Be sure to make time to take a short 19 mile / 30 km diversion to what Idaho refers to as its “Crown Jewel.” Turn north on Hwy 57 just west of downtown Priest River for a scenic drive into the heart of the Selkirk Mountain Range to take in the pristine nature of this 23,000 acre, 19-mile long lake that is surrounded by State and National Forests offering a myriad of year-round recreational opportunities.
Coolin is a small community situated on the southern shores Priest Lake. At the Junction of Hwy 57, near the southern end of Priest Lake, turn east and follow the signs to Coolin. The Old Northern Inn is a beautifully restored home along the lakeshore.
The eastern shoreline of Priest Lake past Coolin offers the best views of the lake. There are several resorts along the east shore as well as Indian Creek and Lions Head Campgrounds.
In the summer season, the location and sheer size of Priest Lake afford ample space for all water sports activities. By powerboat, sailboat, canoe, kayak, or personal watercraft, the 72-mile shoreline, the seven islands, and miles of public white sandy beach beckon for exploration. If fishing is your forte, Priest Lake is renowned for its trophy sized lake trout (Mackinaw).
Upper Priest Lakelies to the north of Priest Lake and offers visitors a very unique experience. This 1,300-acre lake and surrounding mountains are a federally designated Scenic Area. As such, the area is restricted from development and remains as it has been for centuries past. Upper Priest Lake is accessible only via hiking and biking trails or a no-wake waterway named “The Thoroughfare.” The Thoroughfare and Upper Priest Lake are ideal playgrounds for kayakers and canoeist. There are numerous camping facilities available through the USFS and Idaho State Parks.
There are other designated camping areas accessible only by boat. Contact the Priest Lake Ranger District at (208) 443-2562 for reservations. There are also destination resorts, private RV parks and B&B’s. Full service marinas provide boat moorage, boat and personal watercraft rentals and repairs. Grocery stores, gift shops, galleries, a wide array of restaurants and other guest services are conveniently located around the lake.
“We especially enjoyed Priest Lake for the water and the area is so pristine …” – Joan Stevens, Portland, Oregon
In addition to water sports activities, miles of hiking and biking trails surround the lake. These trails present a wide variety of terrain options as well as spectacular views of the lakes and the Selkirk Mountains. Be prepared for the grandeur of 2,000-year old cedar groves, hidden waterfalls along sparkling clear mountain streams, and the ever-present variety of wildlife in the region. The world famous Priest Lake huckleberry creates much ado in late summer followed by fall mushroom forays in search of the 450+ species present in the area. And if you still have the energy, try a round of 18-holes on Priest Lake ’s challenging golf course.
Priest Lake is also becoming a popular winter season recreation area. The area boasts some 400+ miles of groomed snowmobile trails and over 500,000 acres of public land for off-trail riding. Numerous meadows, bowls and ridges are ideally suited for family fun while muscle machine aficionados will be challenged by “mountain goat” hill climbs. An ever-expanding cross-country skiing trail system also attracts numerous Nordic enthusiasts. Six separate trail systems totaling over 70 kilometers are suited for all levels of expertise.