What can be said about my personal love affair with Priest lake? As Idaho’s crowning gem it’s become a habit to visit. I’ve done a lot of trails in this area, kayaked it quite a bit too. From islands to private beaches, miles of travel or a short walk to camp in the woods. However I had not completed the upper Priest loop. Given the chance I made another stab at it last weekend. We had 4 days. Now I have had this guide-book about 10 years. 100 hikes in the Inland Northwest. I think that I know it by the back of my hand…. I don’t. We left with our backpacks Thursday morning.
Out of Nordman which is the town closest to upper Priest, you continue to drive to Beaver creek campground. There is a portage trail for canoes and kayaks here also. This portion of the trail is well maintained and shared with the mountain bikers. There are no fees for trail use, and a kiosk check in at the start. The trail is easy and it’s a 3 mile hike to Plowboy campground. All four of the upper Priest campgrounds have pit toilets, and bear boxes. Make sure you’re in an actually site, as the Ranger patrol will ticket you, and make you leave. Plowboy is a beautiful place to camp but not our destination. 3 more miles in and we arrive at Navigation campground. The trail was easy and it took about 3 hours to get here.
While setting up our camp the neighbor, Boyscout Bob stopped in. So I thought the trail looped the back half of the lake, and it does. In a way. To do the loop from Navigation you would continue 4 miles on Hatchery creek trail. Ohh wait there’s more, then walk 3 miles on forest road 1013. Then walk 5 miles on Trapper creek trail. It was thursday evening and we had bit off more than we could chew. The other option…. Was to try to ford Trapper creek. This seemed bleak as Floyd and I had a lot of electronics in our bags. Boyscout Bob had a boat. He offered a couple of solutions to our predicament.
After some sleep we took Bob up on one of his offers and decided to hitch a ride to Trapper creek campground. I must say it really is the best campground of upper Priest. With Bob’s advice we back tracked to the old cabin. We also had a fail proof plan in place with Bob. When we get back whistle and he’ll come get us. Followed by he’d be there at 6pm regardless and 3 shots from a gun means we were in trouble. Boyscout Bob knows his stuff and has been a troop leader for a long time. What was he doing up alone camped in the woods? Trail maintainance, he was replacing old trail signs, for ones he remade. Super cool!
From Trapper creek campground we hiked back towards the thoroughfare to Geisingers campground. The trail on the east side of the lake is nowhere near as well maintained. We really didn’t have a good reference on the mileage but in the end it was roughly 10 miles round trip. The frustrating part was a huge circumvention I didn’t know of. So up around and down…. Are we there yet! The trail to Geisingers is a spur I packed into last autumn. However we were on a day trip, so lunch and back to Trapper creek campground.
We made it back by 4:30 and Bob the boy scout ferried us back to our temporary home at Navigation campground. The mosquitoes had been insane the entire time we were at Priest. So getting done a day early was A Ok in my book. I guess all in all I’m quite pleased at completing those 2 trails on foot. I’m not sorry that we didn’t loop and would have worried if come Sunday we were waiting for Bob. He offered to pick us up and ferry us across the thoroughfare. Here’s a picture of the map as all these names are a confusing. Priest lake is beautiful, contact me personally with questions. Get out there!