Thursday, June 11, 2009

Priest Lake is one of Idaho's crown jewels

Awesome beach camping


This tree doesn't have much foundation left

Paddling up the Narrows to Upper Priest Lake

Full moon over Priest Lake

Navigation Trail

Sweet singletrack

I am so happy to be here!

Our campsite

Wendy and I had a four-day weekend reserved last week to run the Bruneau River. But after our friends had to cancel, we shifted the trip to Priest Lake, one of my all-time favorite outdoor haunts.

We headed for Beaver Creek Campground in the Panhandle National Forest, a premium camping area on the north end of Priest Lake that has beachfront, immediate access to singletrack hiking and biking trails, and close access to the "the Narrows," a creek-like water channel that connects to Upper Priest Lake. It's a perfect base camp for just about any outdoor activity, including reading on the beach!

We mountain biked on the Lakeshore Trail, a 10-mile wonder along the west shoreline of Priest Lake in heavy timber right on the edge of Priest Lake. We also rode the Navigation Trail to Upper Priest Lake. It's an easy trail for the most part, but there was one challenging section with some stairstep drops into a creek bottom, and Wendy landed at the bottom of the stairstep feature and lost control. She got ejected from her bike and Supermanned into the creek bottom, landing on her head in the mud. Ouch! She was OK after a bit of rest.

The Selkirk Mountains are directly above the east shoreline of Priest Lake. You can take logging roads to points near the upper ridge, and hike to the peaks from there. When Mark Lisk and I worked on the Idaho Impressions coffee table book, we hiked out to Chimney Rock at sunset, and he got a great shot of the orange-and-rouge sunset glows on the Selkirk Peaks, and we hiked back to the truck in the dark, and actually found it!

Several of the mountain bike trails in the Priest Lake region are featured in my statewide guide "Mountain Biking Idaho." Check 'em out. They're awesome!

Try to plan a week to visit Priest Lake and immerse yourself in all of the outdoor fun. Don't forget to hang out on the beach and chill, too.

How to get there: From Boise take I-84 west toward Portland. Go right on I-82 near the Tri-Cities. Then take U.S. 395 north to Ritzville and I-90. Go east to Spokane, then U.S. 2 north to Priest Lake from Spokane. It's about 8 hours of driving time if you keep the pedal to the metal. -- SS