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Trip Report

Priest Lake Idaho Hike to the Plowboy Campground at Upper Priest Lake

Destination: Priest Lake, Idaho

Driving Directions:

This trip report describes a terrific hike along a well maintained trail through a vibrant section of forest filled with towering trees and a crumbling old trapper's log cabin. The destination and turnaround point is a gorgeous remote lake offering beauty and solitude. Interested? Read on and learn about this hike to the Plowboy Campground on the shores of Upper Priest Lake in the Idaho Panhandle.

The hike to Upper Priest Lake is quite easy for experienced hikers and doable for energetic families. The trail is not too long (six miles round trip), wandering through a wonderful forest, following a well maintained, mostly level hiking trail. The route is family friendly in that there is a paved parking lot, an outhouse, and good signage at the start of the trail and another outhouse at the turnaround spot.

Your destination, the Plowboy Campground on Upper Priest Lake, is accessible only by hiking trail or by water. Along the way you'll hike through a dense forest and if you stay alert, you'll discover an old abandoned log cabin. Your destination is a remote campground on the shores of the lake where you can sit and soak your feet in the lake and appreciate undeveloped beauty, the smoothing sounds of nature and (typically) the absence of other people and their noisy inventions (cars, motorcycles, jet skis, motorboats, etc.). The entire shoreline of Upper Priest Lake is a scenic area (part is owned by the State of Idaho the rest is owned by Federal agency). It's a magical spot!

Upper Priest River flows into Upper Priest Lake. A 3.5-mile thorofare flows from Upper Priest Lake to (lower) Priest Lake. Most of the lower lake is also owned by the State or Federal government with a couple campgrounds, some deeded property and some federally leased property (upon which are personal cabins or resort properties).

You can find the Plowboy Campground hiking trailhead at the far north west end of Priest Lake near the Beaver Creek Campground. The trailhead is well marked and offers free day parking adjacent to an outhouse, trailhead sign and the start of this trail. Note that a much shorter trail to the Portage also starts from this parking lot so be certain you head out on the trail to the Plowboy Campground on Upper Priest Lake.

Typically the trail is not busy I've come across one or two couples or families hiking and perhaps the odd mountain biker but typically it's just you, silence and the trail. On this hike you will be surrounded by tall trees, thick deadfalls and dense foliage.

Keep an eye out for wildlife. You may spot a deer or woodpecker and note that this area of the Idaho Panhandle is bear country. It is wise to check ahead of time for any Forest Service notices regarding bear (check the Idaho Panhandle National Forests web site ( If you are already in the vicinity of the lake and want to take this hike but wonder about bear activity then check with the Camp hosts at Beaver Creek Campground for current news before venturing out on this hike.

I have completed this hike many times and have spotted the occasional deer but no bear. However I have had a large black bear tromp right through my campsite at Beaver Creek Campground near the trailhead for this hike.

A terrific old trapper cabin, majestic in its own way but flattened by the passage of time and forces of nature, can be spotted by the alert hiker. Keep an eye out for the cabin it is on the left (west) side of the trail just before you reach the upper lake. More than once I have walked right past this crusty old cabin, its thick log walls blending in with the forest. If you miss it on your way to the lake then you'll know to try again on your way back it is about two blocks distance from the lake.

When I reflect on this hike I think of the colors of nature the deep green of the forest, the blue gray of the sky and water and the sound of the wind and silence, your rewards for venturing out on this hike and reaching the upper lake.

Enjoy the photo moment which provides a pictorial virtual hike along this wonderful trail.

Plowboy Hike - low bandwidth

Plowboy Hike - high bandwidth

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