Published: April 30, 2024 | Updated: April 26, 2024

Outdoor adventures await in North Idaho

Sunlight fills the tree line along one of the sky bridges at Timberline Adventures.

Sunlight fills the tree line along one of the sky bridges at Timberline Adventures.

With a view of the city of Coeur d’Alene above Lake Coeur d'Alene, owners Paul and Ashley Buttars deliberately staked out a picturesque site when they were planning out what would become Timberline Adventures.

Ziplining or crossing sky bridges among the trees and then seeing the city over the lake is something they hope melds the thrills of extreme outdoor recreation with the beauty of sightseeing.

“It’s a pretty unique feeling when you get 80-90 feet up into an old tree we think is older than America,” Paul Buttars said.

The business opened in 2015 with the goal “to fit in with the beauty of North Idaho.”

“There’s few things that the whole family can do and be excited about and this is one of them. It’s fun for a 7-year-old and it’s fun for grandma or grandpa and it’s not very physically demanding,” Buttars said. 

This year, to better accommodate the whole family the business has added an option so people can get a ride up to the top and walk the trails “moseying” through the woods. 

The zipline restrictions make it so that participants have to be at least 7 years old or older and under 260 pounds.

“This is a way to get the whole family up there so they can still participate,” Buttars said.

The facility has seven zip lines, two sky bridges, and two automatic belay safety devices to bring those among the tree line back to the ground.

A slight fear of heights is pretty common for folks looking to push themselves beyond their comfort zone, but the course is laid out in such a way that people can start lower with shorter lines and build up their confidence.

Buttars said his background growing up in the outdoors scene in Utah paved the way for the business being the perfect balance between a love of the outdoors and his skill set.

“I grew up on a farm, so I was used to working with the land, and now I farm trees instead of cattle,” Buttars said.

Pandemic impacted outdoor recreation scene

While many industries suffered during the early portion of the pandemic, a very different portrait emerged for the new business in the outdoor recreation scene.

“Everybody wanted to get outside. We actually had great years during COVID and that wasn’t just us, that was across the country with other zip lines too that did well,” Buttars said. 

Since then, Timberline Adventures has experienced a trend toward stabilizing more towards their usual numbers, but Buttars hopes the influx to the industry made “lifers” because it’s good to be outdoors no matter what you’re doing.”

On the other hand, when the pandemic first hit, ROW Adventure Center took the change to standard operations as an invitation to reevaluate programming that was offering the most value to customers and meeting operation costs.

ROW Adventure Center founder and president, Peter Grubb said some of the types of half-day tours previously offered were more work and not as much payoff for the company.

With operations in Idaho, Oregon and Montana as well as international trip liaisons, 

ROW Adventure Center primarily runs rafting, fishing, and other water sports as well as biking.

Having been in business for 45 years, Grubb said the pandemic was a bit different from prior events affecting the economy.

“We opened an entire division in 2008 in the last recession. The pandemic made a lot of people look at their business model and what was working and what wasn’t,” Grubb said. 

He’s noticed a trend as it has affected his own business where many people are less into “people-powered” recreational activities and more into power sports activities, contrasting the use of motor boats versus kayaking tours.

“Shopping local” with water recreation

“We’re a Coeur d’Alene/Spokane-based entity with an office in downtown C’dA, we’ve been around a long time and do a lot of cool stuff,” Grubb said. 

Although North Idaho tourism is a major power behind the industry, Grubb suggests looking for outdoor adventures in your own backyard and shopping locally for those experiences.

“I would encourage people who haven’t been taking advantage of nature around you to do that. We have fly fishing trips on the Coeur d’Alene River and we have whitewater rafting trips on the St. Joe River,” Grubb said.

Over recent years, Grubb said he’s noticed in many cases, people have become more risk-averse and less DIY when it comes to exploring the outdoors recreationally. 

That’s changed up some of the business when it comes to whitewater rafting of beginner fly-fishing trips. 

“They come and have a fun day in nature and see what I would consider one of the best aspects and reasons for living in this area,” Grubb said.

Offering packages tailored to backgrounds in the activity is part of the reason the offerings at ROW range from $100 to $10,000 depending on the type of experiences folks are looking for.

    Thrill-seekers on a ROW Adventures rafting trip move along the Saint Joe River.

    A customer dangles from their safety harness at Timberline Adventures.
    A group drive around the zipline course at Timberline Adventures.