Envision past on Indian Cliffs Trail

Imagine the Schitsu’umsh Indians of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the first known inhabitants of this land, climbing to the top of these basalt ledges to spot game on hunting excursions from their lakeside villages. Huge ponderosa pines grace the ridges, giving way to grassy, wildflower-covered hillsides. Cedars, hemlocks and pines make up the thick forest below, which leads to the wetlands, still plentiful with wildlife today.

The hike starts at a leisurely pace in the dense canopy of evergreens, becoming steep along the ridges and then breaking out to an area of fire-damaged trees on the ridgeline. The path then drops along a meadow to merge with the CCC nature trail and back to the parking lot.

The summit offers an outstanding view of “Idaho’s river-within-the-lake,” formed when the outlet of Lake Coeur d’Alene was dammed in 1906. Rising water from the damming caused Round, Benewah and Chatcolet lakes to merge with Lake Coeur d’Alene. The levee of the St. Joe River gives the appearance of a river within a lake.

Created in 1908, Heyburn Park contains about 5,500 acres of land and 2,300 acres of water.

Length: approximately 3 miles from the trailhead or 5.8 miles if started at Hawley’s Landing Campground.

Elevation: elevation at the trailhead is approximately 2,200 feet, rising to approximately 2,750 feet at the top of the cliffs.

Use: moderate.

Trail condition: well-packed trails with some loose rock and steep grades.

Difficulty: moderate.

Restrictions: No motorized vehicles, horses or bikes are allowed on the trail. There is a $4 parking fee in the park. The Idaho State Parks and Recreation Department asks park users to “leave no trace, and if you pack it in, pack it out.”

What to see: great views of the St. Joe River, lakes and mountains. This beautiful forest provides excellent wildlife habitat, so watch for both small and big critters.

Special features: There are three campgrounds in the park, and rental cabins are available for $115 per night. The Trail of the Coeur d’Alene goes through the park and is near the 3,100-foot-long bridge/trestle, that crosses the St. Joe River to the other side of Lake Coeur d’Alene (rental bikes are available at the park headquarters). A boardwalk and blind provide an excellent opportunity to view wildlife. The cruise boat Idaho can be boarded at the park for a lake tour or special event. Excellent beaches and boating areas make this a great recreation destination.

Preparation: Trail guides are available at the Heyburn State Park Headquarters. Address: 1291 Chatcolet. Plummer, ID 83851. Phone: (866) 634-3246 (toll-free) or (208) 686-1308. Web site: The ranger office suggests leaving your trip schedule with a responsible person. Detailed topographical maps are available for purchase from the following vendors in Coeur d’Alene: Black Sheep Sporting Goods, The Yacht Club Sales and Service, and North Idaho Blueprint.

Gear: Good hiking boots are essential and hikers should dress for changing conditions and carry drinking water and a first aid kit.

Note: President Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, or “Tree Army,” built roads, trails, shelters and other facilities in the park during the 1930s.

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