- Associated Press - Saturday, July 12, 2014

PRIEST LAKE, Idaho (AP) - The Lakeshore Trail No. 294 is ideal for peak summer-heat hiking.

Meandering along the northwest shoreline of Priest Lake, the trail is an ideally shaded corridor through large cedar stands and other old-growth timber. Beams of sunlight streaming through the canopy cover in spots and reaching the lush forest floor are the only hints of summer heat.

Quiet beaches - some of which are very sandy - can be found in numerous spots along a hiker or mountain biker’s journey.

The lake water is very cool, clean and refreshing, and the slope into the lake is gradual. Soft, smooth stones and sand are in the shallows.

Picnic tables, bear safes, and raised metal fire pits are available at designated campsites.

Matt Davis, Priest Lake district ranger for the Panhandle National Forests, said the National Recreation Trail is popular with hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers.

“An overall gentle grade, great views and lake access make this trail a popular destination,” Davis said.

The campsites along the trail are free and open to anyone. The U.S. Forest Service maintains the site through donations.

“Donations go to fix picnic tables, supply toilet paper at Bottle Bay, pump outhouses and clean up garbage,” said national forest spokesman Jason Kirchner.

Fishermen could land a cutthroat trout or smallmouth bass from the shoreline.

“Cutthroats tend to cruise the shorelines, so it’s not unusual to be able to cast to them,” said Jim Fredericks, regional fisheries manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “Lake trout can be caught from the shoreline in the early spring or late fall, when water temperatures are cold, but not so much in the summer.”

Cutthroat are all catch-and-release.

Phil Cooper, a wildlife conservation educator in Coeur d’Alene for Fish and Game, said he has a friend who lives in Nordman who trolls the west shoreline and consistently catches cutthroat.

“He caught 53 in one afternoon,” Cooper said. “I would think that casting from shore would produce good results, (but) perhaps not as good as trolling.”

The trailhead is two hours north of Coeur d’Alene, traveling Highways 41 and 57.

Story Continues →