Priest Lake Idaho photo shot on 35mm film.

The Ultimate Guide: 9 Essential Facts About Priest Lake, Idaho

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Priest Lake, Idaho and the surrounding area is jam packed with outdoor activities, landscapes and wildlife. This basically describes all of North Idaho, but trust me when I tell you that Priest Lake is like the crown jewel.

Priest Lake offers the best of North Idaho. If you need some nature therapy, look no further.

1. What is Priest Lake known for?

Priest Lake, Idaho is a gem in the Selkirk Mountains of North Idaho known for its crystal clear waters, beautiful forests and abundant wildlife. It is the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and anyone seeking a relaxing escape to nature.

The small communities around the Priest Lake serve as a hub for visitors to the lake and surrounding area. The lake itself, however, is the main attraction and draws a variety of visitors from all over the area. It’s a beloved destination for many.

There’s not signs that the increase in tourism around the lake will slow down. It will likely continue to attract visitors even if the locals would wish for it to remain a little lesser known. Priest Lake offers a unique glimpse into the beauty and natural wonders of North Idaho.

2. Wildlife at Priest Lake, Idaho

Priest Lake is home to a diverse range of wildlife. It’s a haven for nature lovers, hunters and wildlife photographers.

Some of the most common wildlife species in the area include deer, elk, moose, black bears, and mountain lions. Keep your eyes open and youI don’t carry binoculars with me everywhere I go, but anytime I head to the mountains near Priest Lake, they are in the glove box.

I use the Vortex Diamondback 10×42 HD. They are by far the best value for the money. If you’re not a full time birder, or hunter these are the perfect binoculars for you.

The Binoculars i use

Vortex Optics Diamondback HD Binoculars 10×42

These binoculars have a full unlimited lifetime warranty. I’ve spoken to the team at Vortex HQ in Wisconsin and they are the most down to earth and fun people. I don’t hesitate at all recommending these binoculars.

Is there good fishing in Priest lake, Idaho?

Priest Lake is the second largest lake in Bonner Country at 23,334.9 acres. According to the Idaho Department of Water Resources, pristine wilderness surrounds the lake where the water is “clear and clean” creating great recreational fishing opportunities.

Idaho Fish and Game does a great job of educating students in the local elementary schools, and I personally know several people who do this work for Fish and Game. They sincerely want Idaho residents and visitors to be able to enjoy the natural resources that Priest Lake offers for years to come.

Due your part if you’re interested in visiting and read up on the latest news and information on their website here: Idaho Fish and Game – Priest Lake

What kind of fish are in Priest Lake?

The most common fish for anglers in Priest Lake are:

When is the Priest Lake Kids Fishing Derby?

Keep an eye on the calendar over that the Priest Lake Chamber of Commerce website for an announcement of the Priest Lake Fishing Derby for kids. It’s usually in May and is hosted at the Priest Lake Golf Course.

It’s a ton of fun with free fishing rods given to the kids, a chance to meet Smokey Bear and learn about conservation. Everyone gets a free hotdog meal served up by volunteers from the Department of Fish and Game.

3. What are the best towns near Priest Lake?

Priest River

There are a few other towns near Priest Lake. One of the most popular towns is Priest River, which is located about 30-40 minutes south.

Priest River is home to a few neat shops downtown, a handful of restaurants, plenty of espresso stands, and a grocery store. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon, eat dinner, and load up with last minute supplies for weekend at the lake.

Priest River also hosts a couple annual events that are fun for families including the Priest River Timber Days and the Priest River Sprint Boat Races (rowing competitions).


Another nearby town worth visiting is Sandpoint, which is located about 50 miles away and takes approximately 1 hour to drive there.

Sandpoint is a larger town with a population of around 7,500 people, and it offers a lot more options. Visitors to Sandpoint often walk the downtown area, which is packed with small shops, gift stores, and restaurants. The main attractions in Sandpoint however is Lake Pend Oreille, and the nearby Schweitzer Mountain Resort that offers a great experience whether you’re skiing, snowboarding, or mountain biking.

4. Landscape Photography at Priest lake

Priest Lake is located in a stunning natural setting, surrounded by mountains, lush forests, and crystal clear waters.

The lake itself is one of the largest natural lakes in Idaho, stretching for over 19 miles in length and boasting a depth of over 300 feet. Visitors to Priest Lake can explore the many hiking trails that wind through the surrounding forests, or they can simply relax on the shore and take in the stunning views.

It is a photographer’s dream and there are landscape opportunities year round at Priest Lake.

5. Best Outdoor Activities at Priest Lake

Priest Lake, Idaho offers a wide range of activities for visitors of all ages and interests.

