Last January, I was in the middle of a three-day drive from Indiana to the Washington Cascades after visiting family in Indiana for the holidays.

I had a horrendous head cold and the trip was a blur of blizzards and state lines and the coldest-ever-temperature-of-my-life in -21 degree Fargo, North Dakota, but then there was Idaho.

Mineral Ridge Trail

Overlooking evergreens from a high vantage point along Mineral Ridge Trail

First of all, I was startled to even be in Idaho. I would’ve said that I knew the geography of this country fairly well, state placement-wise, but I did not know that there was a little slice of Idaho sandwiched between Montana and Washington. So when I reached the border of Montana and it led me into Idaho rather than my destination state of Washington, I was about to shed a few tears when the highway rounded a bend and the panorama of a larger-than-life lake nestled between a snow-blanketed mountain-scape opened up in front of me.

Coeur d’Alene.  

Even the name sounds magical.

The deep blue water was still in the January frigid, and smoke rose lazily from chimneys that were the only sign of life in the small lake town… from the highway, at least.

I was beyond eager to get to the warmth of the fireplace that was waiting for me in the Cascades, but I made a mental note to return someday to Coeur d’Alene to explore that little slice of Idaho…

Trail running Tubbs Hill

… And eight months later, I found myself smack dab in the middle of that panorama, standing at the edge of a large boulder jutting out over the lake and peering down into its clear depths.

Coeur D’Alene is a quaint little town in northern Idaho made extraordinary by the lake that draws visitors from all over the world. Between the lake and the nearby mountains and ski resorts, there are plenty of activities to draw visitors to that little slice of Idaho during all four seasons.

It was beautiful in the winter, but getting to explore it on the cusp of autumn was perfection. Chilly mornings perfect for long trail runs, sun-warmed days, vibrant skies and the lush colors of summer’s last blooms… if I didn’t already have an idea of the harsh winter that is on its way in, I might have wanted to stay forever.

Coeur D'Alene seaplane tour

Exploring Coeur D’Alene by seaplane

I logged a lot of miles under my shoes, both on trails around the lake (Tubbs Hill is my favorite) and in the nearby national forests, but one of my favorite Coeur D’Alene activities was a seaplane tour over the lake.

I’ve been on a lot of planes and helicopters of various sizes and sturdiness around the world, but this was my first time in a seaplane and I’ve now decided that if I ever become a pilot, I will fly seaplanes exclusively.

Seeing things from above is always one of my favorite perspectives, and this was no exception. Soaring over the vast lake and the rolling, evergreen-blanketed hills surrounding it was awe-inspiring (both for the natural scenery and the massive homes lining the lake… as well as the elk strolling through the pine forests!)

 

Mineral Ridge Trail

Late afternoon light filters through the trees at Mineral Ridge Trail on Lake Coeur D’Alene

Autumn Lake Coeur D'Alene

Autumn color on full display around Lake Coeur D’Alene in northern Idaho, 30 minutes from the Washington border

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Between celebrating Oktoberfest with the locals, sailing the sky, rambling the town’s numerous art galleries, sampling huckleberry everything, and exploring every inch of Tubbs Hill, I’d say that my need to explore that little slice of Idaho after that first wintery glimpse was satiated…for now.

Lake Coeur D'Alene Sunset

Sunset over Lake Coeur D’Alene

My Take on Coeur D’Alene…

Favorite trails: Tubbs Hill and Mineral Ridge

Favorite sunset: Wolf Lodge Bay

Favorite activities: Seaplane tour of Lake Coeur D’Alene… and fitting as many trail runs at Tubbs Hill as possible into each day

Wolf Lodge Bay Sunset

Sunset reflections at Wolf Lodge Bay

Tubbs Hill

Tubbs Hill is located in the heart of downtown Coeur D’Alene and offers spectacular views over the lake from its trails