Coolin Idaho is the kind of town where you could almost miss it if you didn’t know it was there. It’s on the map because of it’s close proximity to Priest Lake. It is the biggest town around Priest Lake. A guy named Andy Coolin first opened up a post office on the south end of Priest Lake in 1893. Since then, the small town is known as Coolin.
Life was a lot different back then. There are some people that consider a town like Coolin as pretty backwoods and old fashioned even in 2023. Imagine what they would’ve thought if they saw it 100 years ago. 😂
Coolin has a certain charm, that is similar to many of the small towns in Bonner County, Idaho. There is no pretense, the people are hard working, and if you drive slow and show some respect, you’ll be accepted. 67.2% of the population in Bonner County voted for Trump in the 2020 election. (source: Politico) Like much of North Idaho the locals are overwhelmingly conservative.
Exploring Coolin, Idaho’s Scenic Beauty
Coolin is surrounded by the Selkirk Mountains. While not as rugged as the Tetons or as famous as the Rockies, the Selkirk mountains are wonderful. They are full of animals, public land, and miles of trails.
Right here in the heart of the Selkirks is Priest Lake; a lake that is 19 miles long and one of the most popular camping destinations in North Idaho.
Coolin is situated very conveniently at the south end of Priest Lake. Because of Priest Lake’s proximity to Canada, virtually all of the visitors will be arriving and leaving on Hwy 57, which begins south of Coolin in Priest River. So whether you’re leaving or coming, Coolin is a convenient stop for food, gas, and coffee.
Hotels in Coolin, Idaho
Modern day Coolin is small little hub for outdoor fun. When the outdoors is your playground you don’t actually need a lot from a town. Either way, Coolin is here with food (see below) and a few places to spend the night.
The Historic Northern Hotel is the more well known accommodation in Coolin, Idaho. In 1900 a guy named Walt Williams who worked for the Great Northern Railroad built the Northern Inn, a two-story log hotel. According to wikipedia,
The Old Northern Inn is the oldest hostelry in northern Idaho. Located on Priest Lake in Coolin, Idaho, the two-story log hotel was built in 1900 by Walt Williams, an employee of the Great Northern Railroad. One of a number of lodges created to attract more passengers to the rail line, the Northern Inn is the only one that remains from the early days of Idaho statehood when mining, timber, and tourism businesses were beginning to develop around Priest Lake.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Northern_Inn
Best Restaurants in Coolin, Idaho
The Moose Knuckle is my favorite restaurant in Coolin, and apparently it’s others’ favorite too with over 500 five star reviews on Google. There’s nothing like a well made burger after a day of canoeing in the sun and fresh air. From fire-grilled burgers to flat bread pizza, there really isn’t any reason to avoid the Moose Knuckle if you’ve got some cravings.
Coolin is not a big town so obviously there aren’t a lot of places to eat. But, who needs a lot of options when the ones that are their will do the job?
If you’re in town on Friday or Saturday you can head over to Ardy’s Cafe for Thai Food Friday & Pho Saturday. It’s kind of rare to find this kind of variety way up in the boondocks, so as someone who loves Thai food, I won’t be saying no.
Considering that North Idaho is basically party of the greater Pacific Northwest it’s no surprise that you’ll find at least one espresso stand. Eastside Coffee Co. is located right on Cavanaugh Bay Road. Easy access, and a simple drive up window will help get you the caffeine you need when you need it.
That’s it! There isn’t much you need to know about Coolin, Idaho. If you’re reading this you’re probably planning a trip to Priest Lake so make sure to check out our guides and suggestions on things to do while you’re there.