Stevens Lake -- A Hidden Gem in the Bitterroots

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Flag of United States  , Idaho
Sunday, August 30, 2009

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.  Its a great destination for a day hike or a weekend backpacking trip. 

When Northwesterners talk about "Stevens Lake" we're actually talking about two adjoining lakes (Upper and Lower Stevens Lake).  These are located in the Idaho Panhandle just this side of the Montana border, not far from Lookout Pass, close to Mullan.  The trail head is close to I-90 and located around 4000' above sea level.

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' above sea level, not far below the timberline. 

Your first view of the lake is perhaps the most memorable.  Its 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.

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.

The energetic and adventuresome can climb Stevens Peak just behind Upper Stevens Lake.  At around 6835' 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.

Return the way you came.  A lovely day hike for anyone who might be interested.  An great review of this hike can be found in Rich Launders excellent book "100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest".

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