Plummer to Mullan. The majority of the trail is either completely flat or possesses such a gentle grade that you do not really notice it, with the exception of one spot.
Some people elect to not begin their biking adventure from the Plummer Trailhead because the first six miles are a steady downhill ride, which is super fun! But going back up that hill in 100+ degree temperature, after biking many miles is not fun – to me. We did not know about this when we had parked there. Had we known, we would have parked somewhere else a little further down the trail.
After the quick downhill ride, we biked across the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes bridge. To get to the top of the bridge, there is a very steep, stepped climb…it is difficult to describe. For much of the bike ride, the lake was within view. On this side of the trail, there are well-maintained restrooms about every five to seven miles. We biked about one mile past the Springston Trailhead before turning around and stopping at the marina in Harrison.
This is a fantastic place to stop! There is a pizza place, small pantry with ice cream, restrooms, and a marina. We each got a bowl of ice cream, which was a pure delight to help cool our bodies down. I am not a hot weather person, so biking in 100+ degree temperature is challenging for me. After a sufficient rest, we began biking back to the Plummer Trailhead.
The trip back was challenging for a few reasons. Naturally, the sweltering heat came into play; it had exhausted me prematurely. Secondly, our butts were really sore. I had purchased a pair of REI padded biking shorts, but they were only minimally helpful; Larry wished that he would’ve purchased some. Lastly, the six miles going back up the hill to the Plummer Trailhead was a horrible experience for me.
In our posts, I am very honest about what really happens on our trips, both the good and the bad. Going along with that notion, I feel no shame in telling you that I was an angry, hot mess! It took a very long time to go a very short distance up that hill. I had to stop about every mile to rest and throw a small tantrum before resuming. I was frustrated that my little stubby legs didn’t want to pedal up that hill! I would like to point out that Larry and I do not have thin, lightweight road bikes, which is what most people ride when biking long distances. He has a mountain bike and I have a hybrid, both of which are significantly heavier than a road bike.
When we had finally made it to the Trailhead, I collapsed in the Tahoe while Larry loaded the bikes up. I sat there for about ten minutes in the air conditioning before we even left the parking lot. Our plan had been to kayak on the lake afterward. But even if the wind had died down, which it didn’t, I would not have been able to go back out into the heat. After another fantastic dinner, we went to bed early. Larry slept like rock, while I did not. We biked a total of 41.6 miles.
Aug 3 ~ This is an adventure that Larry had planned for the day to Troy, Montana. Troy is the lowest elevation settlement in Montana, sitting at 1,800 feet. We had never driven through that part of Montana before; it was gorgeous! Troy is comprised of heavily forested land that has not seen much devastation of beetle kill (yet). I am always awed when I see mountains covered in full, green pine trees because that is something we do not see in Colorado.
The first plan for the day was a hike around Ross Creek Cedars. This place reminded us of Trail of the Cedars in Glacier National Park where we went the summer 2021. Ross Creek Cedars encompasses about 100 acres, and the cedars are 1,000 years or more old.
The entire area is canopied from the sun, with tall trees and plants. I was mesmerized by all the different types of foliage. I couldn’t help myself from touching some of the huge plants and marvel at their grandeur! Some leaves were larger than my head and provided such dense coverage that it felt as though we were walking in Jurassic Park, waiting for Velociraptors to pounce at any moment. Though this is a short trail, it is well worth the visit to see these majestic trees, and revel in this beautiful area seeming to be from the prehistoric era. We hiked a total of 1.16 miles.
The next activity for the day was to kayak around Bull Lake. The lake runs north to south, paralleling MT Hwy 56. The northern and eastern shores of the lake are dotted with homes with view of the Cabinet Mountains to the east. Two campgrounds are located along the shores, the Bad Medicine on the southwestern shore and the Dorr Skeels Campground on the eastern shore at the north end of the lake.
We parked the Tahoe at the Bad Medicine Campground and paddled south in a counter clockwise direction. There are a few homes scattered around the eastern shore on this side of the lake. Once we had reached Callows Island, the wind swept in with gusto! We were both really bummed because we had wanted to kayak around the entire lake. Larry, however, had said earlier that morning that winds were going to pick up that afternoon. He was so right!
