Idaho’s Panhandle, also referred to as North Idaho, is defined by numerous lakes, prairies and untouched wilderness. The region also has one of the most scenic mountain ranges in the state, and recreational activities abound.
Sandpoint, on the northern tip of Idaho, is a cozy town consisting of five blocks of shops and restaurants that form a historic district. There are many galleries in the blossoming arts community. Panida Theater, its community-owned cultural center, hosts weekly concerts, movies and events.
Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho’s largest lake and one of the deepest lakes in the nation, offers fishing, camping and boat cruises. Legend says the name Pend Oreille derives from a term that early French trappers used to describe the pendants that local Native Americans wore on their earlobes. Others claim that the lake got its name because it is shaped like a long earlobe.
Located above Lake Pend Oreille is Schweitzer Mountain, with biking, hiking, chairlift rides, disc golf and horseback riding among the activities offered. Providing a panoramic view of the town, Schweitzer transforms into a hotspot for ski and snowboarding enthusiasts in the winter. Tour the Pend d’Oreille Winery and have a tasting or meet Ben, the original Laughing Dog, at Laughing Dog Brewing.
Boasting Mackinaw and Rainbow trout records, Priest Lake is a fishing paradise. Cabin resorts are sprinkled along the western shores of the lake while state park venues for camping are located on the east. The presence of mule and white-tail deer, black bear, moose and elk makes it a favorable location for wildlife watching. The area offers numerous mountain bike trails around the area, plus plentiful opportunities to go golfing and canoeing.
French fur traders named Coeur d’Alene (meaning “sharp-hearted”) in respect for the tough trading practices of local Native American tribes. Visitors can see traces of the Ice Age, as melted glaciers left behind dozens of lakes that encircle the area, with Lake Coeur d’Alene as the most prominent. Its Scenic Byway traces the shoreline of the lake, providing a striking view of rugged landscapes and lush forests. On scenic cruises, visitors can learn about the lake and watch for wildlife. On the shores of the lake, the prosperous resort community offers accommodations and a wealth of recreational activities such as golf, fishing and swimming. Spanning 75 miles across the Idaho Panhandle is the Trail of Coeur d’Alene, an ideal location for biking or hiking. Visitors may come across historic mining communities along the way. Picnic tables and benches are available to those who want to take a break.
Just 15 minutes north of Coeur d’Alene on Highway 95 is Silverwood Theme Park, featuring over 65 rides, slides and shows. Aftershock is one of the most popular attractions. Standing at 191 feet, the roller coaster twists and turns through loops up to 65 miles per hour. Tremors, a wooden roller coaster, and Thunder Canyon, a whitewater ride, also provide big trhills. Adjacent to the theme park is Boulder Beach Water Park, where water rides, slides and wave pools beckon.
Nestled between Coeur d’Alene and rugged terrain in the Bitterroot Range is Silver Valley. Rich with natural resources, the region was once an important mining center when gold and silver were discovered there. Exhibits at Northern Pacific Depot Railroad Museum in Wallace tell the history of the area, when railroads were the main mode of transportation. Nearby is the District Mining Museum. Learn more about mining on tours of the Crystal Gold Mine or Sierra Silver Mine. Ride on the Silver Mountain Gondola in Kellogg, which claims to be the world’s longest single-strand gondola.
Located near the southern part of the panhandle is Nez Perce Country, home to the Salmon, Snake and Clearwater rivers. The Nez Perce County Historical Museum in Lewiston displays the county’s history through exhibits of Native American and pioneer memorabilia, photographs and interpretive signs. Hells Canyon is the deepest river gorge in America and is accessible from Lewiston by boat. Hells Canyon National Recreation Area is located in west central Idaho and northeastern Oregon.
Many consider the Salmon River as the unofficial boundary between northern and southern Idaho. The river also serves as one of the state’s scenic attractions. It is one of the longest wild rivers in the nation and is recognized as a top white-water rafting destination.
For groups looking for outdoor activities and scenic splendor, Idaho’s Panhandle is the place.
For more information, contact: visitidaho.org or 208-334-2470.