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  • Writer's pictureChasingBuffaloesandBeyond

Northern Idaho's Hidden Gem - Priest Lake State Park

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

Entrance sign for Priest Lake State Park at Indian Creek in the shape of Idaho state.
Arriving at the Indian Creek Campground at Priest Lake State Park
Little boy on a log at Priest Lake Campground
Happy Camper!

Idaho - one of our favorite places to visit! We spent a wonderful three day weekend out at Priest Lake State Park. Located in Idaho's northern Panhandle, just 30 minutes south of the Canadian border, near the Selkirk Mountains. Priest Lake is a absolute gem! Priest Lake State Park consists of two different campground units, on the northern end of Priest Lake sits the more primitive Lionhead Unit Campground, a bit south sits the Indian Creek Unit Campground. We stayed at the Indian Creek Campground. We stayed in Site #60 and loved the proximity to the beach.



Day 1: Arrival - After working for part of the day before leaving, we didn't arrive until after dinner. We had just enough time to get our campsite set up and enjoy a bit of time strolling along the water's edge during sunset.

Colorful sunset over Priest Lake
Sunset at Priest Lake


 Man & toddler hiking hiking thru ferns and large trees at Hanna Flats Cedar Groove Trail
Hanna Flats Cedar Groove

Day 2: Ready for the day, we set off to get in some early morning hiking. We drove about 40 minutes from our campsite to the west side of Priest Lake to the Hanna Flats Cedar Grove Trail (0.7 mile loop). This area offers a nice interpretive walk thru an old growth forest that survived the 1926 fire that ravaged the area and is named for the homesteaders that lived here in the early 1900s. From here we drove another 15 minutes to the Roosevelt Groove of Ancient Cedars Trail (2.5 miles roundtrip). To get here drive 13 miles miles north of the town of Nordman on Forest Service Road 302. You will actually cross state lines and end up in Washington State for this hike. Walking this trail, not only will you view Cedar trees that are believed to be 800 to 2000 years old, but also Lower and Upper Granite Falls.



From here we decided to head back to the campground as the weather was starting to clear and it was time for some sand & sun at back at the campground. The beach here was a perfect spot to spend the afternoon. Building sand castles and swimming was a perfect way to spend the rest of the day!

Blue skies and clear blue waters at Priest Lake State Park in Idaho
Beautiful Priest Lake
Little boy playing in the sand at Priest Lake State Park beach area
Never enough sand - we loved playing at the beach at Priest Lake State Park


For dinner that evening we drove into the town of Coolin and ate at the Moose Knuckle Restaurant. This was a great spot to sit and relax while enjoying some live music out on the patio while eating! Brecken loved dancing to the music - what a wonderful evening!



Father and son fishing the clear waters of Priest River, Idaho
Learning to fish on the Priest River

Day 3: Fishing, Swimming & Kayaking - these were the activities for the day. To start, we set off to do some fishing along Priest River. We ended up spending some time at Dickensheet Campground as it offered wonderful river access for both fishing and playing in the river. The views here were gorgeous providing that iconic Idaho river setting. We also had a great time teaching Brecken how to fish - sadly, the BIG ONE got away before I could capture a picture of it!

Looking down the Priest River on a sunny summer day
Iconic Idaho River


Little boy sitting in a yellow kayak on Priest Lake
Ready to kayak!

After fishing it was time to head back to the campground for some beach time and kayaking on Priest Lake. We spent a good amount of time kayaking around the lake and enjoying the scenery. Someday though, there is a wonderful kayak trip we'd love to do when Brecken is a bit bigger - you can actually kayak thru a thoroughfare to Upper Priest Lake. Upper Priest Lake and Priest Lake are connected by a 2 mile water-way and looks to be an amazing paddle trip!

Father and son on a kayak while little boy learns to paddle.
Learning to kayak!


Day 4: On our last day, after packing up the campsite we decided to stop and see Albeni Falls Dam Visitor Center on our drive home. Albeni Falls Dam is located between Priest River, Idaho and Oldtown, Idaho and makes for an enjoyable stop. As we strolled thru the visitor center, we found that a Ranger-led Dam Tour was available in the next hour - perfect! After reading thru the exhibits in the visitor center, we decided to eat a quick lunch at the picnic tables overlooking the Dam while we waited for our upcoming tour. While on the tour, we learned all about the dam and it's history: Located on the Pend Orielle River, the dam was built in 1951 and is 90 feet high. It is named after the waterfalls that used to occupy this site - Albeni Falls. While not the largest of the dams in the United States, it is always enjoyable to join one of these tours and learn about about the location and history of these massive structures.


Interested in planning your own trip to Priest Lake State Park? Below is our summarized itinerary for you to follow or adjust to your own preferences. ENJOY!

Day 1: Arrive Priest Lake

Day 2: Hanna Flats Cedar Grove Trail (about 40 minute drive from campsite) and then another 15 minutes to (Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars - Granite Falls #301), back to campground for some beach time. Moose Knuckle Restaurant for dinner.

Day 3: Fishing on the Priest River at Dickensheet Campground, kayaking on Priest Lake

Day 4: Drive Home, Stop at Ableni Falls Dam Visitor Center, take a Ranger-led Dam Tour.

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1 Comment

Russell Payne
Russell Payne
Mar 22

thanks for the info.... it looks like a very underrated location. are there grizzlies in the region?

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