Idaho is primed to carry the Great American Rail-Trail across its state, with the vast majority of the preferred route already existing. When complete, the trail will create a seamless connection from Mullan to Plummer and the Idaho-Washington border.
The host trails that make up a majority of this route include two Rail-Trail Hall of Fame trails: the NorPac Trail and the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes—the latter of which was part of a historic environmental mitigation and cleanup effort led by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe. Known for their exceptional views of the rugged and beautiful Idaho landscape, the trails have helped to spur outdoor tourism and recreation across the Idaho Panhandle.
From Rails to Trails Magazine’s Spring/Summer 2019 issue
Coeur d’Alene River Restoration
French Canadian trappers first bestowed the French name meaning “heart of the awl” upon the Coeur d’Alene tribe in the late-18th or early-19th century in reference to their shrewd trade capabilities. Tribe members also refer to themselves in their own language as “Schitsu'umsh”—“the discovered people” or “those who are found here”—and the tribe that has called upper Idaho home since time immemorial has fought for its environmental restoration for decades.
In 1991, the tribe filed suit against Hecla Mining Co. and other silver mining companies seeking damages for the havoc caused by millions of tons of mining waste released into the Coeur d’Alene River and its tributaries. The United States and Idaho eventually joined the lawsuit, and the groups reached a multimillion-dollar agreement to repair or mitigate the damages to the environment.
Spanning nearly the length of the Idaho panhandle, the 72-mile Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes is part of the cleanup effort. The trail travels from Plummer to Mullan alongside lake and river, through farmland and forest, with asphalt and gravel along the trail serving to isolate contaminants while restoration continues. Read about more historical connections along the Great American Rail-Trail here.
The “Great American” Route Through Idaho
RTC’s route analysis defines the preferred route of the Great American Rail-Trail through Idaho as 89.6 miles and 88% complete—comprising 79.1 existing trail miles and 10.5 gap miles. Click the links below to view full trail descriptions of Idaho’s host trails on TrailLink.com.
Trails Along the Route
Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes
The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, managed by the state of Idaho in partnership with the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, offers one breathtaking vista after another on a nearly 72-mile route across Idaho’s Panhandle. The paved pathway earns its Hall of Fame Rail-Trail reputation as it crosses Lake Coeur d’Alene on the stunning Chatcolet Bridge, traverses the rolling foothills of the Palouse prairie and traces the shoreline of the Coeur d’Alene River.
Like you, we can’t wait to see the Great American Rail-Trail vision come to life—but we can’t do it alone.
Support at the state and local levels is critical to the trail’s success. Help us reach 1 million pledges for the Great American, showing the strength and solidarity of the trails community. This is America’s trail. Together, let’s make it a reality.