UPPER PRIEST RIVER
This is a dark, dank trail through a virgin red cedar forest. One of the best lowland hiking trails in Idaho, it is an easy walk with the rumble of the Upper Priest never far away. The river is part of the federal Wild and Scenic River System and reaches into an area proposed as an addition to the Salmo-Priest Wilderness.
Elevation gain: 840 ft.
Key elevations: High point 3,600 ft
Distance: 17 miles round trip
Time: 2 days
Hikable: Mid June through mid October
Map: USGS Continental Mountain
Drive: From Priest River, Idaho, drive north on State Highway 57 about 37 miles to Nordman.
0.0. Continue on Highway 57 which turns into gravelled Forest Road #302, Granite Creek, approximately 4 miles past Nordman, 14 miles.
14 miles. Stagger Inn Campground.
15⅔ miles. Take middle fork at Granite Pass road junction onto Forest Road #1013 and drive nearly 12 miles.
27⅔ miles. Parking area and trailhead on the left side of the road. Ample stock trailer parking is available on both sides of the road. If you start up a sharp swithchback, you have gone about ½ mile too far.
Map Image. Go to https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/ipnf/recarea/?recid=6793
Trail/Route: This very scenic trail receives heavy use. It is easy and goes through old growth cedar and lush river bottom vegetation. Trail #308 ends at the junction of Continental Creek trail #28 that continues on to the Upper Priest River Falls (American Falls). #28 switchbacks down from Rd #1013 through an old growth cedar stand to the river bottom. Huckleberries, thimbleberries, devils club and ferns grow thick along the trail. Once to the river, the trail leads to an open flat area that offers excellent camping.
The trail then crosses a fork of the Upper Priest River and follows it to the falls near the Canadian border. The trail is 2.3 miles to here.
A short section of the trail near the falls, that climbs above the river, is steep and lacks tread. This may cause difficulty for some to hike the full distance to the falls. Use caution.
The trail is constantly ambushed by springs and streams, and often visited by deer, and occasionally by moose and grizzly bear. Good campgrounds can be found at Rock Creek, Diamond Creek and Malcom Creek. The camping at Upper Priest Falls (also called American Falls) tends to have dirty, overused sites. Hikers can come in on the short 2-mile route from Forest Road #637.