State Park Overview

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission State Park (that’s a mouthful so it will hereafter be known as Old Mission State Park) in northern Idaho celebrates the first building in all of Idaho: the Cataldo Mission. Priests came to this part of Idaho to convert the Coeur d’Alene tribe. The park’s main event is the Old Mission, but there are other historical structures on site, including the house where the priests lived, some barns and a grinding mill. There is a very nice visitor center that doubles as a museum (for an extra cost). All of this, plus a very scenic spot of land next to the Coeur d’Alene river, makes the Old Mission State Park and easy and enjoyable visit.

Old Mission State Park
Flexing our artistic muscles with this pic at the Old Mission State Park.

Pros:

  • Interesting history
  • Scenic
  • Easy access

Cons:

  • Extra charge for the museum
  • Might have some accessibility issues walking up the hill from the visitor center to the mission
  • Small park

What To Do

  • Learn about the Coeur d’Alene tribe
  • Learn about the history of the initial European settlement in Idaho
  • Feel the history walking through Idaho’s first building
  • Have your wedding here…really
Note the fee warning. Not just for entrance.

Amenities

They have a nice visitor center with flushing toilets and vault restrooms up by the building. For more information, visit the Department of Parks and Rec website for Old Mission State Park.

Crowd situation

Rating: 4 out of 5.

There were only three other groups visiting while we were there. It was lovely to feel like you have the park practically to yourselves.

Unique to Old Mission State Park

The history! You can only see the oldest building in Idaho at the oldest building in Idaho. 

Fascinating Idaho history.

A little history about Old Mission State Park

The Old Mission was built by the Coeur d’Alene tribe faithful to the cause between 1850 and 1853. They used local wood and materials and built it in the wattle and dab method. After they decided to move the mission further south (which was a really sad story, btw) the building fell into disrepair. It was lovingly restored in the 1970s and today is pristine like the year it was built. 

Northern Idaho scenery.
Take a stroll and enjoy the scenery.

Explore nearby

  • Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes State Park. This thing goes right by the mission.
  • Kellogg. This town is scenic and quaint, and you can take the longest gondola ride in America up to the pretty mountains.
  • Lake Coeur d’Alene

Our experience at Old Mission State Park

The Old Mission State Park is conveniently located right off 1-90 and every other time I’ve visited there, it was a quick drive from Coeur d’Alene. However, this time around we drove up from Harrison and very much enjoyed the scenery on the backroads. 

Our first stop was to the visitor center. If you don’t feel like paying for entry to the museum that shares the building, the visitor center is limited in what it offers. The building itself is quite nice, though, with cool architecture. We watched the free movie to get a feel for what the park is all about. (Side note: we recommend watching the videos at visitor centers if they are available. They are usually under 15 minutes and give a great synopsis of the park. And if it is a hot day, they are nice and dark and air conditioned.)

Exploring the park

After our history lesson in the video, we walked across a grassy field to tour the Mission. It was hot outside but felt cool inside. The building is one room and isn’t terribly large, but I really enjoy that it was built and restored as a labor of love. It isn’t as finely crafted as other cathedrals or churches, but its rusticity adds to its charm.

Old Mission State Park Historic Landmark.
This park is legit. Just look at the plaque.

Next stop was the building next door. This house was where the Jesuits lived who worked at this mission. The rooms are finished to be like what you would have experienced in the Mission’s heyday and there are little recordings to explain what life was like for these priests so far away from home and towns. 

Our last stop was to walk around the buildings on a little trail. This was nice as it had a few placards that explained the terrain and also some audio recordings that talked about life from a member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe’s perspective.

Conclusion

You can’t beat the oldest building in Idaho. It’s great this piece of history is preserved so well at the Old Mission State Park.

Note: we visited Old Mission State Park as part of our Idaho State Parks Challenge. The challenge consists of visiting all of Idaho’s state parks in one year. We made up this challenge to see a bit more of our beautiful state and help alleviate the restlessness caused by Covid-19 travel restrictions. Feel free to join the challenge!

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