The Beach Trail extends from Outlet Bay to Kalispell Bay along Priest Lake’s western shore. It traces the lake’s shore closely, running in front of many summer homes and presenting fabulous views across the lake. The Woodrat trail, a neat mountain biking path through the woods, completes the loop.
|Rating||2.8 out of 5|
|Duration||3:11 hours moving time (hiking)|
|Elevation Gain||967 feet|
|High Point||3,173 feet (knob on Woodrat trail)|
|Low Point||2,439 feet (Priest Lake)|
|Water||A seasonal trickle along the Woodrat trail; potable water at the campgrounds; lake water, but the quality of the latter may be dubious|
|Administration||Kaniksu National Forest|
|Conditions||Very good. Stay on the trail as the Beach Trail is mostly on private property|
|Camping||Outlet, Osprey, and Luby Bay campgrounds run by the forest service|
|Maps||USGS Priest Lake SW|
|Trailhead|| From Priest River head north for 26 miles. Turn right onto Outlet Bay Road, bearing left after .3 miles. The campground is to your right after another .4 miles.
Google Directions (48.499644, -116.893553)
|Squirrel Density||Dogs should be leashed|
|Date||June 2, 2018|
The Forest Service lists the Beach Trail as starting at the Outlet Campground. However, the camp hostess at the campground had no clue as to its existence and directed us to the Woodrat trail instead. The Woodrat trail starts on the other side of Lakeshore Road, just opposite the entrance to the campground. Since we intended to do a loop anyway, we decided to start that way. There is parking for perhaps a couple of cars on the road next to the trailhead. To make a long story short, however, the Beach Trail does in fact start right at the campground. Drive downhill into the campground and bear left where a sign indicates campsites 14-27 or some such. There are two large bays there, divided by a staircase. The staircase leads down to the lake and the trail. Follow the trail (left, north), it becomes more distinct once you leave the campground behind.
Back to the Woodrat Trail. This trail is intended for mountain bikes, which are not allowed on the Beach Trail. It’s a nice trail, with minimal ascent and minimal views. A pretty hike in the woods, but don’t expect much beyond that. About 4 miles in, you get the option to hop onto the Bulldog Trail, which contours along the hill, then drops down to Lakeshore Road. We didn’t take that, continuing downhill on the Woodrat Trail instead, and crossing FR-1048. The trail eventually emerges onto Lakeshore Road at the point where Hill’s Resort has its tennis courts.
Then it’s time to hop onto the Beach Trail. You can take that north to the Kalispell Bay boat launch, if you have a shuttle organized, or south back to Outlet Campground. We did the latter. The Beach Trail runs on the lake side of Hill’s Resort. You could either cut through the resort to get to it (the best route is probably where the docks are) are do as we did and hike south on Lakeshore Road for a short distance until the road and the Beach Trail intersect. The Beach Trail then switches to the inland side of Lakeshore Road for a short bit.
Once you cross back to the lake side, the views couldn’t get better. The trail runs right in front of (as in, the backyard of) dozens of summer homes, with the shrubbery trimmed and catered for excellent views across the lake and the Selkirk Mountains. It’s about 5 miles back to Outlet Campground. Ubiquitous little bistro tables, strategically placed right on the lake’s shore in front of each home, sure are tempting to stop and while away the day with a cold drink. But you know us. We’d rather hike.
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- You could hike the entire western shore of Priest Lake by connecting the Beach Trail with the Reeder Bay Trail on the other side of Kalispell Bay, then to the Lakeshore and Navigation trails.
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