North Central Idaho and the Northern Panhandle – the regions United Country Real Estate | Steelhead Realty and United Country | Musick & Sons Auction & Real Estate Services call home – are filled with all kinds of attractions, popular tourist spots and things to do year-round.
In and around Orofino, Grangeville, Coeur d’Alene, Bonners Ferry and throughout other neighboring cities and counties here, you’ll find a rich western history and culture, charming small towns, and countless ways to unwind at the end of the work day or on weekend outings.
Let’s take a closer look at the appeal of our regions for residents and visitors alike.
Our real estate offices are located in Orofino and Grangeville, Idaho. Like many communities across Idaho’s central and northern areas, these cities and their respective counties share a similar history colored by tales of the wild west.
The area now called Clearwater County in Idaho was originally inhabited by the Nez Perce Indians living along the Clearwater River – prime hunting and fishing locations. The Lewis and Clark Expedition came to the region in the early 1800s, marking the first non-native people to arrive here.
Orofino was established in 1898, and within about 10 years the Northern Pacific Railroad was running through the town (and Orofino became Clearwater County’s seat). Idaho County, on the other hand, formed back in 1862, a year prior to President Lincoln naming the “Territory of Idaho” by law. The county remains Idaho’s largest to date, with nearly 7,000 miles of national forest land within it.
However, the real interest in the area at the time was gold, and gold mining towns sprouted up everywhere. By the early 1900s, ranching was also a leading industry, and cattle, horse and sheep operations flourished. In Idaho County, the city of Grangeville saw the first passenger train come through in 1908. During the 1940s, timber harvesting was now big business, joining farming and ranching, but replacing the short-lived gold rush.
It’s no secret one of the main reasons people visit Idaho – especially up here in the North Central and Panhandle regions – is for all the wild and rugged beauty. Clearwater County, for example, uses the slogan “Stay and Play with Us,” with images of hikers, snow skiers, boaters and the like. If outdoor recreation is how you like to spend your time, you’ll definitely find it in Idaho.
Starting in some of the northernmost parts of Idaho, the Idaho Panhandle National Forest is a wonderland of winding rivers, big lakes and lush woodlands. Within it, the Upper Priest Lake Scenic Area is great for mountain biking, fishing, backpacking and swimming. The Coeur d'Alene River Ranger District offers the beautiful Hayden and Coeur d'Alene Lakes, and horse, ATV and snowmobile trails. And the Pend Oreille Lake Area has amazing trout fishing and camping along the Wild & Scenic St. Joe River.
For wildlife viewing near Boundary County, the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge along the Kootenai River and Selkirk Mountain foothills is popular. But for an incomparable stretch of scenery, the International Selkirk Loop is a Top 10 scenic drive of the Northern Rockies. Many cyclists also travel the Panhandle via the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, 72 miles end to end.
The Payette National Forest features Hell’s Canyon National Recreation Area, North America’s deepest river gorge and a top spot for fishing unique species. And don’t forget the region’s state parks, such as the Round Lake and Farragut parks, up in Bonner and Kootenai counties. Or travel a few hours south into Idaho County to experience the Pine Bar Recreation Site near Cottonwood. It’s a nice summer spot with beaches, lakes and swimming areas on the Lower Salmon River, and mountain views all around.
The Salmon River’s Middle Fork includes the popular Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, and some 100 miles of waterways surrounded by relics of the native Tuka-Deka people. It’s bordered by the Selway- Bitterroot Wilderness area (not far from Grangeville), part of the Selway River Corridor and near the picturesque Selway Falls. Excellent hiking trails and river tours are the main attractions here, but watch out for elk, bear, deer and other big game! For winter fun, check out Grangeville’s local Snowhaven Ski and Tubing Hill. Or, if you’re near Coeur d'Alene, Silver Mountain Resort is a large and popular location with tons of activities.
Almost any promotion or “things to do” coverage of North Central/Northern Idaho and the Panhandle is certain to start with adventures in the great outdoors. However, there are also plenty of other attractions in these regions, from exploring art and culture, to touring area wineries, checking out historic downtowns and more.
If historic discoveries are what you enjoy, consider Idaho’s Mammoth Cave and the connected natural history museums near Shoshone. The Coeur d’Alene Art Galleries are always popular downtown, and the Center for Arts & History at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston is a unique spot to visit at Lewiston’s Lewis-Clark State College. Finally, the Historical Museum at St. Gertrude in Cottonwood provides an in-depth look at North Central Idaho history.
For classic family fun, head to Orchard Lanes for bowling in Lewiston. Or ramp things up at the very popular Silverwood Theme Park or Raptor Reef Indoor Water Park, both in Kootenai County. When it’s time for the adults to unwind, there’s always Lewiston’s Clearwater River Casino & Lodge, as well as Kootenai Casino and Spa in Bonners Ferry.
The food and drink options are varied throughout these parts of Idaho, though there’s a big emphasis on local breweries and wineries across the area, including tours of Lewis Clark Valley wineries. Farmers markets like the one in Orofino are always worth a stop. But often the best approach is to stroll the engaging downtown districts in places such as Wallace or the Lewiston area to see what looks good on the day.
Last but not least, events and festivals truly stand out in Idaho. Locally, there’s Grangeville Border Days at Idaho’s oldest rodeo, as well as the Clearwater County Fair and Lumberjack Days and the Idaho County Fair in Cottonwood. Food-focused events also abound, including the annual Raspberry Festival, and Kamiah BBQ Days; the latter is a Labor Day Weekend celebration with games, art, tasty cuisine and more.