Priest Lake State Park is a Northern Idaho escape that includes scenic views, amazing hikes, and wonderful campgrounds. Planning a trip? Learn everything you need to know about this Idaho State Park.
Whether you're hoping to fish, hike, snowmobile, boat, or camp, there is something to do at Priest Lake for everyone! Unlike many lakes in the Pacific Northwest, Priest Lake is popular year-round.
Did you know? Upper Priest Lake is only accessible by foot or boat.
Where is Priest Lake State Park?
Priest Lake State Park is in Northern Idaho only 30 miles south of the Canadian border. There, you'll find some truly stunning mountain views and Priest Lake itself, a 19-mile lake that reaches depths of up to 300 feet.
The lake is in Coolin, Idaho, and is usually accessed by driving Highway 56 from Priest River north to Dickensheet Road through Coolin and then 11 miles up Cavanaugh Bay Road, or E Shore Road.
Directions to Priest Lake State Park
Use the map below to navigate to Priest Lake State Park:
About the Park
Priest Lake is a year-round destination in northern Idaho. The lake is fed by snowmelt from the surrounding Selkirk Mountain peaks and is popular with locals and visitors. In the park's vicinity, you can find more than 400 miles of snowmobile trails.
Around the park, visitors will enjoy scenic views of green forests filled with cedar, fir, and tamarack trees. Priest Lake State Park is also a great place for spotting wildlife, like osprey and whitetail deer.
Why Visit Priest Lake State Park?
Priest Lake is one of the best destinations in northern Idaho for water-based activities like boating, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and paddling. It's 19 miles long so there is also plenty of shorelines to explore.
The lake is well-known for its extremely clear water, setting it apart from other lakes in the Pacific Northwest. If you're feeling adventurous you can even trek to Upper Preist Lake which is not accessible by car. Mountain biking in Priest Lake State Park is also very popular.
Best Time to Visit Priest Lake State Park
Priest Lake is open year-round! You can come in the spring, summer, fall, or winter to enjoy the lake's amenities and natural features. In the summer, you can enjoy the crystal clear water for swimming and boating while in the winter you'll want to break out the snowmobile to drive the 400 miles of established trails.
At Priest Lake we highly recommend you check out:
Cavanaugh Bay Beach and Cavanaugh Resort
Views of Chimney Rock in the Selkirk Mountains
3 Best Hikes in Priest Lake State Park
Priest Lake is very well-known as a great destination for easy, moderate, and difficult day hikes. If you love hiking and are nearby, you'll want to check out what Priest Lake has to offer. Keep reading to learn more about these fantastic Priest Lake hikes.
#1 Woodrat Trail
The Woodrat Trail is near Outlet Bay in the southern part of Priest Lake. The trailhead is very close to Highway 57 meaning that it's easily accessible for visitors with less time at the lake.
You'll take the Pack Trail north along the west side of Priest Lake before turning around about 1.75 miles into the hike. You can also make your trek longer, by enjoying any of the many winding trails in this area.
#2 Upper Priest Lake Trail
This much longer trail is almost exactly 19 miles in length. Most people choose to do a portion of it but you can spend the entire day exploring its many miles.
Despite its length, the trail is pretty easy. It gains little elevation as it takes you from the northern end of Priest Lake to Upper Priest Lake and beyond. Most people choose to turn around at Upper Priest Lake.
#3 Priest Lake Area Trail
The Priest Lake Area Trail is one of the more popular trails on the western shore of Priest Lake. It's quite short at only 2 miles and very easy, gaining less than 100 feet in elevation.
The trail takes you along the west shore of Priest Lake from Luby Bay Campground. As with all the trails around Priest Lake, you can make your hike longer if you want to.
Camping in Priest Lake State Park
If you're visiting Priest Lake and want to camp, you won't have any shortage of options. There are many campgrounds near Priest Lake to choose from.
West Shore Campgrounds
Reeder Bay Campground
A peaceful campground in the shade of large cedar trees. There are paved parking spots, flush toilets, water, and more. No electric sites can be found at Reeder Bay Campground.
Luby Bay Campground
Luby Bay Campground is a popular site near Lamb Creek and Priest Lake. The sites are very secluded with large trees on all sides. Many of the sites also have great views of the Selkirk Mountains. The campground is very close to a day-use area that you can park in for $8 a day.
Upper Priest Lake Campgrounds
There are a few campsites in Upper Priest Lake. They are:
Navigation Campground is the furthest north of the Priest Lake campgrounds. There are picnic tables, fire rings, and food storage boxes. There is no fresh water. The campground is not accessible by car.
Closer to the channel between the two lakes, Plowboy Campground is on the lake's southwest shore. There, you'll find picnic tables, food storage boxes, and vault toilets. There is no fresh water or electricity. It is only accessible via boat or hiking.
Priest Lake Island Campgrounds
Did you know you can camp on two of Priest Lake's seven islands? You'll need to bring in your own water and garbage bags and refrain from bringing any glass bottles, fireworks, or washing anything in the lake.
The smaller of the two islands in Priest Lake, Bartoo Island hosts two different campgrounds.
Bartoo Island Group Site
There are a total of 25 sites on the island, ranging from $10 to $15. 24 of these are single sites, and the 25th is the large group site that's sometimes known as SUnrise Group Camp. There, you can find space for 10-30 people.
Remember, all of these sites are only reachable by boat!
Kalispell Island Camping
This larger, 264-acre island incredibly plays host to four different campgrounds:
Three Pines Campground
North Cove Campground
Rocky Point Campground
There are 52 sites in total spread out between the various campgrounds. There is also the Three Pines Group Site that can hold between 10 and 30 people.