Priest Lake, Idaho lined with sandy beaches, surrounded by national and state forests, watched over by the majestic Selkirk Mountains, lies a 23,000 acre lake (72 miles of shoreline) surrounded by 523,000 acres of forested public lands. To say fish thrive in Priest Lake would be an understatement. Trophy fishing includes Mackinaw trout, Dolly Vardens, Cutthroat and Rainbow Trout.
This area provides year-round recreational opportunities including over 400 miles of groomed snowmobile trails for winter enjoyment. In the summer, take a swing at Priest Lake Golf Course. A number of lakeside resorts and campgrounds make this an ideal place to relax. For a peek at local life in the early 1900’s, visit Vinter Nelson Cabin, an original homestead & museum on Eightmile Island (via boat only).
Upper Priest Lake, designated as a Scenic Area in 1986, is managed as a roadless area and offers a unique opportunity for a serene wilderness boating and boat camping experience. The entire shoreline is owned by either the State of Idaho or the US Forest Service. Hiking enthusiasts will surely want to explore Tillicum Creek Path. North of the lake, (13 miles north of Nordman on Forest Road 302) at Roosevelt Grove don’t miss the grandeur of ancient cedar trees (ranging from 800 to 2,000 years old). One cedar tree even has an eclectic collection of shoes. There is also a path leading to Granite Falls, one of Idaho’s most spectacular water falls.
Visible from Priest Lake is Chimney Rock, a mass of granite jutting upwards, carved out by converging glaciers. It requires technical expertise to climb and rappelling knowledge to descend. So unless you are a skilled mountaineer, don’t attempt this climb except with your eyes, seeking out and admiring those who know what they are doing.
Priest Lake creates a hiker’s paradise where one can very easily escape to the solitude and beauty of Mother Nature. Each trail has its own unique characteristics that vary from deep, virgin cedar forests, to panoramic vistas of the Selkirk Mountains and the lake, to shoreline excursions that afford easy access to magnificent sandy beaches. Numerous close-in day hike trailheads, as well as trail routes that lead into the backcountry, are adjacent to resorts campgrounds and other lodging facilities. The Priest Lake Ranger District maintains a hiking trail system on the federal lands to the west, northwest, and along the west shorelines of both Priest Lake and Upper Priest Lake. The trails are well marked and free from most obstacles. A Priest Lake trails booklet is available free of charge at the Priest Lake Ranger District office.
The Priest Lake Area Office of the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) manages the state-owned lands to the east of Priest Lake. These state lands are managed exclusively as endowment lands to support the Idaho public school system. The trails on endowment lands are not maintained and travel may include negotiating downfalls and brush as well as using route finding skills. High clearance or 4X4 vehicles are recommended for accessing trailheads.