Upper Priest Falls

Upper Priest FallsUpper Priest Falls is situated less than a mile from the Canadian border. This enchanting falls is located deep in the forest a few miles east of the Salmo-Priest Wilderness Area. The shortest route to reach Upper Priest Falls is to drive to the Continental trailhead Trail 28 and hike the 2.3-mile trail that terminates at the falls.

Trail 28 is one of the more scenic trails in the Priest Lake area. It leads through an old growth cedar stand to the river bottom. Huckleberries, thimbleberries, devils club, and ferns grow thick along the trail. Once at the river, the trail turns to an open flat area that offers an excellent camping site. The trail then crosses Malcom Creek and leads to Upper Priest Falls. The elevation change of Trail 28 is 840 feet and is rated by the USFS as "more difficult".

To reach Trail 28 trailhead, travel north from Nordman 35 1/2 miles on USFS Road 302/1013 (an extension of State Highway 57) to the end of the road. The trailhead is located on the left side of Road 1013 just prior to the gate.


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With over 70 miles of shoreline, much of which is public lands, Priest Lake offers a wide variety of swimming and beach recreation opportunities.

On the east side of the Lake, both Indian Creek and Lionhead Units of Priest Lake State Park have excellent day use areas on large sandy beaches with designated swimming areas. At both sites, day use visitors also have access to grills, picnic tables, rest rooms, etc. During the summer season, Indian Creek unit offers a wide variety of organized activities that are available to both campers and day use visitors. Public boat docking facilities are also available in the vicinity of the launch ramps at both park units.

There are also beaches along Huckleberry Bay and Canoe Point that have public easements. The best access to these beaches is via boat as private property often precludes access from the landward side. All are primitive, without facilities. A small public beach is also located just north of Bishop's Marina in Coolin.

On the west side of the Lake, the USFS Priest Lake Ranger District maintains day use/picnic facilities at Luby Bay Campground and at Reeder Bay Campground (Ledgewood Picnic Area). Both have beach access and the normal array of picnic tables, fire pits, etc. There is a $3 charge to use the Luby Bay Picnic Area, but no charge at Ledgewood. The District also maintains day use areas on Kalispell and Bartoo Islands and the designated camping areas on those islands are also available for day use provided there is no conflict with campers. Likewise, the four designated campgrounds on Upper Priest Lake are also available for day use if not fully occupied by campers.

There are also numerous public land beaches on the west shoreline, primarily towards the northern end of the Lake. The beaches are accessible only via boat or short excursions off main hiking trails. These beaches are seldom crowded and often provide a 'private beach' for day use visitors. Eightmile Island also has a day use beach area. All of these uncontrolled beaches are PACK-IT-IN PACK-IT-OUT areas.

None of the resorts on the lake have public, day use swimming/picnic areas.


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Sundance Mountain

Sundance Mountain
The landscape at the southern end of Priest Lake is dominated by Sundance Mountain. In late summer of 1967, a forest fire erupted on Sundance and eventually consumed approximately 56,000 acres on the mountain and adjacent areas. A lookout tower sits atop this 6,300 foot peak and the summit is accessible by high clearance, 4X4 vehicles during the summer.

In the winter, a major snowmobile route passes below the summit on the west side of the mountain at the 4,500 foot level. Depending on snow conditions, it is also sometimes possible to snowmobile to the summit of the mountain. However, even at the lower trail elevation, the views of the lake and surrounding mountains are spectacular. Don't be surprised to see deer, or a moose in the forest leading up to Sundance Mountain.

If you want a really sporting adventure and have eaten your Wheaties, try your hand (and body) at mountain biking "The Sundance". Only the bold and fit (and maybe those about a quarter bubble off the level) need apply here! Many start, but few finish the trip. Those who do reach the summit receive the reward of a wild, exhilarating, unforgettable downhill ride. The ever twisting, turning, tire-skidding downhill road drops the knobby-wheeler over 1,800 feet in the first 2+ miles!! Not much technical skill required here - just hang on, scream to the wind, AND ENJOY - YOU'VE CONQUERED "THE SUNDANCE"!!

For the more sedate adventurers who gave up climbing 6,000 foot peaks with their mountain bikes "a couple of years ago", Sundance is a more quieting experience. Its splendid views, crisp mountain air, and Mother Nature's bounty of flora and fauna beckon to the simple pleasures of life - a refreshing mind and body experience awaits you atop Sundance Mountain.

To drive to the summit from the Inn at Priest Lake in Coolin, proceed on the Cavanaugh Bay-East Lakeshore Road for about one mile until it intersects with State Forest Road #19. Turn right onto Road #19 and continue for .9 mile at which point you will be at the junction of Road #19 and #191. Bear right to continue on Road #19 and travel 2.8 miles. At this point, you will be at the junction of State Road #19 and #2. Turn left onto Road #2 and travel 1.4 miles until you arrive at the intersection with State Forest Road #207. Turn right onto Road #207 and ascend 2.3 miles to the lookout tower -and watch out for the "knobby wheelers".

NOTE: This road system is minimally maintained and travel may include negotiating downfalls, brush, and other obstacles. Land navigation equipment and skills may be required to remain on the correct roads as some are not well marked. High clearance or 4X4 vehicles are recommended for this route. Information and maps are available at the Idaho Department of Lands office at the foot of Cavanaugh Bay.

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