This is the time of year when those of us who love to hike have our eyes gazing to the tops of the mountains, longing to get up to those high passes. But there's still a lot of snow and ice up there, at least in Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest, so I'll have to get by going for an urban walk and sharing one of my favorite hikes in the Idaho panhandle with you today.
(Bitterroot Mountains, Lower portion of hike)
Those of you who have read my blogs know that I love the sight of a sub-alpine lake set in a beautiful mountain range about as much as anything! In this regard, Stevens Lake certainly does not disappoint. It's a great destination for a day hike or a weekend backpacking trip.
When Northwesterners talk about “Stevens Lake” they’re actually talking about two adjoining lakes (Upper and Lower Stevens Lake). These are located in the western Idaho Panhandle just this side of the Montana border, not far from Lookout Pass. The trail head is close to I-90 and is located around 4000″ (1220m) above sea level.
(Meadow on trail to Stevens Lake)
The trail works itself through a fairly steep forested hill before opening onto a fairly flat and pretty meadow. At the far south end of the meadow you walk over a stream on some fallen logs, close to a small but pretty waterfall. From here its a short but steep climb up to Lower Stevens Lake situated around 5750″ (1850m) above sea level, not far below the timberline.
Your first view of the lake is perhaps the most memorable. It's a lovely clear lake of blue-green color, surrounded by steep mountains on both sides. The outflow of the lake is on the north end and there are several good flat campsites here which are popular with weekend backpackers.
(Lower Stevens Lake)
The trail to Upper Stevens Lake winds itself around the west side of the Lower Stevens Lake, then up a several hundred foot climb to a cirque containing a small but beautiful lake. Upper Stevens Lake also has a few nice campsites and as its less visited offers more privacy and tranquility. The lakes are stocked with trout so bring your fly rod if you feel lucky.
(Lower Stevens Lake)
The energetic and adventuresome can climb Stevens Peak just behind Upper Stevens Lake. At around 6835″ (2083m) it’s the tallest peak in this portion of the Bitterroots. You’re likely to see views of Lone Lake in the valley to the west, St. Regis Lake in the Montana to the east, and many other lakes and peaks in the Bitterroots.
(Upper Stevens Lake)
A great hike! Well worth doing if you're in the area.