Get ready for this international tour through some of the finest cycling terrain that the U.S. and Canada have to offer along “The West’s Best Scenic Drive.” Recognized by Rand McNally as one of only five routes to earn its “Best of the Road” title, the roads in this region are finally being discovered as a cycling paradise as well.
From picturesque Sandpoint, Idaho, we’ll zip up the panhandle and cross the border into British Columbia. Once there we’ll ride through pleasant farmlands and orchards, take a ferry across the fjord-like Kootenay Lake, and visit a host of fascinating small towns like Creston, Kaslo, New Denver, and Nelson. We’ll then re-enter the U.S., this time via Washington, where we’ll follow the Pend Oreille River through Metaline Falls down to Newport. After one final border crossing leads us back into Idaho, we’ll cycle to our finish in Sandpoint.
"We loved it!!!"
Day 1. Sandpoint, Idaho, 0 miles
Nestled magnificently between the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains on the northwest shore of expansive Lake Pend Oreille, Sandpoint offers numerous diversions, a fine brewpub, and a small but bustling downtown scene. As with every Adventure Cycling self-contained tour, we'll start out by gathering for a group orientation and meal. We'll make sure our bikes and other equipment are in proper working order, distribute the group gear, and then check into our hotel for a good night's sleep. In the morning, we'll begin our 380-mile journey encircling the beautiful Selkirk Mountains. You can expect to ride your touring bike past glimmering waterfalls and snow-capped peaks and camp beneath tall pines and in quaint small towns. While we'll always be surrounded by mountains, our route generally offers relatively moderate cycling because so much of it is lakeside or at river grade.
Day 2. Sandpoint to Bonners Ferry, 35 miles
Our first overnight destination, Bonners Ferry, is a logging and farming community situated in the Kootenai River valley. The town was named for Edwin Bonner, who established a ferry service where the Wildhorse Trail crosses the broad Kootenai. Prospectors headed to British Columbia on the well-established trail to seek their fortunes utilized the ferry. The area's rough and tumble history is still quite palpable today.
Day 3. Bonners Ferry to Creston, British Columbia, 35 miles
After crossing the U.S.-Canadian border (be sure to bring your passport!), we will pedal through some tranquil farmlands in southern British Columbia and into the town of Creston, where Columbia Brewery brews the province's most popular beer, Kokanee Pilsner.
Day 4. Creston, to Crawford Bay, 47 miles
We'll continue north from Creston, happily pedaling along the long and narrow Kootenay Lake. The same river we followed out of Bonners Ferry feeds the lake, but the spelling changes once you get north of the international border. Tonight's campsite is about a third of the way up Kootenay Lake and will make a refreshing destination for those who want to take the plunge into the clear waters after a day in the saddle.
Day 5. Crawford Bay to Kaslo, 32 miles
We'll continue to trace the eastern shores of Kootenay Lake until we cross the west side by ferry. Soon after, we'll find ourselves in the town of Kaslo, which has variously been dubbed the "Switzerland of the Americas" and British Columbia's "Prettiest Town." We'll understand why as we bicycle through this lakeside village of tree-lined avenues and grand Victorian houses. We'll call the extremely comfortable and picturesque municipal campground our home away from home.
Day 6. Kaslo to New Denver, 29 miles
We'll start the day with a short, steep climb away from town. Then we'll begin a gradual climb to cross a low divide and make the descent to New Denver. Previous tour participants have called this stretch one of the nicest they've ever ridden. Wildflowers and raspberries abound and bear, moose, and deer have all been spotted at close but comfortable distances from the bike saddle. Once in town, we can return to the silver mining days of the late 1800s at the Silvery Slocan Museum, which illuminates the town's role as the western gateway to the mines. If we're lucky, we might be in town for the farmer's market. We'll camp along Slocan Lake, where we can swim or explore the fine Japanese gardens.
Day 7. New Denver to Nelson, 62 miles
Almost anyone would agree that the community of Nelson gives Kaslo a run for its money as British Columbia's prettiest town. About 350 Victorian structures are preserved here, and when we hop off our bikes after another great day of lakeside pedaling, we can jump aboard Streetcar 23 to take a tour of town. It's one of three cars that originally ran from 1899 to 1949. If the town somehow seems vaguely familiar, it may be because you saw it on the wide screen in the 1987 movie Roxanne, starring Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah.
Day 8. Nelson, 0 miles. Layover day
If the art galleries, spas, wellness centers, and holistic healing studios in Nelson don't spark your interest, the hiking, mountain biking, paddling, and beach activities might. Take your pick of the plentiful off-bike activities or rent a mountain bike to take on some of the spectacular area trails. However you choose to spend your layover day in Nelson, you are sure to take away many fond memories of this friendly and thriving BC mountain town.
Day 9. Nelson to Metaline, Washington, 55 miles
We have another spectacular day ahead of us, beginning with a long, gradual climb away from Nelson. Entering the dense forest, we'll follow the Salmo River for a bit. Be sure to stop at Sacred Grounds in the town of Salmo for some great coffee, smoothies, and homemade pastries. Soon after, we'll be knocking at the border for permission to re-enter the U.S. In Washington, we'll ride on the North Pend Oreille Scenic Byway through the village of Metaline Falls, which has been recognized as one of the "100 Best Small Arts Towns in America."
Day 10. Metaline to Newport, 60 miles
We'll continue to follow the Pend Oreille River through spruce, fir, and pine forests utilizing some lightly traveled, local backroads. Our pedaling will take us through places like Tiger, where the 1912 Tiger Store and Post Office/museum is the only building still standing in what was once a thriving community. We'll also pass through Cusick, Usk, and ultimately the quaint town of Newport.
Day 11. Newport to Sandpoint, Idaho, 35 miles
Today we'll cross back into Idaho. Our riding will take us to the town of Priest River and onto the shores of crystalline Lake Pend Oreille. This scenic gem will return us to our start location in Sandpoint. We're sure to return home after this 10-day expedition with renewed vigor and many indelible memories of shining waters, big mountains, and charming towns.