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Your Guide to Accessing Upper Priest Lake

As one of northern Idaho’s most pristine and least developed lakes, Priest Lake can seem like worlds away, particularly when accessing Upper Priest Lake. But the secluded location of Upper Priest Lake is more easily accessible than you might think.

Located in the northernmost portion of the state’s panhandle, Priest Lake, Idaho rests 80 miles northeast of Spokane, Washington, with the very northern end of the lake extending within 15 miles of the Canadian border. The Selkirk Mountain Range surrounds the lake, providing stellar scenery for adventurers.

Priest Lake lies at an elevation of 2,500 feet and spans a total of 25 miles and up to 300 feet deep. It is surrounded by more than 80 miles of shoreline with sandy beaches and seven individual islands. The lake area is divided into two sections: Lower and Upper Priest Lake. Lower Priest Lake is the most accessible to visitors and where you will find many amenities and lodging options, such as Elkins Resort.

Accessing Upper Priest Lake

Upper Priest Lake covers only 1,700 acres and is 3.5 miles long and less than a mile wide. It is more remote and is connected by a 2.5-mile thoroughfare to Lower Priest Lake. The only way to access the upper lake is on foot, by way of boat, or mountain bike. Campsites are readily available at the lake for any overnight camping options. Fishing is excellent at the upper lake, with wildlife filling the forests and shoreline. Combined with its minimal modern amenities and limited accessibility, Upper Priest Lake is a truly hidden oasis for anyone seeking solitude and the wild wilderness. 

By boat

Enjoy the solitude and stunning beauty of boating on the Thorofare – a 2.5-mile water channel that links Lower Priest Lake with Upper Priest Lake. Boating the channel is a popular activity, where you meander through spectacular forested scenery and shallow, crystal-clear waters that offers an unlimited view of the channel’s bottom. Plus, with its “no wake” zone, it’s ideal for canoeists and kayakers.

By foot or bike

Or if you prefer, you can hike or bike to Upper Priest Lake via the Navigation Trail. The trail first views Upper Priest Lake at Plowboy Campground, 3 miles one way, making it a great day hike option.  For an overnight adventure, continue to Navigation Campground, making the hike a full 19.2 miles, round trip. The trail is rated easy with little elevation gain with the first three miles following a verdant trail to the lake where it opens and follows the shoreline. Discover coastal-like rainforests with abundant ferns, moss, and vibrant green foliage surrounding you. Do note the trail crosses through grizzly country. Directions from Reeder Bay to the Upper Priest Lake Trailhead can be found here. Expect about a 15–20-minute drive from Elkins Resort to the trailhead, perfect for a day outing to explore more of Idaho’s Panhandle. 

Stay at Elkins Resort on Priest Lake

Experience the best of Priest Lake with a stay at Elkins Resort. Resting on the shores of Reeder Bay, our year-round lodging features 30 cedar cabins and beautiful views of Priest Lake. Whether you want a cabin on the lake or a creek-side cabin, we offer the comfort and peaceful retreat you are looking for, no matter the season. Each accommodation provides a full kitchen, bathroom, and living area, with some equipped with a fireplace and views of the lake.

Complete your Priest Lake vacation and book your stay with us today!