Rural northern Idaho offers very few highways, so there’s a good chance that you’ll choose Interstate 90 to get from one side of the state to the other. Fortunately, most of the towns in this area are lined up along the interstate, so you’ll have no trouble finding excuses to stop. And even if you don’t stop, it’s a beautiful ride.
For me, the start of Idaho’s Interstate 90 was not fun. This is an image from the dash-cam Drivelapse video at Lookout Pass, entering the state from Montana. When I crested the hill, I was suddenly enveloped by a wall of fog.
Once I was downhill a bit, conditions were a little better. I would explored all the little towns along the way, but with weather like this, I chose just one stop: Wallace, Idaho.
I’ll talk more about Wallace, Idaho on a separate page, but here are the basics: this is a neat little mining town with a wild-west feel, tucked between mountains, with a historic downtown district that’s delightfully walkable.
Oh, and did I mention it’s the center of the universe? A manhole cover at Bank & 6th Streets marks the exact spot around which the rest of the universe spins.
Wallace has one other claim to fame. It’s the site of the last traffic light on cross-country Interstate 90. The town is so snugly wedged between hills, it was very difficult to squeeze a freeway through the area. So for many years, interstate traffic had to pass through downtown Wallace, and stop at a traffic light. When the town’s expensive viaduct finally opened, the stoplight earned a spot in the town’s museum.
I’ll explain more about the Center of the Universe, the Last Stoplight, and Wallace’s Mining Museum on the Wallace page. You get the idea, though — this is a quirky little town that deserves a few minutes of your road-trip attention.
A few miles further west on Interstate 90, at exit 54, you can learn more about the area’s mining history, and the staggering toll it has taken, at the Sunshine Mine Memorial. 91 miners died in an underground fire at the Sunshine mine near this site, back in 1972. The names of those miners are listed on a plaque, underneath a statue of a miner.
The next town to the west is Kellogg, which I’m pretty sure is also worth a visit. The town is home to a ski resort that boasts the world’s longest gondola ride (3.1 miles). The Crystal Gold Mine, on the east side of town, offers underground tours.
Since it was raining on my 2014 trip through Idaho on Interstate 90, I kept going across the state without stopping. I crossed paths with myself at Coeur d’Alene…
… where, earlier in the trip, I took this picture of the lake at a scenic viewpoint above the Silver Beach Marina, southeast of town on Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive.
You can also view the lake from downtown Coeur d’Alene, at Independence Point (I stopped here on my 2006 trip through Idaho).
Coeur d’Alene is a bustling tourist town, and to be honest, it was too crowded for my enjoyment. On the other hand, it offers a lot of recreation opportunities, resorts and hotels, and places to eat and shop, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll have a great time here.
Headed west, beyond Coeur d’Alene, you’re almost done with Idaho. The town of Post Falls offers some motels, and then you’re in Washington.
I’d suggest filling up with gas before crossing the state line, since Washington’s gas prices are often much higher than Idaho’s.
The Bottom Line
Interstate 90 through Idaho will treat you to plenty of curves and mountain views, and a few nice little towns, plus the bigger attractions at Coeur d’Alene. Enjoy the drive!
Interstate 90 stretches across the northern end of Idaho, from the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area in the west, to Lookout Pass in the east. Towns and attractions along the way include Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission, Pinehurst, Kellogg, Wallace, and Mullan.
Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive across Idaho on Interstate 90, including a stop in Wallace: