Fernan Lake Natural Area

The Fernan Lake Natural Area occupies 50 acres on Lake Fernan’s south side. Three miles of trail criss-cross the hillside and provide nice views of the lake and city. Don’t miss the phenomenal sunsets!
  • Coeur d’Alene Mountains
2.6 out of 5
Moderate (some uphill hiking)
3.0 miles
1:02 hours moving time (Hiking)
Elevation Gain
559 feet
High Point
2,563 feet (Power transmission lines)
Low Point
2,126 feet (Lake Fernan)
  • Grove
  • Lake
  • Outing Type
  • Daytrip
  • Trail Type
  • Lollipop
  • Trailbed
    Dirt, gravel
  • None (lake is contaminated)
  • Camping
    • Not allowed. Neither are fires, fireworks, smoking, and booze. Restrooms are at the Fernan Lake boat launch
    • Very good, but muddy in spring
  • City of Coeur d’Alene
  • Status
  • City Park
  • Maps
  • Fernan Lake
  • Fees & Permits
  • None required
  • ()
    Open To
  • Hikers
  • Dogs
  • (Dogs must be leashed. Bikes prohibited.)
  • From I-90, take exit #15. Head east on Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive: Coming from Post Falls, this means going straight across Sherman at the light; coming from Fourth of July Pass, this means heading south on Sherman, then turning left at the first light. Follow Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive for 3/4 of a mile, then turn right onto Potlatch Hill Road (just ahead of the bridge). Follow Potlatch uphill for half a mile to the green pump house. The dirt parking lot is just after the pump house, on your left.
  • Alternatively, park at the Fernan Lake boat launch: From I-90 head north on Sherman for a quarter mile, then turn right onto Theis Drive. Follow that for another quarter mile, going straight at the stop light. There is far more parking here, including parking for trailers, and restrooms.
  • Season
      March 18, 2021

      The Fernan Lake Natural Area consists of 3 loops, a spur trail to an overlook of Lake Fernan, and a connector to the Lake Fernan boat launch. The innermost loop is graveled and essentially circles the parking area on Potlatch Hill. The next iteration switchbacks downhill for a bit, then contours along the hillside to a fork near a cedar grove. Turn right and uphill to a second fork, where another right quickly returns to the parking lot. For the outermost loop, turn left at the first fork and the trails switchbacks downhill to the lakeshore opposite the Lake Fernan boat launch. It follows the shoreline for a short while, then lifts off again and switchbacks uphill. Near a giant dead Ponderosa, a spur trail drops precariously down to a secluded bay. Beware, however, this trail is narrow, steep, and brushy and many times does not even feel like a trail. It terminates at the bay–return to the Ponderosa. From there, the trail continues upwards to a grassy overlook. Shortly afterwards you can either turn right and head back to the parking lot through a dense cedar forest, or turn left and climb to the southern edge of the Natural Area. The trail then contours along, eastwards, crosses a seasonal brook, and starts climbing again. Shortly past the brook is a fork, with the left branch petering out after a hundred yards or so. Keep right (straight) and the trail rises through open pine and fir forest with decent views (great sunsets) to the power transmission lines across Lake Fernan. That’s trail’s end–return back the way you came.

      From the parking area, a spur trail drops down towards the outlet of Lake Fernan. To reach it follow the switchbacks down the western side to a spur towards the freeway. At the Fernan Lake outlet, the trail connects to an angler trail skirting the westernmost tip of the Lake. Follow that trail to the Lake Fernan boat launch, which includes docks, restrooms, and picnic tables.

      Alternate Routes

        Things to Consider

        • There is no signage along this trail. Even the huge kiosk at the trailhead is devoid of any useful information. Except for lake and freeway, the parcel is surrounded by private property. Stay on the trails to avoid trespassing. The utility access road at the power lines is a no-go (it leads to private property). There is no access to Potlatch Hill Road or Sky Harbor Drive anywhere other than the trailhead.
        • The area is an extreme fire hazard, exacerbated by steep, inaccessible terrain. Fires, fireworks, camping, hunting are not allowed
        • The trailhead has been a hotspot for drug dealing, although the police has been clamping down on that

        Not so great

          View of Lake Fernan
          Sunset from the trailhead
          Lake Fernan from the Natural Area
          Lake Fernan boat launch
          Another shot of the power transmission lines
          Naughty testing the ice on Lake Fernan
          Sunset from Natural Area
          Lake Fernan (from north side)
          The open space, taken from boat launch
          Naughty near a cedar grove
          Fernan Lake boat launch
          Ice on Lake Fernan (from south side)
          Naughty near an overlook
          Power lines
          View of Canfield from the power lines