Outdoors

Outdoor Trails

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.

Directions:

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.

 

Plowboy Mountain Trail #295

This trail offers much beauty in terrain and scenic views of Upper Priest Lake. This trail is very steep and approx. 6 miles one-way.

Directions:

At Nordman turn east onto Reeder Bay Road. Follow Reeder Bay Road/ USFS Road #2512 for 12 miles to Beaver Creek Campground at the end of the pavement stay left on Forest Service Rd. #1341. Trailhead is approx. 2½ miles on your right.

Trail can also be reached via Navigation Trail #291 at Navigation campground on Upper 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.

Directions:

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.

 

 

Hughes Meadow/Hughes Ridge Lookout

Hughes Ridge Lookout offers a spectacular view of Upper Priest Lake, Hughes Meadow and the surrounding mountains.  The tower is a 45-foot lookout manned for approx. three months during the summer fire season and visitors are welcome. The panoramic views are fantastic and provide a picture perfect setting for a picnic, don’t forget the camera.

Hughes Meadow is a large meadow located on the west side of Hughes Ridge. Depending on climatic conditions and beaver activity on the stream that flows through the meadow, it may be extremely marshy throughout the year from spring-fall. Numerous birds and wildlife frequent the meadow. Of particular interest is the cedar grove along the entrance road adjacent to Hughes Meadows. Here, old growth cedars stand majestically, as sentinels to a meadow access corridor. With the exception of snowmobiles recreational vehicles are prohibited on Hughes Meadow. Also, the access road into Hughes Meadow is closed to all vehicles each year from March 15-June 30.

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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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Swimming

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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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