Today I rode my 2008 Trek Madone Road bike 55 miles from Coeur d’Alene ID to about 8 miles into Washington.
The ride was along the Northern Idaho Centenial Trail on the Idaho side, and onto the Spokane River Centenial Trail in WA.
The ride from the trail entry to Post Falls ID was very pleasant. The trail is well maintained and the abundance of trees provides a nice amount of shade.
It helped that this part of the ride was early in the day (around 8AM) as the temperatures had not yet risen to the 97F they would reach by mid afternoon.
The trail entry can be confusing to find since they are not readily marked on google maps. There is a misleading adjacent trail near the Centenial, but whereas the Centenial trail is paved, the nearby trail is a mix of dirt and gravel. I met a gentleman as I rode from my Hotel to the trail entry who was kind enough to direct me toward the entry. The best tip I can give here is to remember that the trail is on the North side of the river in Coeur d’Alene.
I encountered Post Falls (The town immediately to the west of Coeur d’Alene) after about 11 miles and was dismayed to see the nice separate paved trail dump out onto common roads at a major intersection. A sign at the intersection directed that the trail continued across the intersection, picking up in 1850 ft. I rode across the intersection using the cross walks as directed, and started down the indicated road. After not seeing a trail head entry after about a mile, I tried experimenting with some of the residential side streets, hoping to find a local resident who may be able to direct me to the trail entry like the earlier gentleman had. Eventually I was able to query a driver who stopped and ended up turning back to reacquire the trail at the last point I was sure that I was on it. trying again, and paying very close attention to spot the small trail marker signs, I realized that on this side of the freeway I had crossed, the “trail” is actually a bike path on the common road. (I later learned from reading one of the signs on the trail that they designate both class 1 and class 2 trails, with class 1 being the completely separate trail and a class 2 being a bike path painted on the common road).
I attempted to follow the “trail” through Post Falls, but missed the class 1 trail entry just past the Post Office. Assuming that eventually the trail had to pick up again near the interstate to the west, I followed a frontage road for awhile. Eventually I was able to reacquire the trail near the west end of Post Falls. On that section of trail I met a very nice older woman named Shirley who was walking the trail (or at least part of it). After a brief conversation with her, I learned that the remainder of the trail would be mainly class 1, with a few inconvenient transitions at intersections. The inconvenient transitions were sometimes very nerve racking as the trail would end at a sidewalk and the rider forced to ride a way on the pedestrian sidewalk until reaching the intersection. Despite this, I must say that although at the time, in comparison to the Class 1 trail prior to Post Falls, this is a nice and pretty safe route, using for the most part lightly utilized residential roads and routing around the heavy traffic areas. For an urban trail
it is not bad.
After returning to the full class 1 trail, I began to feel quite relaxed. The ability to ride on a trail completely away from cars is awesome. The trail is far from unused. I encountered many groups of families riding, individuals riding and folks walking the trail. Since the speed limit on the trail is 15mph, and I was going essentially the speed limit, I only saw people heading the opposite direction, but the mainly flat trail, with short staggered inclines where necessary make this ride very friendly for riders of pretty much any level (adjust distance to your cycling fitness level). The ride from Post Falls to the Washington/Idaho border is not very picturesque.
There isn’t much tree coverage on that stretch, and most of the trail hugs the interstate, so the views are rather bland. This would be a bigger problem later in the day during my return ride when the temperatures had risen into the mid nineties and the lack of shade on the trail along with the general fatigue really took its tool.
Crossing into Washington, things got interesting. Shortly after the border, the trail appeared to split off, one path continuing straight, and the other bearing off to the right and back. Again this is completely my fault for over thinking since had I just followed the path to the right, where a sign indicated that there was a trail information area, I would have saved myself about 4 miles. Instead, I continued forward and after crossing a small bridge, saw markings on the pavement that told me I was now entering the Liberty Lake Stateline Trail. I followed this trail for 1.8 miles until it ended at Appleway Rd. At this point I turned back, and could see off in the distance a small family riding what appeared to be another trail on the other side of the interstate. I rode back to the branch point, and made the decision that I was here to ride, so rather than head back to the hotel, I took the other path and was glad to have done it.
The Washington side of the Centenial trail is called the Spokane River Centenial Trail. The start of the trail for me was at the state line where it took over for the Northern Idaho Centenial Trail. About 2 miles in, after crossing a road, and riding on the “wrong” side of another road where a very wide section is marked (look close, the markings are quite worn) as the bike trail, you get to one of the many rest areas. This rest area has a large parking lot (well large enough), some shade trees and picnic tables, and bathrooms. I stopped for a break at this rest area since I had ridden 25 miles by then, and took advantage of the situation to adjust my shoe cleat. One of these days I will get that adjusted right and my rides will be much more pleasant.
I continued the westward trek on what first was a repurposed frontage road (restricted to non-motorized vehicles) and then quickly became a very nice class 1 trail. The first few miles into WA have just as little cover as the last 5 in Idaho, but eventually that changes for the better. About 3 miles in, I encountered another trail head, and almost immediately after, the trails begins to become incredible. The Spokane River Centenial Trail hugs the Spokane River. There is plenty of tree cover, and great views of the river.
The trail is pretty well maintained, and in the places where tree roots have made incursions and pushed up the pavement, someone has taken the effort to outline them with orange paint. If I had not already been running hot getting to this stretch of trail, I may have tried to push through to Spokane. As it was, I had started the ride with 1 gallon of water between my camelback and 2 bottles (the bottles were an electrolyte mix), so I had to turn back after I reached 30 miles on my odometer to make sure that I would have enough fuel for the return trip.
The return trip was at times painful, mainly from the heat that had been rising throughout the day. By the time I turned back, it was around noon, and the temperature was well into the nineties. I followed the same route back (without the 4 mile boondoggle) and had a much easier time following the various trail parts through Post Falls.
The trail, both the Idaho and Washington sides are well served with rest areas. In Idaho the trail connects with one of the I-90 rest stops, while in WA there are restrooms at the various trail entry points.
For this trip, I chose to bring my Road Bike. This will be supplemented with a Hybrid bike rental on the day that I ride the Hiawatha Trail since it is gravel and not paved. Since the speed limit on the Centenial trail is 15 mph (violated by a few riders, but they seemed the exception), there is no real advantage to using a road bike, and the more comfortable upright position of a Hybrid probably makes it a better choice for this trail.