In the last decade northern Idaho has become known for the 185 miles of paved rail-to-trail bike paths crossing its panhandle, including the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes and the Route of the Hiawatha Rail-Trail which are joined by the Bitteroot Loop winding along the St. Joe River between Avery and St. Maries.“Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes Unofficial Guidebook: Including the 300K Bitterroot Loop,” by Estar Holmes, is a annual guide to the trails designed to answer all the questions for a pedal-powered vacation. The Bitteroot Loop was added to this year’s guide because hundreds of bicyclists headed for remote and rugged Avery didn’t know what they were getting into, says Holmes.
Homes lives in Harrison, Idaho, one of the communities on the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes which is visited by an estimated 100,000 bicyclists a year, according to the Idaho Parks Department. The guide is supported by advertising from businesses along the trails. It includes listings of lodging and dining establishments along with activities like fishing, dancing, wine tasting, antiquing, geocaching, hiking and camping along the route. Holmes also maintains a website for the guide, www.southlakecda.com, providing current updates on weather, closed portions of the trail and live entertainment.
A former reporter for the St. Maries Gazette, Holmes started work on a guide after the owner of the Harrison bike shop Pedal Pushers told her he was spending a large part of his day answering questions about the trail.
“He said he would rather just be able to hand them a book,” says Holmes, who used the “Lonely Planet Travel Guides” for inspiration.
Her guide, now in its fifth edition, is updated each spring to keep up with the changing businesses and new additions, like the two-course zipline that opened in Wallace in June. She covers topics like nearby things to do off-trail, permits, connecting trips, freebies and getting to the trails without driving,
“Some people from Europe don’t want to rent a car. They can do it; it’s an adventure, but they can do it,” she says.
One of the most important things to know is that there is no place to get water along the trail, says Holmes. People need to get water at a campground or store and the guide book tells them how many miles it is between stops. The book is available online at Gray Dog Press.
“Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes Unofficial Guidebook: Including the 300K Bitterroot Loop,”
by Estar Holmes
Gray Dog Press
100 pgs., $9.95