Funky doesn’t even begin to describe the unique town of Wallace Idaho. Mountain towns and ski villages may have their own panache and style, but nothing comes close to this place. From its one-of-a kind marketing to the ONLY town with every building on the National Register of Historic Places, this might be one of the last mountain towns that isn’t being overrun… at least for now.
Wallace Idaho Quick Hits
The Center Of The Universe
As of 2020, the year-round population may read 788, but it really packs a punch. You can feel the passion and pride of each person that calls this place home. Missouri might be the Show-Me-State, but in Wallace’s own words, it’s the “Center of the Universe.” Heck, they even have their own Prime Minister (the only one in the United States.)
History Like No Other
Alongside the plethora of outdoor activities, the town of Wallace Idaho has a colorful past to say the least. This is where miners assassinate a governor. Forced the Department of Transportation to install the ONLY stoplight on I-90. We suggest you dive deep into why it’s called Historic Wallace and the many other stories we dug up.
Still A Miner’s Mecca
Located smack dab in the center of the Silver Valley district, Wallace Idaho continues its reign as the RICHEST mining town still in existence for more than a century. Since 1884, they’ve produced 1.2 billion ounces of silver. Yes, that’s with a capital “B.”
Getting To Wallace
Since it’s still a hidden gem, most are regional visitors since it’s located right off I-90. To the west, you have Lookout Pass, home to one of the snowiest resorts in Idaho and the border to Montana.
The closest international major airport to Wallace is Spokane WA, which is just an hour and a half drive via I-90. Being the 2nd busiest airport in Washington, there’s a good chance you’ll find a direct flight especially if you’re coming from a larger market like LA or Chicago. Although there’s a non-stop bus from Spokane to Wallace for only $9, we’d recommend renting a car so you can explore the region surrounding it.
Wallace Trip Planning
When to visit all comes down to what kind of fun you’re looking for. For summer fanatics, the legendary Hiawatha cycling trail opens around Memorial Day weekend and closes mid-September. Snow comes early AND often in this part of the country. In fact, it’s home to one of our perennial favorites for the best snow chances for early season skiing – Lookout Pass. On the other side of Wallace in Kellogg, that’s where you’ll find the beastly Silver Mountain. Due to its steeper terrain and warmer climate, they’re usually up and running full bore by December. For a quieter more relaxed atmosphere, consider coming in the spring or fall which are their shoulder seasons.
Best Things To Do In Wallace Idaho
If you want to take the road less travelled, Wallace is it. From pretty much the center of town, you can access 1,000 miles of mining, logging, and forest service roads via a mountain bike, ATV, or snowmobile. Or go back in time and see what mining was like by visiting a Bordello that just closed its doors in 1999. The amount of things to do from being outside or just taking in some history is almost endless. Let’s just say you won’t get bored.
Museums, Bordellos, and Mines… oh my!
As we said earlier, Wallace Idaho is FULL of history. Regardless of your main reason for visiting, be sure to set aside some time to explore the funky places in town. Take in the Northern Pacific Depot Museum where Teddy Roosevelt once visited. See how the workers of this town unionized to fight against the deplorable conditions they were forced in at the turn of the century at the Mining Museum. Or our favorite attraction, take a tour of the defunct Oasis Bordello Museum (from 1988). And even better yet, stay in an old bordello room that’s been converted in the Lux Hotel to get the full experience.
When visiting a tourist destination, shops are typically filled with dull trinkets that have the name of the place and that’s it. Not so in downtown Wallace. In one building near the “Center of the Universe” you have Johnson’s Gems & Collectibles. This is the largest gem and mineral store in the inland Northwest. Words cannot begin to describe how cool this place is.
Next door is the North Idaho Trading company. Within its cozy confines, you’ll find one-of-a kind items like vintage guns and taxidermy items like moose antlers that you can buy by the pound.
For those artistic souls, pop your head into Eureka Sally. The front is filled with amazing art as well as craft chocolate that she makes herself. And in the back is a classroom for people to let their inner artist reign free. Then there’s the Woodland Market. Within its four walls, you’ll find locally made Idaho products such as Silver Valley Coffee and even a wedding chapel.
Sometimes you just need to get outside and breathe fresh air. Luckily, Wallace Idaho has that in spades. From easy jaunts to adventurous outings, it has a little bit of everything. Here’s a few of the local’s favorites:
Easy Stroll – Upper Glidden Lake: If you’re looking to take in a beautiful alpine lake then this one is for you. Traveling through a mixed forest filled with evergreens and hemlock along with huckleberries, you’ll have this short adventure pretty much to yourself. Be aware there are some steeper sections, but they are short and manageable.
