I grew up in Washington State, and was always bombarded with “I couldn’t live there, it rains so much!” But not all of Washington lives under a constant rain cloud – and the places I lived were in the dryer, more desert like climates.
Now I live in a rainy, mountainous area of the state. And boy, does it rain! We waited and waited for a warm, sunny day to head out for an adventure. Finally the day came. Armed with sunscreen, bug spray, snacks and water bottles – off we went!
In the northern and most remote parts of Idaho sits some of the most beautiful areas I’ve ever seen. First stop was a hike up to an area called Lionhead Natural Water Slides. After a lesson in bear safety from my brother, as we were in Black Bear and Grizzly Bear country (just about twenty miles south of the Canadian border) and it also happens to be baby season for wildlife, we headed up.
*PRISTINE, OLD-GROWTH CEDAR FORESTS SURROUND the stunning Priest Lake in the most remote parts of northern Idaho. In the farthest corner of the lake, you’ll find a flat rock flowing with a layer of icy cold mountain water.
It’s here that you’ll poke your legs through holes in a plastic garbage bag and throw yourself careening down the rock face, slipping and sliding until you’ll splash into the small pool of icy water at the bottom. Assuredly, you’ll want to do it again.
Come on a nice summer weekend and you’ll have to share these natural water slides with a few others; come on a weekday or cooler day and you’ll probably have this hidden gem of the Gem State all to yourself.
The remote location of the rocky ride keeps it perfectly secluded. Reaching the slides first entails driving hours on pavement and then gravel until you finally come to the farthest corner of beautiful Priest Lake to a campground called Lionhead. Here, you’ll take one of the most rutted dirt roads into the mountain for a few miles and then park the car.
Next, you’ll hike for a couple hours through stunning old growth forests along creeks and waterfalls. Cross a freezing cold mountain stream, then weave through a massive cedar bottom until you come out above the rock slides. Exploring even farther upstream reveals stunning cold swim holes and waterfalls that will beckon you in.* (source: Atlas Obscura)
After we’d taken it all in, and were good and sweaty and ready to swim, we made our way down to Priest Lake.
Priest Lake is called the Crown Jewel of Idaho for a reason. Lush forests. Cool, white sandy beaches and crystal clear blue water unlike any lake I’ve ever been to before.
Families and groups maintained social distancing while still being able to enjoy an outing on a hot day. I think we found our new favorite spot for family fun!