Thursday, August 12, 2021

Plan a fall trip to Priest Lake, and go camping, boating, SUP'ing, fishing, biking or hiking!

Riding the shady Lakeshore Trail on a warm summer day at Priest Lake. 

Hi all, 

It's no secret that Priest Lake is one of Idaho's crown jewels, nestled in the Idaho Panhandle. A recent trip to Priest Lake reminded me what a truly special place it is! For one thing, it's a BIG lake! Almost 20 miles long and 4.4 miles wide, with lots of coves and bays. Just a gorgeous place to be.

I went swimming, mountain biking and fishing on this particular trip, which was mainly a work trip. The boating is fantastic on the lake, and a newly deepened Thorofare channel provides clear and easy access for SUPs, kayaks, canoes and power boats to Upper Priest Lake.

The Thorofare Channel provides an intimate experience on the way to Upper Priest Lake.

But my oh my, Priest Lake has definitely been discovered! I couldn't believe how booked all of the lodging properties were at Priest Lake when I inquired in mid-June about 2 nights in late July. Nothing. Zilch. Everything was booked solid through Labor Day weekend. 

This September or October would be a great time to plan a road trip to Priest Lake. Try to reserve a spot at Beaver Creek Campground, book a spot at one of the State Park units on the east side of the lake, or reserve a cabin/room at Hill's Resort or Elkin's Resort. Beaver Creek CG provides excellent access to the Thorofare channel, as does the Lionhead unit of Priest Lake State Park. However, it looks like only on the Indian Creek unit of the park will be open this fall because of road construction.

Some things I'd recommend doing while you're visiting Priest Lake: 

  • Go mountain biking on the Lake Shore Trail. It's a 7-mile intermediate ride along the west shoreline of Priest Lake to the northern end of the lake. The singletrack trail winds through the dark shadowy cedar forests above the lakeshore and then drops down to the lake, where you can take a swim, and then climbs again into the trees. The trail is pretty smooth with some roots and rocks. Super fun! 
  • At the end of the Lake Shore Trail, you can keep going on the Priest Lake Navigation Trail, a singletrack which continues in a northerly direction and connects to Upper Priest Lake. The Navigation trail runs for about 5 miles to a dead-end at Upper Priest. Turn around, and retrace your tracks to the trailhead. Take your time and enjoy it! It's just so unusual to be able to ride along the shore of a beautiful lake, without it being a suffer fest like so many other Idaho mountain trails!
    The newly deepened Thorofare channel is popular with all kinds of boaters.

  • Paddle or SUP the Thorofare to Upper Priest Lake. It's only about 2.5 miles to the upper lake.  
A kayaker comes equipped to go fishing at the tip of the new Breakwater feature.

Priest Lake Flickr page shows the Breakwater feature prior to the lake refilling this spring.
  • Go boating on Priest Lake. For folks who have their own power boat or sail boat, it's a big lake to explore! With 80 miles of shoreline, the lake also has many sandy beach type areas where you can pull up, hang out and go swimming or whatever.  
    Craig Hill of Hill's Resort tows a waterskier on an early morning sheet of glass on Priest Lake.

  • Stay at Hill's Resort or Elkin's Resorts and live it up a little! Both provide comfortable lodging,  outdoor dining and boat access to the lake. Hill's also has golf. 
  • Bring your fishing pole. Priest Lake has a mix of warm water and cold water fish species that you can catch including cutthroat trout, small mouth bass and lake trout. Thanks to IDFG for the information. 
    Upper Priest River Trail (courtesy Dave 'n Kathy's Vagabond Blog)

  • Hike or bike the Upper Priest River Trail - This is a 16-mile out-and-back trip or 20 miles total to a natural waterfall and pool at the Canadian border. The Upper Priest River Trail is also the northern-most section of the Idaho Centennial Trail. It's a super cool hike/ride through cedars and rotting old-growth trees on the ground that have blondish lichens growing on them. Sometimes I thought I was seeing a grizzly out of the corner of my eye when I rode that trail. 
That ought to keep you busy for a while! Have fun!
- SS

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