Moderate Challenge – Pulaski Trail: Yet another example of living history. This path follows part of the same route that Edward Pulaski’s firefighting crew used to escape the devastating fire in 1910. On the path you’ll find an interpretive trail delving into the history, some huckleberries, and finishes off at the entrance to an old mine.
Be it road, mountain, or gravel grinding, you’ll enjoy the two wheeled fun available to you in Wallace Idaho. From lift accessed mountain biking to designated bike paths, the region is truly your cycling oyster.
Route Of The Hiawatha
Originally one of the most scenic railroads in the nation has now been transformed into a trail like no other. Just a little over 15 miles long, it features dynamic scenery of the Bitterroot Mountains, 10 train tunnels (bring a light), and 7 sky-high trestles. The best part? It’s mostly downhill, and there are shuttle buses available to get you back to your original starting point. This makes it a perfect outing for the entire family! In fact, it’s so good that the Rails-to-Trails conservancy has named the Route of the Hiawatha a “Hall of Fame” trail.
Trail Of The Coeur d’Alenes
Not long enough? No problem. Yet another mega-award-winning trail is at your doorstep too – the Trail of the Couer d’Alenes. At a whopping 73 miles, this paved path spans the Idaho Panhandle starting in Mullan and finishing in Plummer. And once the snow falls, you can enjoy this route on a pair of cross-country skis or snowshoes. This route also showcases the high mountain splendor of the Silver Valley as well as the chain lakes region.
If you’re seeking more of an adrenaline pumping outing, you’ll find it at Silver Mountain. Home to 3,400 vertical feet of riding across nearly 40 miles of gravity fed singletrack, it’s no wonder it continues being voted #1 in the Northwest. And new for 2021, Lookout Pass provides lift accessed mountain biking to five different trails with more in the works. For a wilder experience, consider taking on the CC Divide trail. Just shy of sixty miles, this long-distance raw ridgeline endeavor will test your resolve.
In keeping with its Wild West feel, Wallace has an ‘open streets’ policy towards snowmobiles. That means you don’t even have to drive your rig to a trailhead. Just pull the cord and ride your sled right out of town onto the 250 miles of groomed goodness surrounding it. That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Wallace is right in the center of one of the largest snowmobiling areas we’ve ever heard of. You can literally ride your snowmobile from Coeur d’Alene to St.Regis, making for a 1,000 mile trip.
Wallace Idaho sits pretty much equidistant between two great ski resorts. To the west, you’ll find Silver Mountain. On these slopes, you’ll get more than seventy plus trails and a vast assortment of off-piste goodness. To the east, you’ll find Lookout Pass. A great family resort getting some of the most snow in the state. And for those with the gear and wanting a taste of a backcountry experience, just across the road from Lookout Pass is some of the easiest backcountry access out there.
Restaurants of Wallace
If you guessed a town of less than 1,000 residents would have a terrible food cuisine… you’d be wrong. This place is a true Foodie mecca and could easily be one of the best things to do in Wallace Idaho. Depending on the mood and budget, you have an assortment of places to try.
For classic bar fare done right, mosey on over to the 1313 Club. The five-alarm burger will warm up those taste buds but not kill them. If there’s a place that EVERYONE should eat, it’s the Blackboard Café. It may look simple on the menu, but the flavor combinations are world class. You won’t be disappointed. Since June 1st the Fainting Goat has gone a menu shift to focus on artisanal pizzas along with their great selection of wines. And last but not least, Wallace Idaho has not one but TWO breweries to enjoy a barley pop – Wallace Brewing and City Limits Pub & Grill.
Places To Stay in Wallace
They say in real estate, “Location, Location, Location” and that’s true when it comes to picking where to stay. Luckily in Wallace Idaho, everything is very close so it really just depends on what you’re looking for. For a modern hotel with great deals, check out the Wallace Inn. For an experience unlike any other, consider a stay at the Ryan Hotel. Built in 1903, the owners have restored and refurbished this icon in the Wallace historic district. The craftsmanship is something you don’t see anymore, especially the old wood frames and bellhop entrance in its original construction. And the price is right too! To read more about these hotels and others — Say “Yes” To Adventure And Stay At One Of These Wallace Idaho Hotels.