Color Codes for snowmobile map
green - family trails
pink - great views
yellow - high mountain ridges
Upper 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.
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.
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.
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.
Sundance Mountain Lookout
This lookout is accessible with vehicles; there are trails at the top near the lookout.
Take Highway 57 to the Dickensheet Road going into Coolin (approximately 7 miles). Turn right at the Community Hall onto Cavanaugh Bay/Eastshore Road and go approximately 3/4 mile to Road #19 and turn right. Travel up this Road #19 for 0.9 miles to the junction of Roads #19/191. Bear right on Road #19 and follow for 2.8 miles to the junction of Roads #19/2. Take left onto Road #2 and follow for 1.4 miles to the junction of Roads #2/207. Bear right onto Road #207 and ascend for 2.3 miles to the lookout. The road is rough and 4-wheel drive is recommended.