Great Hiking Adventures at Priest Lake
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.
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. The local area office produced informal hiking maps that are available to the public.
The Priest Lake Trails app can be downloaded on your mobile phone for your
convenience and it works without the internet.
BEACH TRAIL #48
This trail is an easy hike that follows the west shoreline and passes in front of many leased cabins. The 6-mile trail leaves from Outlet Bay Campground, passes through Osprey and Luby Bay Campgrounds, the Priest Lake Museum and Hill’s Resort and terminates at the Kalispell Bay Boat Launch. The trail crosses the Lakeshore Road # 237 twice just south of Hill’s Resort so use caution when crossing the road.
North Trailhead Access
Take Highway 57 to Kalispell Bay Road go right towards Priest Lake Marina. Go approximately 1 mile then go right towards Priest Lake Marina and the Kalispell Bay Boat Launch. Continue past the marina on Lakeshore Road to the Kalispell Bay boat launch. Trail access is located at the south end of the boat launch parking area.
South Trailhead Access
To access the south end of the trail, turn off Highway 57 onto the Outlet Bay Road (mile post 26). Drive approximately 1/2-mile and turn left onto the Lakeshore Road. Drive another 1/2-mile and turn left across from the Outlet Bay Campground into the Woodrat Trail parking; head down to the beach in the campground and you will find the trail. This trail is open to foot traffic only.
KALISPELL/REEDER TRAIL #365
Many scenic views of the lake are available along this trail that is approx. 4.5 miles long. It crosses an old ski hill on the Southern end, continues through private land for about 1 mile and proceeds north another 3 miles terminating at Elkins Resort on Priest Lake.
Southern Trail Access:
Take Hwy 57 to the Kalispell Bay road go East approx 2 miles to the Kalispel day use area and park. The trailhead is located at a locked gate across the road from the Kalispell Day-Use area, approx 1 mile beyond the Community Church. From the trailhead, follow the road behind the gate for approximately 1 mile until you see the Lakeview Trail #365 sign to the right.
Northern Trail Access:
The North trailhead is located at Elkins on Priest Lake, near the lodge. Cross the footbridge that spans Reeder Creek and follow the trail from that point. The length of the trail is 4 ½ miles. This is a multiple use trail that includes foot, mountain bike, motorized vehicles and horse traffic.
LAKEVIEW MOUTAIN TRAIL #269
This trail boasts panoramic views of the lake and surrounding mountains from the top. As the trail descends down the west side of the mountain, several more panoramic viewpoints will attract your attention. This portion of the trail passes through stands of Douglas fir, pine, young cedar and open hillsides. The total length of the trail is approx 5 ½ miles and it is rated “More Difficult.” The beginning elevation of the trail is 2,640 feet and climbs to approximately 4,070 feet before descending back down to near lake level.
West Side Trail Access:
This trail begins on the West side of Lakeview Mountain, across from Bismark Meadows off HWY 57 (approx 1 mile south of Nordman). For the initial 1 ½ miles of the trail, it switchbacks up the steeper West side of the mountain. The first panoramic views of the lake and surrounding mountains are near the 2-mile mark. This trail can be followed to trail #365 and then north to Elkins or South to Kalispel Bay Day use area.
East Side Trail Access:
Take HWY 57 North to Nordman then turn east onto Reeder Bay Road. Follow Reeder Bay Road/ USFS Road #2512 to Elkins Resort and take the Kalispell Reeder Bay trail # 365 about 1 mile south to access the #269 from the East. This is a multiple use trail that includes foot, mountain bike, motorcycles vehicles and horse traffic
LAKESHORE TRAIL #294
This is a very popular and well-used trail. It traverses the west shoreline for approx 7 ½ miles from just north of Granite Creek to Beaver Creek Campground. It is an easy trail that crosses five streams and has many grand views of the lake and the Selkirk Crest situated on the east side of the lake. There are numerous access points to isolated beaches that make great picnic locations.
At Nordman, turn east onto Reeder Bay Road. Follow Reeder Bay Road/ USFS Road #2512 for approx 4.7 miles. The first of four designated trailheads is on the right side of the road with two additional trailheads further up the road with the fourth at the south end of the Beaver Creek Boat Launch. The trail is designated for foot, mountain bike, and horse traffic.
HUFF LAKE INTERPRETIVE SITE
The Huff Lake Interpretive Site is an example of a valley peatland located in north Idaho. Peatlands are formed when large amounts of organic material or “peat” accumulate in a waterlogged area. The deep layers of peat transform the area into a harsh habitat - wet; acidic, nutrient-poor - but remarkably stable and long lived. Volunteer partners have constructed an informational kiosk, viewing platform, and approximately 90 feet of boardwalk with interpretive signing for visitors to use. Huff Lake is also a popular spot for moose and other forest critters. Come check out this unique setting and the beauty that comes with it. But please enjoy Huff Lake from the deck and trail only as it is very sensitive to disturbance.
