Photograph by Brown Cannon III/Intersection Photos
High up Idaho's panhandle, 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of the Canadian border, sits striking and remote Priest Lake. It's actually two lakes connected by a two-mile (3.2-kilometer) river called the Thorofare, which sets the stage for the Elkins Resort, where the wakeboarding, kayaking, tubing, canoeing, and water-skiing never seem to end. "We get families who book the same cabin every summer," says owner Bob Davis, "some for the past 40 years."
Elkins, built in 1932, was a summer fishing camp. Now it has grown to include 32 luxe cedar log cabins, where you’ll stay while you explore the lake and surrounding forest. Take a pontoon boat ($300 a day) along the Thorofare to Upper Priest Lake (boat- or foot-access only) for views of the Selkirk Mountains. Or drive the 14-mile (23-kilometer) dirt Forest Service road to access hiking trails that lead to 2,000-plus-year-old trees in the Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars.
Bring your own bike to tackle the technical singletrack on the Elkins Trail from Kalispell Bay to Reeder Bay. You’ll cross two different creeks on the eight-mile (13-kilometer) round trip that starts right at Elkins Lodge, or split off onto steep Lakeview Mount Trail for mountaintop views of Priest Lake.
Where to Play
Save one day to get the family out on the lake early with fishing guide Rich Lindsey of Blue Ribbon Charters. You’ll have the lake to yourselves when he picks you up at the Elkins dock at 6 a.m. You’ll spend the morning reeling in trout after hefty trout. Take it from Lindsey, who has been guiding since 1974: “It’s the best deep-water trout fishing you’re going to find—anywhere.” He guarantees you’ll catch fish (many weighing up to 10 pounds/4.5 kilograms) or he’ll take you out for free, though he hasn’t had to make good on that promise in 20 years ($500, www.fishingidaho.com).
At Day's End
After dinner, join the kids for karaoke or an outdoor movie projected on a giant screen set up on the resort lawn. Then have Elkins arrange a sitter and hit the main lodge for live music and Priest Lake huckleberry daiquiris.
Cabins start at $1,393 a week; www.elkinsresort.com
Based on articles from National Geographic Adventure and updated by Greer Schott