Woman and son look out on a mountain ridge at Priest Lake in Idaho.

Discovering Idaho’s Gems: The Best Day Trips From Coeur d’Alene

Post Summary: The best day trips from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Whether you live in Coeur d’Alene (CDA) or are visiting for the first time, CDA is one of the best gateway cities for exploring the inland northwest. Its central location makes it the perfect base camp for putting on a good playlist and discovering the best adventures in Northern Idaho and beyond.

This guide walks you through our curated list of the best day trips from Coeur d’Alene. As someone who lives in North Idaho, we think these places offer something fun for all kinds of travelers. If you think we’re missing something, let us know in the comments below!

25 Amazing Things To Do In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
The Best Family-Friendly Activities in Coeur d’Alene
Couer d’Alene, Idaho in Winter: Things To Do For the WInter Traveler
17 Restaurants In CDA To Put On Your Must Visit List

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Coeur d’Alene Day Trips (Within 2 Hours)

Sandpoint, Idaho

Woman and young boy in the distance walk up a sloped green hiking trail on a mountain.

Distance from Coeur d’Alene: 46.3 miles, (55 minutes)

Just an hour away from CDA is one of northern Idaho’s most charming mountain towns. Sandpoint has a smaller, more quaint feel than CDA, with a strong emphasis on local culture and community. The historic downtown is fun to stroll through, with an array of galleries, local shops, and restaurants that showcase the community’s commitment to supporting local businesses and artisans. For those who appreciate the arts, the Panida Theater is a beautifully restored 1927 theater that hosts performances throughout the year.

Beyond the town’s cultural offerings, Sandpoint is surrounded by Lake Pend Oreille, the largest and deepest lake in Idaho, and three mountain ranges, making it an outdoor playground for anyone who loves to ski, hike, fish, bike, hike, swim, kayak, and more.

While we are impartial to Sandpoint, we think it’s hands down one of the best day trips from Coeur d’Alene if you’re looking for a variety of activities.

The Best Things To Do in Sandpoint From A Local
Sandpoint, Idaho In Winter: Must-Do Attractions

Schweitzer Mountain

Schweitzer ski resort in Sandpoint Idaho. In the distance you can see the chair lift and flocked pine trees. In the front is a brown wooden watchtower with skis and skiers milling about.

Distance from Coeur d’Alene: 56. 5 miles, (1.15 hours)

Idaho’s biggest ski resort, Schweitzer Mountain, is located in Sandpoint but worthy of its own day trip from Coeur d’Alene. With just under 3000 acres of skiable terrain and a continual expansion in place, Schweitzer is quickly becoming hailed as one of the best ski resorts in the west. The variety of slopes caters to all skill levels, from gentle, groomed runs for beginners to challenging glades and steep chutes for the more experienced. The resort’s high-speed lifts ensure that enthusiasts spend more time on the slopes and less time waiting in line. Beyond the exhilarating winter sports, Schweitzer’s panoramic views of Lake Pend Oreille and the surrounding mountain ranges are truly breathtaking, providing an out-of-this-world view.

While winter recreation is the main draw, you can still visit in the summer for huckleberry picking, mountain biking, hosted e-bike rides, and phenomenal hiking.

Wallace, Idaho

Distance from Coeur d’Alene: 47.7 miles, (50 minutes)

Wallace, Idaho, sheltered in the Silver Valley, is a destination that resonates deeply with those who appreciate history and the outdoors. Known as the “Silver Capital of the World,” Wallace’s rich mining heritage is the cornerstone of its unique charm. The town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, giving it a preserved, timeless quality. Strolling through Wallace’s streets is like walking through a living museum, with buildings and landmarks that speak volumes of its vibrant past. The Wallace District Mining Museum and the Northern Pacific Railroad Depot Museum offer intriguing insights into the area’s mining and railroad history, engaging the curious minds of visitors keen on understanding the region’s industrial legacy. Quirky offerings like the Oasis Bordello Museum and the Sixth Street Melodrama Theater are also part of Wallace’s unique charms, making it a standout place.

