Summer experiences you can’t miss in the Inland Northwest
By Abigail Thorpe
The 2,900 acres of terrain including two massive bowls and epic tree skiing make Schweitzer Mountain a skier’s paradise in winter, but it’s equally as fun in summer, when it transforms into a mountain-top playground, complete with mountain biking, hiking, zip lines, a climbing wall and trampoline jumper.
The just over 10-mile drive to the mountaintop boasts epic views of Lake Pend Oreille and the valley below. At the main lodge, make sure to take the lift ride to the summit, stop for a bite at the Sky House, and enjoy the 360-degree view from on top.
Kootenai River - Long Drift Outfitters
The North Idaho section of the Kootenai River flows through a scenic, breathtaking canyon primarily accessible only by boat. Long Drift Outfitters out of Sandpoint offers guided fly fishing and float trips on the Kootenai in their restored wood drift boat. You will often find yourself the only one on the water and can enjoy the breathtaking scenery in the peaceful canyon surroundings.
Sandpoint City Beach
One of Sandpoint’s most popular parks, City Beach lies along the Lake Pend Oreille shore at the end of Bridge Street and includes 22 acres of sandy beach, grassy picnic areas and walking paths. A park, covered picnic area, tennis courts and snack shack make this an ideal spot for a summer afternoon of playing in the water and watching the boats cruise by on the lake.
The park, which has lifeguards on duty during the summer months in the swim area, also includes a marina and boat launch.
Museum at the Brig
Situated on the southern tip of Lake Pend Oreille, the Museum at the Brig details the history of the Farragut Naval Training Station, a WWII-era training station that was once the world’s second largest. Walk through the museum, and then spend some time exploring Farragut State Park’s 4,000 acres. Boating and camping are permitted in the park if you want to make it a weekend adventure.
Coeur d’Alene Area
Lake Coeur d’Alene surrounds Tubbs Hill’s over 120 acres of natural landscape on its south, east and west sides. The entrance to the hill is on South Third Street, just south of Coeur d’Alene’s downtown area. You can enjoy breathtaking scenery while hiking the several miles of trails throughout the area, or wander the 2.2-mile interpretive trail that follows the perimeter of the park and provides historical markers along the way.
The Floating Boardwalk
At 3,300 feet long, the Floating Boardwalk in Coeur d’Alene is the longest floating boardwalk in the world. Extending out into Lake Coeur d’Alene and wrapping around, the almost mile-long boardwalk offers visitors stunning views of the lake. The boardwalk is part of the Coeur d’Alene Resort but is free to the public to enjoy. Stop by the Boardwalk Bar for a refreshing drink, or dine at the nearby Cedars Floating Restaurant and enjoy the 360-degree view from the lake.
The former path of the Milwaukee Road railway through the Bitterroot Mountains is now a 15-mile rail-to-trail biking adventure through 10 train tunnels and seven towering trestles, starting with the epic 1.66-mile-long St. Paul Pass Tunnel. The “crown jewel” of biking adventures in the area, the Hiawatha Trail is mostly downhill, making it a family friendly outing for young and old alike. A shuttle is available for riders in need of a return ride. Trail passes, shuttle tickets and mountain bike rentals for the trail on the abandoned railway are available at Lookout Pass.
Silverwood Theme Park
Just north of Coeur d’Alene in Athol lies the Northwest’s largest theme and water park. The Western theme-inspired park includes over 70 rides and slides, in addition to various shows, restaurants and attractions. Silverwood offers four thrill-inducing roller coasters, and several fast-paced water rides in the Boulder Beach Water Park for the adrenaline seekers, as well as many fun rides and attractions for families and younger kids, including two big wave pools, a carousel, climbing trees, and the children’s Polliwog Park.
Tree to Tree Idaho
Tree to Tree Adventure Park in Athol just outside of Coeur d’Alene offers over 100 aerial adventure activities including zip lines, nets, Tarzan swings and other obstacles. The aerial adventure course offers various difficulty levels so the entire family can participate at a level they feel comfortable yet challenged. It is the perfect spot to get up high in the trees and enjoy some North Idaho fun.
North Idaho Centennial Trail
This 23-mile trail connects Washington and Idaho states, starting at the state line and heading east through Coeur d’Alene, ending 6 miles east of the city at Higgins Point. To the west, the trail connects with the Spokane River Centennial Trail Park which extends 22.5 miles west of the state line to Nine Miles Falls in Washington. The trail is paved and offers class I and II sections to bike, walk or jog.
Nestled on the northwest shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene just miles from downtown lies the 240-acre nature preserve called Cougar Bay. The nature preserve comprises The Nature Conservancy and Bureau of Land Management, and includes a network of trails to explore the wildlife and wetland habitat and observe the many animal species that frequent the bay, including moose, beaver, otter, deer and varieties of waterfowl.
This family friendly, sunny beachfront park occupies 4 acres on Lake Coeur d’Alene just adjacent to City Park in downtown. The park includes a sandy beach, swim area, benches and water features for visitors to enjoy the lakefront. Tour boats, seaplanes, parasailing and other aquatic equipment is available for beachgoers looking to get out and explore the lake. From the park, take the short walk downtown to grab an ice cream or gourmet dinner.
Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail
Built in 1962, Mineral Ridge was the Bureau of Land Management’s first developed recreation site in Idaho. In 1982 the site was designated as a National Recreation Trail. The 3.3-mile loop offers majestic views of the Beauty and Wolff Lodge Bays on Lake Coeur d’Alene, and a picnic area, bathrooms and trail guide markers along the trail are available to visitors. From November to December migrating Bald Eagles can be viewed from the trail, which offers an interpretive viewing program.
Situated in the heart of Downtown Spokane, Riverfront Spokane is a 100-acre park situated along the Spokane River and includes views of the Upper Spokane Falls. The park includes a pavilion for park concerts and events, the Numerica SkyRide over the Spokane River offering dramatic views of the city, and the Looff Carrousel. The park offers fitness classes, storytimes, and hosts various music artists throughout the summer, as well as popular regional events like the 4th of July Festival. Various walking paths include the engaging Sculpture Walk, and the park offers Centennial Trail bike access for visitors.
Meaning “spirit of nature,” Manito Park is a beautiful public park located in the South Hill neighborhood of Spokane. Originally Montrose Park, it was renamed in 1903, and to this day provides an escape to wander and appreciate the gardens and grounds. The 90-acre park includes five gardens, a conservatory and a duck pond. Expansive lawns, playgrounds and walking and biking paths provide visitors to the park with plenty of opportunity to explore Spokane’s premier botanic garden.
John A. Finch Arboretum
Named after English-born Spokane businessman, investor and senator John A. Finch, the arboretum in southwest Spokane includes 65 acres of wooded hills. A botanical collection of trees and woody plants labelled for field study make up landscapes that range from native pine forests to shady glens filled with Rhododendrons. The arboretum provides seasonal, year-round activities and tours, and offers free admission to the park. Download the online walking tour before visiting to enjoy all the arboretum has to offer.
Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture
Founded in 1916, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture located in Spokane’s historic Browne’s Addition neighborhood is the largest cultural organization in the Inland Northwest. One of only five Smithsonian affiliates in Washington State, the MAC is dedicated to preserving and cultivating the heritage of the Inland Northwest people, and boasts the largest collection of Plateau Indian art and artifacts in the world. A must see during your visit is the 13,000-square-foot Campbell House. Built in 1898, the historic residence is a pristine first-hand experience of Spokane life at the turn of the 20th century.