What do you envision when you think about Idaho — potatoes and skiing? Well, Idaho is home to some of the best skiing areas in the Pacific Northwest (and the taters are the greatest). But when that snow melts and you are on a no-carb diet, then what? The answer is — lots!
During winter, Idaho is a Pacific Northwest skier’s paradise. Powder blankets the state’s 18 ski resorts, and lift lines are blissfully short. After the snow melts and the mud firms up, many of those resorts transform into hubs for mountain biking and hiking. The two closest resorts to the Seattle area are Schweitzer Mountain and Silver Mountain — both between five and six hours away by car.
Panhandle Mountain Adventure
Schweitzer Mountain Resort
About 2,900 skiable acres become more than 20 miles of trails serviced by a quad lift during the summer months. Some trails are open to bikes and foot traffic, while others are designated as “foot traffic only” or “downhill bike traffic only.” Open for its first summer, the new Sky House, located at the top of the Great Escape lift, boasts massive views. Mountain peaks upon mountain peaks ripple north into Canada, east into Montana, south into Idaho, and back west into Washington state. Lake Pend Oreille shimmers to the east. Get lunch with that view at The Nest — a full-service, small-plate restaurant run by chef Peter Tobin — or Red Hawk Cafe — a cafeteria-style eatery with equally incredible views. Down in the village, Marc Vroman works out muscle kinks with his fantastic massage skills at Solstice Spa (located in the Selkirk Lodge). Other family-fun activities include a two-person zip line, monkey motion air jumper, climbing wall, and an old-fashioned mining experience in the sluice box — tickets can be purchased for individual experiences, or an unlimited daily pass for all the fun for $35.
If you need more reasons to visit Schweitzer, how about these four festivals?
7B Sunday | June 25
Free chairlift rides and an open-air market featuring local goods and services.
NorthWest WineFest | July 15-16
Two days of Northwest wines and free live music.
Huckleberry Color Fun Run | Aug. 6
Schweitzer’s version of a color run in 3K and 5K lengths.
Fall Fest | Sept. 1-4
A Labor Day must for Pacific Northwest beer enthusiasts, celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2017 with live music in the village.
Stay: Accommodation options include the Selkirk Lodge, White Pine Lodge, condos, and mountainside houses.
Silver Mountain Resort
Originally named Jackass Mountain (after Noah Kellogg’s donkey kicked over a rock that turned out to be a big hunk of silver, thus founding Idaho’s largest mining operation), Silver Mountain’s 1,600 skiable acres in the winter transform into 3,400 vertical feet of mountain bike and hiking trails in the summer. Visitors park at the base and take the gondola 3.1 miles to the chairlift area. On Fridays, Silver offers a “ride and dine” ticket for visitors looking to take in the view and some mountaintop barbecue. Guests staying at Morning Star Lodge in Gondola Village have use of free secure bike storage rooms and a bike wash station. But the real showstopper in the village is Silver Rapids Indoor Waterpark, featuring waterslides, raft rides, a multilevel play structure, and a bar in which to enjoy the spectacle of guests on the FlowRider. Play a round of mountain golf at Galena Ridge Golf Course — nine holes offering dramatic views and elevation changes.
Mark Your Calendar
Brewsfest | Aug. 19
Ticket price includes gondola ride, event access, Brewsfest mug, and six tasting tickets.
Silveroxx | Sept. 22-24
Three days of events for all types of riders, including a night ride, ladies’ day, kid races, and the super-d (top to bottom).
Silverwood Theme Park
For those preferring their thrills somewhat closer to sea level, Silverwood is a one-stop adrenaline station located just a few miles north of Coeur d’Alene. Huge wooden rollercoasters, plunging drops, splashy water rides, and classics like the Ferris wheel mean fun for all ages. Special events span the season, so be sure to check for discounted rates before planning your trip.
Good to Know
Not all thrill-seekers are made equally when it comes to adrenaline rush limits. Before you decide to stand in line for the Aftershock roller coaster, Panic Plunge, or SpinCycle, check out the “thrill rating” for all adventures online. As you can guess, all three just mentioned are rated “high” for being some of the most intense in the park. All rides and waterslides are rated low, medium, or high so there won’t be any shock — unless that’s what you are after!
Meet me at the Lake
In the heart of Coeur d’Alene is the lake of the same name — and 55 more lakes nearby. Year-round, you will find people walking, running, biking, and taking selfies along this beautiful waterfront in the heart of the town. When the weather begins to warm up, the lake is a flurry of activity, and there are several rental companies that make playing on the lake accessible for just about everyone. You can even golf on the lake — home to the famous floating green! There are lots of wonderful places to eat and enjoy the view, but The Cedars Floating Restaurant, at the confluence of the lake and the Spokane River, has taken waterfront dining to a new level since 1965. Enjoy fresh seafood or one of its popular Biergarten steaks.
Northern Idaho’s premier cycling event takes place Sept. 23, featuring five race lengths, from a 15-mile family ride to the Gran Fondo at 108 miles. The 37- and 47-mile races include a leisurely 1.5-hour ferry ride to and from the Oktoberfest celebration in Coeur d’Alene. This event concludes the CDA Iron Series — previous events include a CDA full or half marathon May 28, and a CDA Crossing swim (2.4 or 1.2 miles) on Aug. 13.
Soar Above the Trees
Timberline Adventures offers zip line tours that will give you a bird’s eye view of Lake Coeur d’Alene and will leave you feeling exhilarated. There are seven lines and three sky bridges, and it takes about two hours to get from tree to tree. A shuttle takes you to the property, where you get to ride a UTV to the lines. You can even buy photos after your adventure to prove you did it.
South of the Handle
Inland Sand Dunes
The landlocked Gem State is home to thousands of acres of mountains, forests and, surprisingly, sand dunes. The tallest freestanding dunes in North America, at 470 feet tall, are located at Bruneau Dunes State Park, about an hour south of Boise, while the St. Anthony Sand Dunes are a 10,000-acre off-road vehicle playground near the Wyoming border and Yellowstone National Park.
Southern Desert Stargazing
At night, the sand dunes are the perfect place to stargaze, and at the Bruneau Dunes Observatory, you can see even more through telescopes! Programs begin an hour before sunset from April through mid-October, weather permitting. You also can camp in the state park and take in the heavenly view from a tent.
Hot Springs Haven
Idaho’s unique geothermal positioning means loads of natural hot springs across the lower part of the state. Soak up a little liquid Idaho at Kirkham, the best-known spring, located northeast of Boise. At the bottom of a wooden staircase, numerous pools of various temperatures await. For a smaller crowd and a rustic resort (read: no electricity) atmosphere, try Burgdorf Hot Springs — open year-round, but accessible only via snowmobile during winter months.