For us, Wallace is a gem and one of the top places to visit in Idaho.

Amazing Things To Do In Wallace, Idaho

Route of the Hiawatha Bike Trail

Mother and young son look out at view on a trestle in the mountains.

Distance from Coeur d’Alene: 68.3 miles, (1.15 hours)

The Route of the Hiawatha is one of the most scenic railroad stretches in the country. This once bustling railroad track has been meticulously converted into a biking path that offers an unparalleled experience. Stretching over 15 miles, it gently descends through the Bitterroot Mountains near the Idaho-Montana border. The trail includes ten train tunnels and seven sky-high trestles, providing spectacular views along the way.

One of the main highlights of the Hiawatha Bike Trail is the St. Paul Pass Tunnel, or Taft Tunnel, which stretches for nearly 1.7 miles. The pitch-dark journey lasts 20 minutes, making for a unique and thrilling experience. The entire route is rich in history, marked by informative signs narrating the Milwaukee Railroad story and the rugged individuals who built it.

While the length can seem intimidating, the entire ride is downhill, and a shuttle at the bottom will take you and your bike back up to the top. My five-year-old son did the entire thing on his own!

An Insiders Guide To the Route of the Hiawatha

Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes

Views from the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.

Distance from Coeur d’Alene: 33.2 miles, (34 minutes to Mile 0 of trailhead)

The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes is a remarkable 72-mile “rails to trails” paved path in Idaho. While the route of the Hiawatha has an adventurous appeal, the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes is a serene ride that takes you to some of northern Idaho’s most verdant scenery. Its meticulously maintained route offers a seamless journey through serene lakefronts, quiet towns, and evergreen valleys. The trail goes from Mullan, a small mining town near the Idaho-Montana border, and extends to Plummer, near the Idaho-Washington border. Along the way, it passes through the historic Silver Valley, skirts along the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene, and meanders through the beautiful Chain Lakes region.

If you’re looking to do a portion of the path, we think the western portion, in particular, anywhere between Heyburn and Cataldo, is quite beautiful. Here is a map of the trail.

If you need bikes, you can rent them from the Coeur d’Alene Bike Company, conveniently located in downtown CDA. 

Silver Mountain

mountain biker coming down a boarded path at a bike park.

Distance from Coeur d’Alene: 36.3 miles, (37 minutes)

In the winter, Silver Mountain transforms into a skier’s paradise, with its expansive, powdery slopes offering everything from gentle runs for beginners to challenging terrain for the more experienced. The gondola ride to the mountain top is an experience in itself, with its panoramic views of the Silver Valley. At 3.1 miles, it’s the longest gondola ride in North America. But Silver Mountain’s appeal extends far beyond the winter season. In the summer, the mountain biking park is incredible, offering some of the best downhill rides in the northwest. IMHO, the mountain biking park is it’s premier offering.

If you want to make it an overnight getaway, the hotel with the resort, Silver Mountain Lodging, also boasts Idaho’s largest indoor waterpark. While limited day passes are available, resort guests get full access to the waterpark. We spent two nights at the resort and loved our time there. It’s an excellent choice for families.

Spokane, Washington

Distance from Coeur d’Alene: 32.8 miles, (4o minutes)

A day trip from Coeur d’Alene to Spokane is a great way to explore a different offering in the inland northwest. Just a short drive away, Spokane blends urban appeal and natural beauty. In Spokane, you can stroll through the scenic Riverfront Park, ride the gondola over Spokane Falls, and immerse yourself in the arts at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. The city’s culinary scene is perfect for a leisurely lunch, offering everything from farm-to-table delicacies to international cuisines. The last time we were in Spokane, we loved eating at Cochinito Taqueria. Lastly, anyone who admires neoclassical architecture will love stopping by the Davenport Hotel. A mainstay in downtown Spokane, the hotel opened in 1914 and is a spectacular display with its grand facade and lavish interiors.

Farragut State Park

mother and son sit on bench looking out at a blue lake in Idaho. The young boy points to a green mountain in the distance.

