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Hiking Mineral Ridge in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho (pronounced core-duh-lane) is a bustling resort community surrounded by emerald green mountains and over a dozen pristine lakes. Lake Coeur d'Alene, with over 109 miles of shoreline, is the largest of the lakes and the centerpiece of the city. There are several places to hike around the area and, as a new resident, I've decided to try to hike each of the natural trails at least once. The Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail was my latest adventure. It was peaceful, exhilarating, and spectacularly beautiful. I definitely plan on hiking this trail again.
Mineral Ridge is a relatively easy hike. The trail is approximately 3.3 miles. Often referred to as a "classroom in the forest", there are over 22 stations providing descriptions and information about Mineral Ridge, it's history and the wildlife that you will find there. The previous trail I hiked with my family was Tubbs Hill, a very easy one located in the heart of downtown Coeur d'Alene. The hike at Mineral Ridge is still fairly easy but certainly more difficult than Tubbs Hill. Most of your time will be spent going up with very little reprieve from the steady incline. There are benches placed along the path for those who want to rest their legs or just sit and enjoy the scenery. We hiked with the entire family and our two boxers, Sam and Roxy. The family managed the trail easily but the boxers were a bit overheated and tired on the way up. We stopped several times to offer them water. The path down the mountain was much easier for everyone, most notably the dogs. The next time we hike this trail, I think we'll leave the dogs at home.
Locate Mineral Ridge National RecreationTrail
Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail
History of Mineral Ridge
Learning about the history of Mineral Ridge allows you to learn about the history of North Idaho. In 1881, Andrew Pritchard struck gold along the north fork of the Coeur d'Alene River. That brought an influx of miners who were encouraged to head to the area by the Northern Pacific Railroad. According to the Idaho Mining Association, miners were promised free gold if they bought a ticket to the Idaho Panhandle. Noah Kellogg founded the Bunker Hill Mine in the Coeur d’Alene area and found silver in 1885. In 1887, Paddle wheel riverboats began transporting ore from Mission Landing, across Lake Coeur d’Alene to the rail head at Rathdrum. That made the Coeur d’Alene River the highest navigable river in the world.
The first recorded claim on Mineral Ridge was in 1891. Only hard rock mining occurred there. Hard rock minerals include gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc. While navigating up the trail, you will see a detour to an abandoned mine. Most people would call this a mine shaft but that is actually incorrect. A mine shaft is an excavation that is inclined or vertical. This prospect is horizontal and referred to as a prospect because no minerals were actually found at the site. If minerals had been discovered and extracted, the mine would have been referred to as an adit. If you are interested in investigating this little piece of history, head left on this short spur trail. After taking a look, you can head back to the main path and continue your hike.
Mineral Ridge was the first recreational area developed by the Bureau of Land Management in Idaho. Construction of the trail began in 1963 and it was officially designated a National Recreation Trail in 1982. At the trail head you will find a well maintained picnic area and some restrooms. There is an information station at the beginning of the trail with informational brochures. A place to donate can also be found at the station. Donations help with the cost of printing the brochures. The day, we hiked, there were no brochures available. I suspect they may be in need of more donations. I did find a pdf file for the brochures online and I've provided the web address at the bottom of this article.
This is a relatively easy trail to hike but there are a few things you should know in advance.
- Plan on enjoying your picnic in the picnic area at the bottom of the trail. We had grandiose ideas about consuming our meal at the top of the ridge. Unfortunately, the landscape is sloped with no flat area on which to set your picnic. There is a little site at the "Caribou Cabin" near the top, but it is a very busy spot with many families taking an opportunity to rest there. Our mistake was not researching it more carefully and therefore, being forced to pack our meal up and down the trail.
- Bring water. Because of the steady incline, you will develop a thirst. It's important to keep hydrated during any activity. Use a carabiner clip and attach it to a belt loop or pack to hold your water. You'll have easy access to your drink but won't have to carry it in your hand during the entire hike.
- If you have allergies, make sure to take your medication before hiking. The beautiful plant life is lovely to view but can cause your allergies to flair.
- Wear comfortable shoes. The trail is not difficult so you don't need actual hiking shoes but a nice, supportive athletic shoe will do the trick nicely.
- Follow the signs and don't forget to read the information at the 22 stations. Mineral Ridge offers an exceptional educational opportunity. You can learn about the types of trees and plants found in the area and animals who call Mineral Ridge home. You can also see the aftermath of a wildfire that blazed through the area years ago and how fallen trees provide needed habitat for different critters. We found a large fallen tree off the trail. My kids enjoyed trying to guess the age of the tree by counting the rings. There are many trees that are hundreds of years old.
- If you find you are moving more slowly than visitors behind you, move to the side and allow them to walk ahead of you. It's good manners and allows everyone to walk at the pace they enjoy.
- Carry your garbage out with you. According to their brochure, paper takes up to 3 years to decompose and a small, thin piece of plastic can take up to 10 years. An aluminum soda can will remain there forever because there is little in the soil that can break it down. It's a beautiful area and if we all work together we can keep it that way.
- Don't forget to pause and enjoy the amazing view at Silver tip. It looks surreal. Almost as if you're gazing at a life-sized painting. That view alone makes the hike well worth the effort.
Visit Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
I was happy my family had the opportunity to hike Mineral Ridge and I certainly plan on revisiting the trail soon. We are lucky to live in a beautiful community with so many wonderful recreational opportunities. If you are interested in visiting Coeur d'Alene, contact the Convention and Visitors Bureau at (877) 782-9232 or visit their website at www.coeurdalene.org.
Bureau of Land Management, . "Mineral Ridge Trail Guide." . N.p., 2002. Web. 21 May 2012.
National Trails Training Partnership, . "Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail, Idaho." . N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2012.
Idaho Mining Association, . "Idaho Mining Association." . N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2012. .