IDAHO ESCAPES - Great Northwest Getaways
 
Priest Lake: Pristine Paradise
 
(from the print edition, May 2012)
 
At the northern tip of the Idaho Panhandle, nestled in the Selkirk Mountains, is beautiful Priest Lake.  This alpine lake boasts 26 miles of crystal clear waters, dotted with picturesque islands, and surrounded by miles of sandy beaches and thick forests packed with hiking and biking trails. With abundant recreational offerings from boating to fishing to golfing, the lake is a true outdoorsman’s paradise. Lodging, camping and dining options are plentiful with numerous resorts and campsites scattered along the lake’s eastern and western shores. Hill’s Resort, a lakeside landmark since 1946, offers guests a variety of cabins, condos and chalets, as well as award-winning dining. Whether outside on Hills’ new waterfront deck, or indoors in the casually elegant dining room and lounge, you’ll enjoy great food served in a spectacular setting. Blue Diamond Marina & Resort, located on Priest’s eastern shore is the go-to spot on the lake for boat rentals and all the toys needed for a great day on the water. In addition to watercraft rentals, Blue Diamond also offers overnight accommodations and excellent Italian-inspired cuisine in their waterfront restaurant. Further up the lake, on the western shore, you’ll discover Elkins Resort.  Located on the shores of Reeder Bay, Elkins cozy log cabins and large sandy beach have made the resort a family-favorite for generations. Grandview Resort, aptly named for its impressive vistas, also has a variety of overnight accommodations, as well as lakeside dining.  A visit to North Idaho just wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Priest Lake.  For more information on the Priest Lake region, be sure to stop by the local Chamber of Commerce office; call (888) 774-3785, or visit online at priestlake.org.
 
Priest Lake: Idaho’s Crown Jewel
By Fred Cox
 
(from the print edition, May 2011)
 
If you were to hire a travel agency to select a vacation destination that would supply you and your family with a wonderful assortment of lake and outdoor experiences, chances are they would simply hand you a brochure with directions to Priest Lake, Idaho. Affectionately called the Crown Jewel of Idaho, Priest is nestled at the foot of the Selkirk Mountains.  At an impressive 26 miles long, and boasting sandy beaches, picturesque islands, and forests packed with hiking and biking trails, the lake is a haven for summertime fun.  Marinas and resorts offer easy launching of private craft.  For those without boats, Crown Jewel Water Sports rents a variety of ski boats, canoes, jet-skis & all manner of water sports equipment. If your summer sports endeavors lean to golf it is only about a good drive and a 5-iron from the lake’s edge to the golf course.  Eighteen holes on beautiful wooded grounds and wetlands at the Priest Lake Golf Course require an abundant supply of balls.  And don't forget your camera.  Meandering deer can interrupt your backswing.  Priest’s lovely shoreline, all 80 miles of it, has some must-see stops.  At the south end of the lake is the founding town of Coolin, where The Leonard Paul Store is the place to stock up on vacation essentials.  A general store that supplied loggers and miners at the turn of the century, this iconic establishment remains a centerpiece of lake culture and the place to find gifts, souvenirs, food, wine, liquors and supplies for boating and hiking.  Travel north on Route 57 and turn off on Reeder Bay Road to discover the Entree Gallery, one of the finest art galleries in the region. From magnificent oil paintings to unique jewelry, the gallery features work from artists around the Northwest.  Boaters should not miss Upper Priest Lake.  A two mile stretch of slow water that meanders through virgin forest and wetlands, known as the thoroughfare connects the main lake to Upper Priest - a beautiful, small lake accessible only by water or foot.  Feeding moose, wild fowl and an occasional bear makes it an entertaining thirty minute cruise to this peaceful paradise. Accommodation options around the lake range from rustic to casually elegant. A variety of excellent campgrounds offer easy access for all forms of recreational vehicles or tenting.  All who visit the area should explore the offerings at Priest’s lakefront 5-Star resorts. Hill's Resort, located on Luby Bay on the lake’s western shore, now celebrating its 65th anniversary, is a landmark location offering a wide variety of cabins, chalets and condos for rental.  The dining and lounge are lakeside for breathtaking views of the mountains and water.  Top shelf amenities include a store, tennis court and boat launch.  A few miles north in Reeder Bay you will find Elkins Resort. Founded in 1932, Elkins is a family-favorite, with 2000 feet of sandy beach, cozy log cabins, an award winning restaurant, a full-service marina and boat rentals.  The resort’s beautiful rustic log architecture fits perfectly amidst the wooded vistas across the lake to rugged Chimney Rock, a Northwest hiking mecca, and Priest’s signature landmark.  Both Hill’s and Elkins feature excellent gourmet fare and outstanding wine lists, offering guests a spectacular fine dining experience on the lake.  One of the newest additions to the fabric of Priest Lake’s special enjoyments is the Sundance Mountain Lodge Recently opened by two Seattle-area snowmobiling enthusiasts, this striking log lodge is tucked beside Sundance Mountain, overlooking nearby Chase Lake, surrounded by over 400 miles of unique, groomed snowmobile trails. The lodge boasts 10 beautifully decorated guest rooms, a fantastic menu, a fun open kitchen, and meeting rooms.  In summer it is a popular destination for romantic getaways, corporate events, weddings and great food in a beautiful setting.  With so many wonderful places to explore, you’ll quickly discover what makes Priest Lake such a special vacation destination any time of year.  You will arrive a visitor, but will be welcomed, treasured, and depart a friend.
 
Fred Cox is happy to call Priest Lake, Idaho home.
 
 
Pecky's Priest Lake Picks
Pecky Cox, long-time Priest Lake resident and devoted community supporter, is the host of As the Lake Churns at her website priestlaker.com.  A go-to resource for locals and visitors alike, the site features a calendar of activities, dining and accommodation options, real-estate info, weather conditions and a webcam. We asked Pecky to share with readers some of her favorite summer pastimes around the lake:
 
Sitting on the end of the dock, watching a summer storm make its way up the lake, sipping a freshly made Huckleberry Daiquiri, the quintessential Priest Lake cocktail.
 
Taking an evening cruise to gaze at dramatic, ever-changing sunsets.
 
Attending the Memorial Day Parade in Coolin to sample seasonal treats and browse the outdoor arts & crafts kiosks.
 
Participating  in the Priest Lake Yacht Club’s annual Gin Fizz Party on the beach at Hill’s Resort every Labor Day weekend.
 
Image Credits: Idaho Tourism, Tom Holman, Pecky Cox