Spirit Lake, Idaho Feature Image

#5 Spirit Lake, Idaho

Metro Spokane Places to Live

2020 population: 2,811
Drive time to downtown Coeur d’Alene: 35 minutes
Drive time to downtown Spokane: 1 hour, 10 minutes


Metro Spokane Lake and Timber Towns
Spirit Lake is old north Idaho at its best.

Overall Character: ★★★★★
Urban: ★☆☆☆☆
Suburban: ☆☆☆☆☆
Walkability: ★★★☆☆
Market Activity: ★★☆☆☆
Farm Town: ☆☆☆☆☆
Timber Town: ★★★★★
Lake / River Town: ★★★★★


Downtown Spirit Lake, Idaho
Downtown Spirit Lake, Idaho. I happened to mosey in on a day an event was happening. Thus, the dumb orange fencing.

Spirit Lake Community Description

Spirit Lake is the dark horse on this list, a sleeper’s narcoleptic, Cinderella before she was orphaned, old north Idaho before a broader market discovered it. Such is Spirit Lake.

The day I arrived to take pictures of Spirit Lake, I had a negative image of it in my head from about 15 years ago. After a Jameson and a High Life at the local saloon, I realized my hippocampus had failed me because walking around Spirit Lake all I saw was charm, history, and opportunity. Naturally, I went back to the White Horse for another shot of Jameson and High Life to ponder such things before rambling to the Lightning Bar in Twin Lakes, and then downtown Rathdrum (I don’t remember the name of that bar), for more pictures, Jameson, High Life, and mingling with the locals in my dogged pursuit to identify the best places to live within Spokane’s metro.

Spirit Lake’s population has grown dramatically in the past decade – up almost 1,000 souls since last census. Located on the back side of Mount Spokane in northern Kootenai County, the old sort-of red-neck, sort-of hillbilly, sort-of unemployed blue collar worker who used to ply his trade at the mill but now has to ply his trade at Walmart because the mill closed, north Idaho cultural trait is still very much alive in Spirit Lake. How long that old north Idaho culture hangs on, however, is the question because big money is coming to Spirit Lake.

Odds are outsiders will overcome the old-timers in short order because Spirit Lake is majestically beautiful and access to urban amenities are within easy striking distance and access to recreational amenities are right outside Spirit Lake’s front door. Spirit Lake is a quintessential old-West lumber town. Tucked into the woods in relatively rugged country on a lake, it has a historic main street and plenty of small town, old-West character. Someone should build a bubble around Spirit Lake and then call it a museum because there are few places like it left in the metro.

Almost tragically, Spirit Lake is on the brink. When we wake up another 15 years from now, it will be on the other side of significant investment and, indeed, it will be a different place. Question is for better or worse. These sorts of things tend to trend a certain way, which is why I used the word “tragically” to open this paragraph. It doesn’t have to be tragic, though. It could be spectacular.

We’ll find out the next time I’m back for a Jameson and High Life.

It's the Old West in Spirit Lake
It’s the old West in Spirit Lake.

Classic neighborhoods and white picket fences in Spirit Lake. Oh, yeah.
Classic neighborhoods and white picket fences in Spirit Lake. Oh, yeah.

Spirit Lake has a great central park.
Spirit Lake has a great central park.

Idaho Highway 41 through Spirit Lake.
This is the highway that goes through Spirit Lake — Highway 41. The state of Idaho, courtesy of their right of way, has certainly diminished the initial curb appeal of Spirit Lake as one travels through town. The state of Idaho, courtesy of their right of way, also has the ability to increase curb appeal as one travels through town. It’s a shame they choose to do the former.