Travel 11 ¼ miles north from Nordman, following State Highway 57 and Forest Road 302 (gravel) until you see the interpretive signs on the east side of the road.
Granite Falls #301
The North Fork Granite Creek winds through stands of towering ancient western red cedar trees. Some of these towering giants date back 1000 to 2000 years. Wildflowers dot the forest floor with shades of pink, yellow, blue or white, with a different display for spring, summer and fall. Species that are commonly encountered include lily of the valley, spring beauty, trilliums, violets, foamflower, and wild ginger. The cool, moist temperatures of this secluded snap shot of history make this site a wonderful place to visit on a hot, dry summer day. There are three trails, two trails are maintained from the trailhead and one is north of the parking area. An easily hiked trail of 365 feet runs along the creek bringing hikers to a viewpoint of the Lower Granite Creek Falls cascading over a sheer rock wall. There is a one-mile loop trail of moderate difficulty that leads up the old road for 200 feet above the trailhead. This longer trail will bring you through a series of switchbacks to views of the Upper Granite Creek Falls and the Lower Granite Creek Falls. Ancient cedars can be viewed in the parking area and through a short loop trail just North of the parking area.
Take Hwy 57 North, Hwy 57 turns into graveled Forest Service Rd #302 approx. 4 miles past Nordman. Travel north on Rd. #302 approx. 12 miles turn left into the Stagger Inn / Granite Falls picnic area, park in the parking area, two trails starts in the in the parking area.
Hanna Flat Trail #600
The Hanna Flats Cedar Grove includes a very interesting and educational 1/4-mile interpretive nature trail. The trail takes you beneath immense trees that have survived generations of homesteading, logging, firestorms and centuries of nature’s wrath. In addition to the cedars, the grove also contains numerous other trees, shrubs and plants. Eight different species of trees, ten species of shrubs and over a dozen plant species have been identified in the grove. This is a very family friendly trail.
Take Hwy 57 north just past the Kalispell Bay road, (between the 31& 32 mile marker) just south of the airport. Turn left following the signs on to FS #313, go approx. 1 mile to the parking area where there is parking for five cars and a vault toilet.
Kalispell Island #49
This trail is an extremely easy hike that is approx. 2.5 miles around Kalispell Island. The trail runs along the back of campsites, so staying on the trail is important.
Take Highway 57 to Kalispell Bay Road (milepost 31¼) and go East travel approx. 1 mile and turn right onto the West Lakeshore Road towards the Priest Lake Marina. Just past the marina turn left at the Kalispell Bay Boat Launch.
This trail is ONLY accessible by boat. Boaters can access the island by going to Kalispell Vista or Sandy Point Day Use areas. Once on the island, the trail can be accessed from any point.
Navigation Trail #291
This is an excellent trail that leads to developed campgrounds located at the north end of Upper Priest Lake (Navigation Campground) and the south end of Upper Priest Lake (Plowboy Campground). The trail passes through valley and side hill terrain. Along the trail there is an old homesteaded cabin, beaver ponds, abundant wildlife, riparian areas and scenic views. Trail is approx. 8 miles long.
Southern Trail Access :
At Nordman turn east onto Reeder Bay Road. Stay on the main road approx. 12 miles to Beaver Creek Campground. Turn right toward the campground then left uphill to the trailhead. Pull-through parking is available for trailers.
Northern Trail Access:
North on Hwy 57, Hwy 57 turns into graveled Forest Service Rd #302 approx. 4 miles past Nordman. Travel north on Rd. #302 approx. 14 miles until it turns into Rd. #1013 at the Granite Pass junction. The road to the trailhead is on the right side, located 5.5 miles up Rd. #1013. (1 mile past the Hughes Meadows turnoff.) Stock trailer parking is available.
The Rock Slides, Not a Disneyland ride
Caution should be taken when enjoying the rock slides. Should you get injured while at the slides, EMS response and extrication will take hours to accomplish depending on weather and other conditions.
Please be careful. Be respectful of others and "Pack it in Pack it out"
One final word: Please help keep the Priest Lake area pristine so it will be as enjoyable for future generations as it has been for you… PACK IT IN-PACK IT OUT. Use and protect this wonderful resource so that future generations may find their wilderness legacy a reflection of our care and concern for the magnificent natural environment of Priest Lake. Happy Hiking!!