If you’re not sure where to start here are three great ideas: Three Priest Lake Idaho Adventures

Some of the most popular activities in the area include:

  • fishing
  • hunting
  • boating
  • swimming
  • hiking
  • mountain biking
  • horseback riding

During the winter months, Priest Lake slows down quite a bit. While it’s just as beautiful there are very few tourists and the wilderness is wide open for the locals. Fresh snow transforms the mountains into a winter wonderland. There’s plenty of space for cross country skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing.

6. Where to camp at Priest Lake Idaho?

There are multiple camping sites at Priest Lake ranging from primitive campsites to RV parks with full hookups. Priest Lake State Park is one of the biggest and most popular campgrounds. But don’t miss out on the lesser known hidden gems that surround the lake.

Priest Lake State Park

One of the most popular camping locations is the Priest Lake State Park, which offers over 150 campsites and a variety of amenities, including showers, restrooms, and picnic areas. The state park is also home to several boat launches, making it a great place for boating and fishing enthusiasts.

Don’t miss out on the lesser known campgrounds like Beaver Creek!

Beaver Creek Campground

One of my favorite campgrounds is Beaver Creek Campground on north end of the lake just below the thoroughfare that leads to Upper Priest Lake. It’s a longer drive, and little more secluded.

The campsites are private and there is great paddling, hiking, and beach all close by. It’s a perfect spot to launch from to paddle your way up to Upper Priest Lake.

Refer to the US Forest Service Website for up to date information about Beaver Creek Campground.

7. Why should Priest Lake be on your travel bucket list?

There are countless reasons to visit Priest Lake, Idaho, whether you are seeking outdoor adventure, relaxation, or a combination of both. Here are just a few reasons why this stunning area should be on your travel bucket list:

  1. Stunning Natural Beauty – Priest Lake is known for its crystal clear waters, towering trees, and stunning mountain views, making it a must-visit destination for nature lovers.
  2. Abundant Wildlife – From deer and elk to black bears and mountain lions, Priest Lake is home to a diverse range of wildlife, making it a haven for wildlife enthusiasts.
  3. Outdoor Adventure – Whether you enjoy fishing, boating, hiking, or skiing, Priest Lake offers a wide range of outdoor activities and adventures for visitors of all ages and interests.
  4. Charming Small Towns – The area surrounding Priest Lake is home to several charming small towns, including Priest River and Sandpoint, which offer a variety of shops, restaurants, and galleries.
  5. Camping and RVing – With a variety of camping and RV parks in the area, visitors can enjoy the beauty of Priest Lake while camping or RVing with family and friends.
  6. Chance of seeing Northern Lights!

8. What about Upper Priest Lake?

It’s hard to imagine Priest Lake could get any better, and then there is Upper Priest Lake. Upper Priest Lake is a natural paradise. Surrounded by the Selkirk Mountains, and just south of the Canadian border,it is no wonder those who have been there once long to go back.

How do I get to Upper Priest Lake?

Upper Priest Lake is only accessible by boat or hiking. You can launch a canoe from Beaver Creek Campground on the west side of the lake, or from Lionshead Campground on the East side of the lake.

Upper Priest Lake which is situated directly north of Priest lake, is connected to Priest Lake like by a channel of water called the Thoroughfare.

It is a relatively easy paddle by canoe on a still day. It’s well worth taking your time and enjoying the views on the way there. If you look carefully you may spot a moose coming down to the water to drink. You will also likely see a variety of waterfowl.

One of the unique aspects of Upper Priest Lake is that it has a special set of fishing rules. This includes a catch-and-release requirement for all cutthroat trout. Fish and Game hopes that this will ensure that the fish population remains healthy and abundant.

Camping at Upper Priest Lake

Visitors to Upper Priest Lake are typically seeking a little more primitive style of camping. There are just a few designated campsites . Each are operated under a “leave no trace” policy to help preserve the area’s natural beauty.

These two lakes have a rich history. They were occupied and used by indigenous people for thousands of years, and later by fur traders in the 1800s. Today, they offer a glimpse into the rich history and natural wonders of northern Idaho.

Photos for License

Priest Lake


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9. Is Priest Lake a hidden gem?

Priest Lake, Idaho has long been a local gem, cherished by those who have known about its beauty for generations. However, in recent years, the secret of Priest Lake has gotten out. The area has become a popular summer resort destination for many out of town tourists.

An increase in tourism has brought some economic benefits to the area. It has also changed the character of Priest Lake, with more crowds and development.

Despite this, the natural beauty and recreational opportunities of the area remain. Priest Lake continues to be a special destination for those seeking outdoor adventure and relaxation.

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