Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads. Upper Priest Lake, Idaho

Upper Priest Lake
Upper Priest Lake

When I was in high school I was on the swim team. My best events were always long distance. The longer the better. Why you may ask?  Because I am a master at pacing.

My dogs did not inherit this trait from me. Perhaps it is because they are not biologically mine. Shocking.

Navigation Trail

As we approached the Navigation Trail trailhead the dogs were pulling tight on the leash. They were excited about going on their hike. Little did they know they were about to embark upon our longest hike of the year so far. A 12 mile round trip. 

There would be no pacing for those two. 

Bear Grass on the Navigation Trail

For an avid hiker 12 miles may be a blip on the radar, but for us, it’s long distance. As we trekked along the trail that slowly meandered through the woods dotted with a few meadows, we took in the tranquilness and enjoyed how seculded it was.

Upper Priest Lake
Jovi and Boomer on the Navigation Trail

And when I say secluded, I mean it. The Navigation Trail leads to Upper Priest Lake and to quote Doc Brown from Back To The Future “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads” 

And maybe it’s not that we don’t need roads, but the reality is that there aren’t any roads.

The only way to get to Upper Priest Lake is by walking or boating.  I have done both and both were enjoyable.  However, the paddling resulted in fewer scars.

Scars?  Yep! It’s been 2 years since the dogs and I hiked the Navigation Trail and I still have war wounds from that trip.

It was a brutal year for mosquitoes and being that I am just the right blood type to attract them, I was mutilated on the trail that day.

At one point I looked down at my exposed legs and counted 10 mosquitoes on one leg.   Sure I should have been swatting them away, instead of counting them, but I stood there in amazement. After I realized they were sucking me dry I feverishly smacked at them. But it was a losing battle and I surrendered to the bloodsucking little bastards.

Upper Priest Lake
From here you could not see the mosquitoes

So I guess the point of my story is to wear DEET.  And not like mild DEET because we all know DEET is bad for us and we should wear as little as possible. But wear the kind of DEET that is high concentration. You’ll be glad you did

We did end up running a bit on the trail as we tried to leave the bloodsuckers behind. And this kid doesn’t run. The mosquitoes did dissipate upon our return, so I guess the running did pay off.

And please don’t take my non-stop rambling on about mosquitoes deter you from the Navigation Trail or Upper Priest Lake. It’s worth the effort. And if you arrive prepared, the bugs shouldn’t annoy you. Even if you are normally tasty to the bloodsuckers.

Upper Priest Lake
Along the Thoroughfare to Upper Priest Lake

For the most part, the Navigation trail is level, providing an easy trail for families or lazy hikers, such as myself. The trail does start an ascent near Plowboy Campground and finally descends near Navigation Campground. It’s not a full uphill battle to Navigation however. Just some ups, and downs, with most of the 1000-foot elevation gain happening between the two campgrounds.

You can carry on past the Navigation Campground to take in the full distance of the trail, which clocks in at 19.6 miles round trip. On this day we only did the 12 miles. Mostly because of the bugs, but also because we are not seasoned long distance hikers.  This was evident upon our return back to the trailhead as there was less tugging on the leash by my furry companions. Which was a bummer, because sometimes a girl needs additional engines to bring her back to the car. Usually, engine 1 (Boomer) never fails me, but engine 2 (Jovi) always sputters out. She can be easily recharged with a snack and a quick power nap however.

As I mentioned, I have both walked and paddled to Upper Priest Lake. Since I have shared my experience walking there, lets move on to my paddling experience.

My second voyage to Upper Priest Lake did not end in such peril. Thankfully the mosquitoes were not quite as bad the following year. It was also helpful, and intentional, that I did not have any alcohol the day before I went. Apparently, alcohol is a big deal in the mosquito world as booze tends to attract them. So I forwent my beer for the night and massively benefited the next day.

Like hiking, I am not a seasoned paddler. Granted I’ve been walking most of my life so hiking shouldn’t be that difficult. But paddling takes a bit of coordination and balance. Which apparently I have a bit of, as my dad, who is an avid kayaker and sharing a tandem kayak with me that day, mentioned that I was paddling with a good rhythm. I attribute that to my A-type personality.

We put the boats in at the same spot as the Navigation Trailhead. The trek to the water is a short distance, but it is helpful to have some wheels to aid in getting the boats down to the water. Luckily my dad is well-equipped with his boats and I only had to help direct the boat down to the water and not haul that boat down to the water.

Upper Priest Lake
Thoroughfare to Upper Priest Lake

Once you reach the water, you put the boats into the thoroughfare. It is not the easiest spot to get in the boat, but if you’re a seasoned kayaker, you’ll be fine. If not, enjoy your “graceful” entrance into the boat such as I did. Insert awkward side eye with a raised eyebrow here. Like I said I was a swimmer, not a kayaker.

The thoroughfare is 2.5 miles one way, which surprisingly wasn’t a big challenge for this out of practice kayaker

The thoroughfare is much like the Navigation Trail, void of people. 

Once we reached the mouth of Upper Priest Lake, we pulled into a small shoreline campsite and feasted on our lunch while snapping photos of the blue skies, crystal clear water and lush green mountains. 

Upper Priest Lake
Upper Priest Lake

It could be prettier, right?

Just kidding.  There’s a reason why they call Priest Lake the crown jewel of Idaho.

Before we got to out of hand with the paddling around the upper part of the lake I requested that we turn back. Although I wasn’t sore just yet, I didn’t want to spend the next day in agony from paddling due to this being the first outting of the year.

We passed a few groups along the way as we made our way back through the thoroughfare. Mostly fellow kayakers, but also some small fishing boats.

Our visit was mid-week and late in the season so I would assume there could be more boat traffic durning the weekends as Preist Lake is a popular spot with the Spokane Washington crowd looking to escape the city for the weekend. 

Any visit to Priest Lake should include a stop at Elkins Resort. Food is good, but you’re really going for the huckleberry inspired treats like the cobbler and the cant miss huckleberry lemondrop. 

Um, to die for!   

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2 Responses to Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads. Upper Priest Lake, Idaho

  1. Meghan says:

    Wow, that lake ia totally gorgeous. Worth the effort and even forgoing that beer.

    • You will for sure what to hit up this area while here. It is stunning and because it is so remote you’ll feel like you have the place to yourself – except on weekends 🙂

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