Coeur d’Alene National Forest
Managed by U.S. Forest Service, Northern Region
801,759 acres (725,797 federal/ 75,962 other)
Coeur d’Alene National Forest is located on both sides of Interstate 90, east of the city of Coeur d’Alene, which was the French name given to the indigenous people. In 1973, it was joined with Kaniksu and St. Joe National Forests to form Idaho Panhandle National Forests. A good base for exploration, Wallace is a silver mining boomtown that refused to die despite its close call during the infamous Big Burn of 1910 (read more about it and the Pulaski Tunnel in Timothy Egan’s book). On the Montana border, Lookout Pass Ski Area provides permits, equipment rentals, and shuttles for the famous Route of the Hiawatha bicycling trail (that is technically in St. Joe National Forest).
Lake Hayden, Lookout Pass, Prichard Bridge, Stevens Lake, Willow Creek Falls, Steamboat Rock, Grassy Mountain Lookout, Lake Hayden, Settler’s Grove of Ancient Cedars, Pulaski Tunnel Trail
North of Wallace, a good dirt road follows the West Fork of Eagle Creek to the Settler’s Grove of Ancient Cedars. This 173-acre stand contains western redcedar trees up to seven feet in diameter, as well as large western hemlocks. Fire has burned through the understory of this grove freeing nutrients for a lush growth of ferns and devil’s-club. Look for a geocache near the sign that reads “end of Cedar Grove Trail” and points uphill to Trail No. 162, which continues another three miles.
The Idaho Centennial Trail follows the mountainous Idaho-Montana border on the eastern side of Coeur d’Alene National Forest, although it does dip west to cross Interstate 90 near the town of Mullan. The old Mullan Road was cut through this rugged area in 1859-61; the terrain was so steep that workers had to construct 47 bridges to cover a distance of only 28 miles.
Coeur d’Alene National Forest is home to mule deer, elk, moose, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions. This close to Canada, it is also possible to find grizzly bears and gray wolves. Common large birds include ospreys, golden eagles, bald eagles, wild turkeys, and ravens. Although the National Forest does not encompass Lake Coeur d’Alene, it does contain many of the rivers and creeks that feed it, which provide incredible fishing opportunities.
There are some impressive western redcedar trees growing in the Settler’s Grove of Ancient Cedars.
Even the paved roads we drove north of Wallace were slow going—very steep with hairpin switchbacks. Once we got on the unpaved road following the West Fork of Eagle Creek, it was wide and flat. We drove through Coeur d’Alene National Forest to access Bullion Pass on a four-wheel-drive-only road up a steep three-mile-long grade about a mile west (on a paved frontage road) from the Dena Mosa-Lookout Pass Rest Area on eastbound Interstate 90.
There are campgrounds located throughout the National Forest, including Mokins Bay Campground on Hayden Lake and Bell Bay Campground on Lake Coeur d’Alene. We found a good dispersed campsite along the West Fork of Eagle Creek on the road to the Settler’s Grove of Ancient Cedars.
Challis National Forest (Idaho)
Clearwater National Forest (Idaho)
Nez Perce National Historical Park (Idaho-Oregon-Montana)
Nearest National Park
western redcedar, Engelmann spruce, lodgepole pine, western white pine, Douglas-fir, western hemlock, grand fir, subalpine fir, Pacific yew, western larch
quaking aspen, Pacific dogwood, red alder, balsam poplar, dwarf birch, paper birch, Piper’s hawthorn, boxelder, Bebb willow, western mountain-ash, choke cherry, western serviceberry, red alder, mountain alder
Explore More – How did the Coeur d’Alene tribe get its French name?
Learn more about this and the 154 other National Forests in our new guidebook Out in the Woods
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