Northern Idaho Camping
In June of 2016 we bought a 1986 Bronco, built a bed in the back of it, and camped all around the North West United States and Canada. This is part of our series on that 3 week road trip picking up in Northern Idaho. We had planned on staying a few days in Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint, but we ended up only spending a day in Coeur d’Alene and heading straight to Sandpoint because it just wasn’t what we thought it was going to be. I’ve briefly added some stuff about Coeur d’Alene although our recommendation is to spend more time in Sandpoint since there is much more to do.
I’ll admit, the town of Coeur d’Alene was not what we had expected, it was a little more boring than we had anticipated. We did walk around the small downtown tourist area and of course found a brewery, but we kept heading north instead spending more time which was ended up working out.
Coeur d’Alene is located about 30 miles East of Spokane, Washington and about 100 miles south of the Canadian border. We drove from Bend to Coeur d’Alene on a very nondescript, boring drive. If you want to fly, it’s easiest and cheapest to get there from the Spokane International Airport and then drive East to Idaho.
where to stay
We camped on Lake Coeur d’ Alene in a place called Beauty Creek. We got in very late and paid $20 for a little spot to park in for the night. I wish we could’ve gotten to utilize our campsite, since we woke to a nice, sunny field by a little creek that opened up to Lake Coeur d’Alene. The lake is beautiful, even from what we saw of it at night. Since camping was hard to find that was close to town, we really got lucky finding what we did.
Since we were camping after all, we might have gone a few days without bathing. In that case, we needed a hot shower! RV parks are a great place to find cheap, nice showers and indeed CDA did have a great place for this. We found Tamarack RV park that only charged $5 for each of us to shower in their newly remodeled bathrooms.
where to eat
♦ Jeffrey’s – This is the epitome of a small town diner and the food was yum with big portions! There might be only one waitress and the place might be really full of customers so enjoy the refills of coffee while you take your time eating.
where to drink
♦ Trickster Brewing – Breweries are some of my favorite places to meet people – everyone is usually very social, has similar interests (since we all love beer you know?), and the bartenders always have the best recommendations of local things to do. Our bartender from Trickster had some great suggestions of hot springs to explore in Canada and places to go in upper Idaho where we were heading. Plus, we had such cheap, good beer here; I think our sampler was $8 for 6 tasters!
Sandpoint is about an hour north of Coeur d’Alene, where the scenic drive opens up to the Lake Pend Oreille (Pon-Da-Ray, because I kept pronouncing it wrong). It is such a beautiful, striking lake and the town was one of our favorite stops. Its location at the base of a ski mountain it has a chill ski vibe mixed with a small town local feel, so it was our kinda town, that’s for sure.
where to stay
Green Bay Campground is a little complicated to find, it’s actually past one other fee camping area and tucked back past some private residences – completely worth the drive though. There’s a limited number of sites, so I recommend getting there early and staking your claim on the site you want. We scoped out the camp sites when we got into town and had picked out site #1, the biggest (and prettiest) site, but we didn’t leave anything to claim it, thinking we would be back in time to still nab it. When we came back later it was taken, so we ended up taking site #2 which still had a really nice view and since we were just using the actual site for dinner it worked out great. It’s a walk in campsite, so plan on making quite a few trips to the car to get what you need and hope you don’t forget anything on your last trip down! We ended up camping here for two days, and the first night was much quieter than the second. The second day was a full house and we lost a lot of our private beach ambience – but, free is free. It was so peaceful and serene, probably top 5 campsites we’ve ever been to.
Two things you must do while camping in Green Bay – wake up and walk the beach with your coffee in the morning and watch the sun go down over the water. Actually three, you must also make beer corn over the fire – I’ll post the recipe below!
I perfected beer corn during camping and I must share. You will need :: any type of beer, corn, your favorite spices (mine being garlic powder, pepper, salt, and Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning), and aluminum foil! Toss a little bit of beer and all the spices together in a little bit of foil and cook over the fire for the most scrumptious corn you’ve ever had!
where to eat & drink
♦ Eichardt’s Pub – A really cozy, local restaurant with good food and a great selection of local microbrews on tap.
♦ There is a really cute little cafe in the heart of downtown that we happened upon one morning for breakfast. I can’t find any info online about it currently, so I don’t know if they are closed or if they are just super local and don’t have a website. I can’t remember the name, but it was right next to a classy wine bar called Pend d’Oreille Winery. They make some really yummy breakfast sandwiches – made with organic, local ingredients and served with fresh made local coffee.
♦Di Luna’s – Located on the main drag of Sandpoint, this little place is eclectic and interesting. The service isn’t the fastest, but Di Luna’s serves a YUMMO egg’s benedict and a hot cup of local coffee.
♦ Laughing Dog Brewing – Located on the outskirts of the main town, Laughing Dog has cheap and delicious beer – like the best huckleberry beer that we had on our whole trip. We shared an 8 beer taster while we were here, 4 oz each for only $6! You can pick from their 10 flagship beers and a couple of their imperial, seasonal beers – one of our favorites being a peach ale!
♦ MickDuff’s – This Irish pub is located on the main drag, right on the water’s edge. Try the fries and pick up one of their flagship craft ales – like the coffee IPA!
things to do & see
There’s a lot of boutique shops and little cafes along the Main Street in Sandpoint to check out, but you should also get off and see some of the smaller side streets and check out the “real” town. There is a farmer’s market in the summer months at the main park in town that we recommend walking through for a bit and smelling all the fresh flowers while admiring the artisan craft booths. Maybe even pick up a handcrafted mug or two from a local ceramic artist and get a feel for daily Sandpoint life. Although the downtown area of Sandpoint is small, there is still a lot to see – and there is a surprisingly large arts community here. One such example was this alleyway that the students of the local high school were commissioned to paint.
Schweitzer Ski Resort
One of the best ski resorts in Idaho, Schweitzer Mountain Resort has fun things to do come summer or winter. It boasts of great mountain biking trails, trail running, huckleberry picking, and photography lookout points, especially from the ride up the ski lift. The summer hours are June 23rd to September 4th although you can still go earlier to visit the lodging are and eat in the few restaurants that are open.
Although we really didn’t do much except for camp and see the downtown areas of both Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint, they are both so B E A U T I F U L and definitely worth seeing. During the summer, there’s a lot of outdoor activities to enjoy and both lakes would be fun for water sports. Plus, who doesn’t love a nice secluded place to camp and enjoy some amazing landscape, amiright?
What do we need to see next time we are in this area? Let us know in the comments below!
The Traveling Taveners