Distance from Coeur d’Alene: 24.8 miles, (35 minutes)

Farragut State Park sits at the southern tip of Lake Pend Oreille and is considered the best state park in Idaho. Spanning over 4,000 acres, this park was once a World War II naval training station, and today, it gracefully combines its rich history with a tranquil natural setting. The remnants of the naval training station and the must-see Museum at the Brig will delight any history enthusiast.

Apart from its historical allure, Farragut State Park is a paradise for outdoor activities, from lakeside hiking paths to fishing, boating, kayaking, and swimming beaches. The park’s well-maintained campgrounds and picnic areas provide the perfect backdrop for a peaceful day trip or an extended stay.

While most state parks offer fantastic outdoor recreation, what also sets Farragut apart is the outdoor obstacle course offered from Tree to Tree and the five-disc golf courses. The state park offers so much! It’s easily one of our favorite things to do in northern Idaho.

A Complete Guide To Visiting Farragut State Park

Silverwood Theme Park

Distance from Coeur d’Alene: 17.9 miles, (28 minutes)

Silverwood Theme Park is the largest theme and water park in the northwest. It combines the excitement of roller coasters and water slides with the nostalgia of classic amusement park attractions, making it an ideal destination for those who appreciate both the thrill of adventure and the charm of yesteryear. Fun rides include Tremors, a wooden coaster with underground tunnels, and Aftershock, a giant inverted boomerang coaster. In the summer, your ticket to Silverwood includes admission to Boulder Beach Water Park. The waterpark includes a wave pool, a lazy river, a children’s play area, and multiple slides.

Bonners Ferry, Idaho

Distance from Coeur d’Alene: 77.9 miles, (1.5 hours)

This nostalgic town, perched along the Kootenai River and surrounded by the scenic Selkirk and Purcell mountain ranges, is a gateway to some of Idaho’s most pristine wilderness areas. Nature enthusiasts are drawn to Bonners Ferry for its easy access to outdoor adventures. The town is a stone’s throw away from the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge, a haven for wildlife viewing, birdwatching, and serene waterfall hikes. The nearby Moyie River and the Kootenai River’s deep blue waters offer spectacular fishing, kayaking, and river rafting opportunities, appealing to those who seek both tranquility and outdoor thrills.

Beyond its natural allure, Bonners Ferry also boasts a rich historical and cultural tapestry, with its significant history as a key site during the gold rush era and its influential role in the development of the Pacific Northwest. The Boundary County Museum in downtown Bonners Ferry offers a glimpse into the area’s past, along with its indigenous heritage and logging and mining industries that shaped its growth.

Beyond the Guidebook: What To Do In Bonners Ferry

Coeur d’Alene Day Trips (2-3 Hours)

Palouse Falls, Washington

Distance from Coeur d’Alene: 136 miles, (2.19 hours)

This remarkable waterfall, set within the unique geological formation of the Palouse River Canyon, stands as one of the most iconic natural features in the Pacific Northwest. The falls cascade from a height of about 200 feet, making for stunning nature photography. The surrounding landscape, characterized by its dramatic basalt cliffs and the rolling hills of the Palouse region, adds to the scenic splendor. The park’s relatively remote location makes it an ideal day trip for those seeking a peaceful outdoor experience.

While the waterfall is splendid at any time, sunset is particularly magical. The sun’s golden hues make for warm, dreamy photos.

Quinns Hot Spring Resort, Montana

Photo from Marianne Wiest Photography

Distance from Coeur d’Alene: 121 miles, (2.15 hours)

If a day of soaking in natural hot springs seems like pure magic, then a drive out to Quinn’s Hot Spring Resort needs to be on your must-do list. Aptly located in Paradise, Montana, near the Idaho border, the resort has five natural hot spring pools ranging from 100-106 degrees, two salt-treated pools between the upper 90-100 degrees, and a cold plunge at 55 degrees. The hot springs are open to all ages, but certain pools are for adults only.

