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This Idaho forest was originally established as a forest reserve in 1906 by President Roosevelt and was reclassified as Coeur d'Alene National Forest in 1907. Coeur d'Alene National Forest sat, largely undeveloped and ignored by the majority of the country, in part due to a lack of easy transport. After World War II ended, and vehicles became more common, the park slowly saw an increase in recreational activity.
In the early 70s, the National Forest Service conceded it was overwhelmed and petitioned to consolidate a few national forest parks into one park in an effort to streamline administrative paperwork and budget oversight. The request was approved, and Coeur d'Alene National Forest, Kaniksu National Forest, and Saint Joe National Forest were combined into “Idaho Panhandle National Forests.”
The closest large town, which is where the national forest regional headquarters is based out of, is Coeur d’Alene, about 40 miles to the west of the southern entrance. Coeur d'Alene, among its many attractions, is perhaps the best known as a golfer’s haven. Among dozens of public and private courses, one fairway, in particular, features the world’s only floating green.
Out of Idaho Panhandle National Forests’ 2.5 million acres, Coeur d'Alene National Forest encompasses about 726,000 acres. In Coeur d'Alene alone, there are over 400 miles of hiking trails that are regularly maintained, and around 800 miles of trails set aside for ATV. Coeur d'Alene National Forest has everything an adventurer might want. High, craggy mountaintops, deep, wide valleys, dense woods, waterfalls, and caves. And wildlife aplenty. The woods are home to hundreds of different species ranging from deer to grizzly bears and timber wolves to river otters.
Cast a lure into one of the streams or rivers that course through Coeur d'Alene National Forest. It’s said that these waters have some of the best rainbow and cutthroat trout fishing in the country. Indeed, many fishermen catch trophy-sized fish to take home. Alternatively, embark in a whitewater raft or kayak and take on the challenge of navigating rivers fed by fresh snowmelt. In spring and early summer, they can attain a difficulty rating of as high as Class IV. In peak summertime, when the flow slows, spend an idle day canoeing or tubing down the river. Watch for bald eagles and ospreys overhead as they search for fish to dine on.
Rockhounding and panning for gold are popular activities, too. Due to geological quirks, star garnets are found in the Emerald Creek, and this spot is one of the only two spots in the world where this type of garnet can be found.
Many outdoor adventurers have the fantasy of camping in the wilderness, surrounded by pristine nature. The reality isn’t always so fun. Mosquitoes, particularly near the lakes and ponds, can be quite dense. Tents develop leaks - or worse - rips, letting water and bugs in. The ground is full of rocks that make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Get around these problems by renting an RV and make use of one of Coeur d'Alene National Forest RV campgrounds.
The Bumblebee Campground, a few miles north of Kingston, ID, is able to accommodate up to 25 RVs that are spread out across two loops. Each site has a fire ring, and all guests can make use of the hand pump for drinking water. There are vault toilets as well.
Alternatively, Kit Price Campground near Wallace may be a good option to consider. The 53-site campground has paved parking spurs, which makes it easier to access an RV site. Each site has a picnic table and a fire ring. There are restrooms and faucets with drinking water, too.
Don’t overlook the small mountain towns that ring the Coeur d'Alene National Forest. Full of history, charm, and friendly locals, these towns have several attractions and sights for visitors to discover, a journey made easier by renting a motorhome. In Mullan is Elmer’s Fountain, which was built by a silver miner who lived in the area. It was, or so people believe, his way of leaving his mark on the world.
Kellogg boasts not only its very own ski resort and an indoor waterpark combination but also museums and restaurants, dishing up delicious meals. Try the craft beer brewed up by Radio Brewing Company. A few miles to the west is Old Mission State Park, at which an 1850 Catholic Church stands. The Spanish-style church is purported to be Idaho’s oldest building.
At the end of a long day of exploring and adventuring, retreat into the comforts of a rental Airstream, and listen to the sounds of nature. Find your perfect Idaho RV camping adventure when you book a travel trailer in Shoshone County.