Welcome to the Washington and Idaho section of our San Francisco to Edmonton route notes.
The journey starts in Walla-Walla, a town famous for its onions, and carries on towards Idaho and the marvellous Coeur d’Alenes Bike Trail:
Walla-Walla to Central Ferry (105km)
Shops: Walla-Walla (supermarkets), Dayton (supermarket)
Accommodation: Walla-Walla (RV park, motels, hotels, B&Bs), Dayton (motels, B&Bs), Central Ferry (RV park, $22)
Get directions from central Walla-Walla to Clinton Road (it’s not far from the downtown core) and then follow that out of town, across Highway 12 and towards Lower Waitsburg. The road rolls through wheat fields until you get to Waitsburg, a small town with a nicely restored downtown, a couple microbreweries and a great park to have lunch in.
From Waitsburg, hit Highway 12 towards Dayton, another town that’s working to keep its downtown looking nice with plenty of quaint shops. Dayton is your last chance to pick up water before Central Ferry and the terrain from here on out is barren so keep in mind that there won’t be much shade.
Route 12 splits in Dodge (no services) and you want to follow Route 127 towards Spokane. A solid climb follows and then the final few miles into Central Ferry are all downhill. The campsite is on your left and while it’s a little expensive, the green grounds by the river are very pleasant.
Central Ferry to Moscow (105km)
Shops: Dusty (small shop), Colfax (supermarket), Pullman (supermarkets), Moscow (supermarkets, co-op)
Accommodation: Pullman (hotels, rustic RV Park), Pullman (hotels), Moscow (hotels, $5 camping at Robinson Park)
The road goes up for a good distance out of Central Ferry and then bobs up and down through Dusty (a small town with a roadside shop and salty water) and into Colfax. There’s not much out here so bring plenty of water along from the campsite at Central Ferry.
Colfax is a decent sized town with a few restaurants and a library with free internet access but the real action is in Pullman, towards the Idaho border. There’s a large university here and all the amenities you’d expect in a university town, including the wonderful B&L Bicycle Shop where we had a very good emergency rim replacement.
From Pullman, a paved bike path leads to Moscow, just across the border in Idaho, where you must visit the food co-op on the corner of Washington and 6th street, with its amazing supply of bulk foods, and another good bike shop, Paradise Creek (it’s just around the corner from the co-op on Main Street).
For camping, you can’t do much better than Robinson Park, just out of town. It’s only $5 for a tent space for the night, with water and pit toilets. To find it, go to Mountain View Road on the east side of town, then go right on Joseph Road and left at the roundabout onto Robinson Park Road. It’s 5 miles out from the turn onto Joseph Road but worth the ride.
Moscow to Giant White Pine Campground (85km)
Shops: Moscow (food co-op, supermarkets), Troy (small shop), Harvard (small cafe in the village, small shop at the RV Park)
Accommodation: Moscow (Robinson Park, $5/tent), Troy (Spring Valley Reservoir), Harvard (Pines RV Park), Laird Park (Forest Service campground), Great White Pine (Forest Service campground)
Getting out of Moscow is a breeze on the 11-mile Latah Trail to Troy. There are a few moderate climbs as the paved path runs alongside Highway 8 and through a forest for the last few miles to Troy.
There’s not much to see in Troy but it is the last place with shops of any kind and the rest of the day is full of rolling hills so don’t leave without plenty of supplies. Follow Highway 8 towards Deary and go left onto Highway 9 and the village of Harvard. Here you’ll find the Hoo Doo Cafe, named for the surrounding mountains. They do a mean glass of iced tea for just $1 and food too but they’re only open Thursday through Sunday.
Just outside Harvard is the Pines RV Park, a pleasant looking spot with a small shop on-site, plenty of trees and grassy spots to pitch a tent. More primitive options are available up the road at the Laird Park campground (the biggest in the area, with a swimming hole) and the Great White Pine campground, about 8 miles north of Harvard.
If you get to the Great White Pine campground, there’s an antique water pump but it can be a bit mystifing at first glance. To get it to work, you need to prime it with 7-8 pumps and then lift the valve on the box, which releases the water. Once the pump is primed, 2-3 strokes fills the box up.
Giant White Pine Campground to Heyburn State Park (72km)
Shops: St. Maries (supermarkets)
Accommodation: St. Maries (hotels, $5 camping at the fairgrounds), Hey burn State Park (camping $12, showers included)
The road climbs steadily from the campground up to a peak just below 1,100 meters and then you can glide most of the way into St. Maries, where you’ll find many more services than you’d expect in a town of just 2,500 people.
Like so many places in these parts, the town relies heavily on the timber industry for its livlihood and there’s a monument to loggers who’ve died on Main Street. You’ll also find a few restaurants and banks here and a shaded campside at the fairgrounds, just outside of town. Tents pay only $5 but there are no showers.
A rolling road along the water leads to Heyburn State Park. There are 3 campgrounds set within the park but the most convenient for the start of the Coeur d’Alene bicycle trail is either Hawley’s Landing or Chatcolet. It’s well signed and the pitches are scenic, set in the trees and overlooking the lake. Just watch out for the raccoons and squirrels. They’re experts at stealing your food, especially at night while you sleep!
Heyburn State Park to Wallace (105km)
Shops: Smelterville (Wal-Mart), Kellogg (supermarkets), Wallace (supermarkets)
Accommodation: Heyburn State Park (camping $12, showers included), Harrison (RV Park, hotels), Latour Creek (Khanderosa RV Park), Kellogg (hotels), Osburn (RV Park), Wallace (RV Park tents $15, showers $3, hotels)
From Heyburn State Park, follow the signs to the Plummer Point trailhead and hit the Coeur d’Alenes bike path. It’s beautifully smooth and takes you alongside scenic lakes, marshes and woodlands, where your chances are good of seeing moose or deer.
The whole area was originally built up around a thriving mining industry for lead, silver and other minerals. Unfortunately, for many years the waste from the mines was carelessly thrown back into the environment so this does mean that you can’t drink any water from streams or lakes along the trail and signs remind you not to wander off the track because of potentially contaminated soils.
Harrison is the first reasonably sized town on the trail, with a full-service bike shop and camping facilities. After this, it’s pretty quiet all the way to Latour Creek, where there’s a cafe and campground. The scenic landscape continues until you hit Smelterville and from here through to Wallace the trail loses a bit of its charm as it runs close to the busy I-90 freeway.
It’s worth a stop in Kellogg though for lunch (we recommend the Alder Creek restaurant for good food and free wi-fi) and from there it’s an easy 20km further on to Wallace, another decent sized town.
As for where to spend the night, there are a few motels to choose from along the way but not much that we can recommend when it comes to camping. All the RV parks are very basic and some of them are downright dodgy. It lets down the trail and it’s a shame. We chose to free camp just outside of Wallace.