We continued paddling west into a small cove before turning around and paddling south along the west side of the lake. The paddle back to our launch site was exhausting as the wind gusts blasted us at about 20+ mph. It was not fun. Back on shore, we ate a quick lunch before heading to Yaak Falls. We kayaked a total of: 6.84 miles.
Afterward, we drove through the town of Troy to Yaak Falls. Yaak Falls was created when the Pacific Plate shifted to the east. The cascading falls are fed by the annual run off from the snowmelt. The exposed rock is dated to be more than 800 million years old. The viewpoint of the falls is alongside the road. After snapping a few photos, we headed to dinner and back to the campground.
Aug 4 ~ This was a free day to either go into Canada again, spend the day on Lake Pend Oreille or do something else. We would liked to have spent it on the lake, but it was another crazy windy day, starting right away in the morning. Our interest then transitioned into finding a local area hike. We decided upon Mineral Point Loop, which leads to Lost Lake.
The Mineral Point Loop is a hike along the bluffs over looking the Lake Pend Oreille and leads to the Green Bay Campground. The trail system is a loose network of trails that lead to Lost Lake. The entire trail is heavily tree-covered, providing full coverage from the sun. That dense coverage also traps moisture, allowing the foliage to thrive in the humidity. Everything was vivid green and beautiful! This is an easy hike, with just a slight uphill trek. But I must mention that the “lake” is more like a “pond,” so don’t expect something magnificent. We hiked a total of: 4.22 miles.
The hike is all we did that day. We had a great evening of playing Othello and going to a local pizza pub. And, it had been a welcomed day of respite for the next day’s grand finale of our trip! Biking on another section of the Trails of the Coeur d’Alene.
Aug 5 ~ Early that morning, we left for Coeur d’Alene for another long biking day. This time, we parked the Tahoe at Black Rock Trailhead, which is about 31 miles from the Plummer Trailhead, where we had parked the time prior. We biked East along the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, which is almost entirely flat. The first 20 miles of the trail were very enjoyable, riding through grassy fields, forested areas and along the Coeur d’Alene River. Surprisingly, we did not encounter near as many restrooms along this section of the trail as we had the time prior.
After those 20 miles, we rode through Smelterville, a small town with a large section of dilapidated mobile homes adjacent to the trail. After that, we entered Silver Mountain, which has a ski resort and a gondola that can be used in the off-season to transport mountain bikers up the hill. The last town we passed through was Kellogg; the trail passes directly through the middle of the town.
When we had reached the 25-mile point, we turned around to make our way back. We were eager to quickly bike through the first 5 miles in order to get back onto the part of the trail with natural landscaping. The ride back was pleasant, although we stopped more frequently for snacks, and to give our butts a rest from the bike seat. This was a very enjoyable bike trip with no long hill to climb up at the end! We had aspirations of kayaking on the Coeur d’Alene River afterward, but we were just too exhausted from the heat. We biked a total of: 50 miles.
Aug 6 ~ We broke camp that morning and made a pit stop at the Clark Fork Pantry before heading to the KOA in Billings, MT.
Aug 7 ~ We broke camp and had a very long drive back to Base Camp in Grand Lake. We were pleasantly surprised to see that the campground staff had made significant improvements to the site while we were gone. It is now completely leveled with gravel, is built up with timber beams and has separate sections for the RV and picnic area. Beautiful!
FINAL THOUGHTS: On our Idaho Panhandle-Canada Adventure, between biking, hiking, kayaking, and stand up paddle boarding, we completed a total of 164.49 miles. The wind had prevented us from being able to kayak anywhere near as many miles as we had hoped and planned. But we ended up biking many more miles than we ever had on our prior trips, so it balanced things out. This was an amazing place to visit with so many rivers and lakes to paddle. If paddling and biking is your thing, then the Idaho Panhandle is a must visit area! P.S. my finger healed just fine.
WHERE IS BASE CAMP @ GRAND LAKE HEADED NEXT?
- September 2 – 6: Pinedale, WY
- September 23 – 25: Leadville, CO
SOME OF THE GEAR USED: