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  1. #1
    Senior Member badger_biker's Avatar
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    Anyone familiar with Idaho panhandle area?

    I've posted in the regional section of BF but no success so I'll try here to see if any touring folk can provide some info.

    I'm looking for some trail surface information for a loop tour I'm planning in July from near Coeur d' Alenes using the Coeur d' Alenes trail, Norpac trail, Hiawatha trail and back on either the Soo Line trail or FS 50. Specifically from the Norpac connection near Mullen to Avery. We will be on a loaded touring road bikes with either 35c and 1 1/4 in. road tires.

    My main question is what type of surfaces are in that stretch. From what I've been able to research it varies and I'm just looking for some rough estimates on how much of the distance might be loose sand or gravel vs. course gravel or ballast (3/4 in or bigger), vs. relatively hard dirt/gravel or crushed rock. The first two surface types can be tolerated for short stretches but any distance could be a real pain with a loaded bike.

    I would appreciate any suggestions, insights or tips from anyone who has ridden this stretch. We plan to average about 50 - 55 miles per day and would be looking at biking from Wallace to a campground before Avery on one of the days.

    I'm assuming the Soo Line section that goes along FS 50 is kind of rough yet so we will probably take the road instead. Is that road relatively safe for biking? Also I don't know anything about Hwy 95 running on the west side of Lake Coeur d' Alene if anyone can provide some info I would appreciate it.
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  2. #2
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    Google maps shows U.S. 95 with a good shoulder. However, there is lot of four-lane divided highway, and you can see some traffic in places. The thing about Google Street View is that you don't know if the footage is representative of the norm. It could have been taken "off season" or at a non-peak hour. If the footage is representative of the norm, it doesn't look that unpleasant or dangerous, at least south of town. In town, there is a lot of traffic.

    From experience, I would not try to ride it into and out of Sandoint if you plan to go that far north. U.S. 95 was very busy when I was there back in '00. There was a path parallel to the road that took you across the lake and into town via the old highway bridge.

  3. #3
    Senior Member mtnbud's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by badger_biker View Post
    I'm looking for some trail surface information for a loop tour I'm planning in July from near Coeur d' Alenes using the Coeur d' Alenes trail, Norpac trail, Hiawatha trail and back on either the Soo Line trail or FS 50. Specifically from the Norpac connection near Mullen to Avery. We will be on a loaded touring road bikes with either 35c and 1 1/4 in. road tires.

    I'm assuming the Soo Line section that goes along FS 50 is kind of rough yet so we will probably take the road instead. Is that road relatively safe for biking? Also I don't know anything about Hwy 95 running on the west side of Lake Coeur d' Alene if anyone can provide some info I would appreciate it.
    I've hear the Hiawatha Trail is a bit rough. I'm not sure I'd want to attempt it on tires that narrow.

    Edit: I just took at a look at your route - specifically the Milwaukee Rd Rail-Trail. I notice you're heading south not north. It looks like an epic route. I wish I could tell you more about the road surfaces. I'd contact the Idaho chamber of commerce Here's a link to the Milwaukee Rd section. From the pics, it looks like plenty of sections are gravel. The route looks epic. Here's another link to info on the rails to trails.

    A buddy and I rode the the Trail of the Couer d'Alenes past Kellog and then cut over to Thompson Falls Montana and headed back to Sandpoint, Couer d'Alene and then Spokane. There were plenty of roads paralleling Hwy 200 along the Clarks Fork, but many of them were pot-hole ridden. If you were to plan a different loop route, I'm sure you could avoid the gravel. You'd just have to skip some of those rails to trails sections.

    There's a fantastic pizza place called the Ice House in Hope Idaho just before Sandpoint. We were able to get from Sandpoint to Coeur d'Alene with out ridding on Hwy 95 through some fantastic roads and scenery. I'll see if I can figure out our route from Sandpoint to Coeur d'Alene. It was fantastic.
    Last edited by mtnbud; 02-25-13 at 09:18 PM.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member simplygib's Avatar
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    Take this with a grain of salt because it has been about four and a half years since I rode the Hiawatha, but if it is in the same condition now as it was then, I wouldn't hesitate to ride a loaded bike on it. It was hard pack dirt with some loose areas but overall very acceptable. I've ridden much, much worse on a loaded bike.

    Just in case you haven't heard, lights are mandatory on the Hiawatha. The tunnels, especially the long ones, are pitch black. A little flashlight or headlamp won't cut it, as I found out in 2008 and have the photos of the black eye to prove it. You will need bright lights. It's truly a spectacular trail though. Awesome scenery and really cool train trestles. It's the only trail I ever rode that required a fee ($9 in 2008), but it was well worth it. Really beautiful.

    I haven't ridden the Norpac trail so can't comment on that, but did ride the trail of the Coeur d' Alenes which of course is paved and spectacular.

    Are you camping? Along the Coeur d' Alene there is an old bar/restaurant at Enaville called the Snake Pit. Fun place. The owners were quite friendly and they let us pitch our tents on the little plateau next to the place for free. There was running water up there, but no restrooms. They made out though, since we spent a lot of time in the restaurant and bar. We also camped at Heyburn State Park and at the Wallace RV Park in Wallace. It was kind of funky but the owner was nice and had a great dog.
    Last edited by simplygib; 02-26-13 at 11:02 AM.

  5. #5
    Bike touring webrarian
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    Have you seen this website: http://friendsofcdatrails.org/
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  6. #6
    Senior Member simplygib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by raybo View Post
    Have you seen this website: http://friendsofcdatrails.org/
    Great site. Scroll about a third of the way down the page to see videos of, among other things, the Hiawatha and Norpac. Both look very "loaded touring" rideable.

  7. #7
    Senior Member badger_biker's Avatar
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    Thanks for the input everyone. It is good to hear the Hiawatha should be OK for our bikes. The section from Mullan to Lookout Pass is still unknown and 1,500 feet of climbing over 11 miles on gravel doesn't sound like much fun but I-90 or bumming a ride are options if necessary.

    simplygib - yes we will be camping. We plan to ride from Heyburn State Park to Wallace so won't need to camp in Enanville but we will still check out the Snake Pit. I've read the Wallace RV park now has a brewery so that should be fun! That is part of the reason we may have a bit more difficulty the next day climbing to Lookout Pass!
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by badger_biker View Post
    The section from Mullan to Lookout Pass is still unknown and 1,500 feet of climbing over 11 miles on gravel doesn't sound like much fun but I-90 or bumming a ride are options if necessary.
    That's an average of 2.6%. Not bad. We did something similar in MT last year on a road that ranged from gravel to fine sand with rocks tossed in throughout riding 37c Conti Contacts. Turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip.

  9. #9
    Senior Member JimF22003's Avatar
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    I'll be doing Ride Idaho most likely this year in August. It will be in that general area and on some of those trails. You might want to contact the organizers to see if they can point you to some information on road conditions. At the least you can see if the routes they're using are the same as the ones you're planning on. See http://www.rideidaho.org
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  10. #10
    Licensed Bike Geek Davet's Avatar
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    Based on your stated tire sizes, I'd say you would have no problems on the non-paved trails you'd be taking. My wife and I have ridden the Trail of the Hiawatha with smooth 28 and 32MM tires with no issues. The Hiawatha is hardpack with very few, very short loose sections but easily ride-able like you want. On the Hiawatha, for which there is a fee for using, lighting is required because of the tunnels.

    The Northern Pacific Trail is described in the"Recreational Trails of the Idaho Panhandle" as...11.7 mile compacted gravel trail....

    I live in Spokane, some 50 miles from Coeur d'Alene , 90 miles from Wallace and am fairly familiar with cycling in the area. Why don't you e-mail me (click on my screen name to do that) and we can chat about your intended route. I'll be happy to offer any help that I'm able to. I'll also be glad to send you the above map I referenced, which has a lot of info and contacts for various agencies that can provide you with details. I'm going to the Seattle Bike Show this weekend and will be visiting the Idaho Trails booth and can pick up any additional information you may need.

    Dave

    Quote Originally Posted by badger_biker View Post
    I've posted in the regional section of BF but no success so I'll try here to see if any touring folk can provide some info.

    I'm looking for some trail surface information for a loop tour I'm planning in July from near Coeur d' Alenes using the Coeur d' Alenes trail, Norpac trail, Hiawatha trail and back on either the Soo Line trail or FS 50. Specifically from the Norpac connection near Mullen to Avery. We will be on a loaded touring road bikes with either 35c and 1 1/4 in. road tires.

    My main question is what type of surfaces are in that stretch. From what I've been able to research it varies and I'm just looking for some rough estimates on how much of the distance might be loose sand or gravel vs. course gravel or ballast (3/4 in or bigger), vs. relatively hard dirt/gravel or crushed rock. The first two surface types can be tolerated for short stretches but any distance could be a real pain with a loaded bike.

    I would appreciate any suggestions, insights or tips from anyone who has ridden this stretch. We plan to average about 50 - 55 miles per day and would be looking at biking from Wallace to a campground before Avery on one of the days.

    I'm assuming the Soo Line section that goes along FS 50 is kind of rough yet so we will probably take the road instead. Is that road relatively safe for biking? Also I don't know anything about Hwy 95 running on the west side of Lake Coeur d' Alene if anyone can provide some info I would appreciate it.

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