Many of the soakers are overnight guests at their lodge, but they do offer day passes for day-trippers. The resort is popular (especially in winter), so you’ll need to plan and reserve in advance to get a day pass.

St. Joe White Water Rafting Trip

Distance from Coeur d’Alene: 124 miles, (2.29 hours)

If you’re looking for a thrilling day trip from Coeur d’Alene, white water rafting the St. Joe is where you need to be. Known as the “Shadowy St. Joe” due to the lush trees that flank it, the river offers a whitewater experience that ranges from gentle floats to more challenging rapids. The Saint Joe River, with its varying levels of difficulty, makes it a versatile destination for anyone looking for an exciting day on the water. We suggest going with an experienced guide like Row Adventures.

The Saint Joe offers the best all-around experience, but if you’re looking for a gentler or more advanced experience, you can also go on a guided tour down the Lochsa or Clark Fork River.

Emerald Creek Garnet Area

Mother and son mining for star garnet at a sluice box.

Distance from Coeur d’Alene: 88.5 miles, (two hours)

Digging for star garnets at the Emerald Creek Garnet Area is one of the most unique day trips from Coeur d’Alene. This area is one of the only two places in the world where you can find star garnets – the other being India – making it a special destination for both amateur and seasoned rockhounds. Star garnet is a rare variety that exhibits a star-like reflection due to its unique internal crystal structure. Its infrequency in nature is what makes star garnet Idaho’s official state gem. Learn more fun facts about Idaho here.

At Emerald Creek, visitors can sift, sort, and sluice to find these ruby-red gems. The site, managed by the U.S. Forest Service, is well-equipped to guide visitors through the garnet digging process, making it accessible even to those with no prior experience. Even though it’s located in a remote area of northern Idaho, it’s quite popular. You must get a permit ahead of time due to high demand.

Unearthing Treasure: Digging for Idaho Star Garnet at Emerald Creek

Priest Lake, Idaho

Distance from Coeur d’Alene: 85.8 miles, (two hours)

Known as the “Crown Jewel” of Idaho, this glacially carved lake is renowned for its crystal-clear waters and peaceful setting, surrounded by the rugged beauty of the Selkirk Mountains. The lake spans over 23,000 acres, providing an expansive playground for various water activities like boating, kayaking, and fishing. Priest Lake is particularly famous for its abundant trout, making it a haven for anglers. Beyond its aquatic allure, the lake is flanked by dense forests and scenic trails, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in hiking, mountain biking, or simply enjoying the serenity of the wilderness.

Top 1o Things To Do At Priest Lake

Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars

woman stands next to massive cedar tree trunk and looks up at the rest of the tree that's not in frame.

Distance from Coeur d’Alene: 94 miles, (2.15 hours)

The Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars, located in northeastern Washington State (but accessed through Idaho), is a remarkable sanctuary that offers a tranquil escape into one of the region’s most pristine old-growth ecosystems. The park is home to a majestic collection of ancient Western Red Cedars, some over 3000 years old. With many of the trees standing at a staggering 150 feet tall, the grove is an excellent place for nature photography.

The park also has an easy hike to Granite Falls, a waterfall within the grove. You can see a video we took of the waterfall here.

A Walk Among Giants: Exploring The Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars

FAQ’s About Day Trips From Coeur d’Alene

What are the best day trips from Coeur d’Alene?

The best day trips from Coeur d’Alene are Sandpoint, Wallace, Farragut State Park, Route of the Hiawatha, Silverwood, and Quinn’s Hot Springs.

What day trips are within 1 hour from Coeur d’Alene?

The best places to visit within one hour of Coeur d’Alene are Wallace, Silverwood, Sandpoint, Spokane, and the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.

Do I need a car in Coeur d’Alene?

Yes, absolutely! You will need a car for all the fun things to do in Coeur d’Alene, but also to do all the day trips

We suggest using rentalcars.com to find the best prices. You will definitely get better prices online than in CDA or at the airport!

That’s the full list of our choices for the best day trips from Coeur d’Alene! What else do you love to do near Coeur d’Alene? Let us know in the comments below.

Happy exploring!

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