Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hiking to Canyon Lake in the Bitterroots, Montana

We're a few days into our extended stay in Montana.  Outside of a few relatively flat miles on a couple of trails around Missoula we haven't walked on any significant elevation since last year.  Unless of course you count a few feet up sand dunes and then a few feet down them to get to the beach.  Our legs today are telling us that our eagerness to get on an epic hike may have outweighed the logic in choosing our first trek of the trip.

The choice - hike to Canyon Lake in the Bitterroot Mountains south of Missoula.  It's a 5 mile in and out that gains 2200ft of elevation.  That didn't seem too hard to start with did it?  Oh yeah and I forgot, my wife is 14
weeks pregnant.  For the record, she picked the hike!

Anyhow, the hike to Canyon Lake is nothing short of beautiful.  For the first 3 plus miles you climb a gentle grade next to the creek.  Some minor ups and downs along this area but nothing too tough.  You go in and out of being down next to the creek in the covered forest and then out up over rock falls along the base of the Bitterroot mountains.  The walls of the mountains climb a couple thousand feet and both side of the creek
Dori heading up towards Canyon Falls
providing spectacular views as the area opens up.  As a bonus, the berries were in full bloom.  We had a nice continuous snack of blueberries as we hiked along canyon creek.

At around the 3.5-4 mile mark the trail ascends out away from Canyon Creek towards Canyon Lake.  The views become amazing here as the vistas open up as you come out of the dense forested area.  You'll soon be able to see Canyon Falls as well.  From here you'll ascend up above the falls and then back down, finally arriving at Canyon Lake.

The wildflowers had already peaked but still provided some great colors for us on the hike.  These colors matched with spectacular views of the surrounding peaks, rock falls and waterfall were just amazing.  I do
Katie and Dori ascending among the
wildflowers heading to Canyon Lake
have to see that our Florida legs were pretty beat when we arrived at the lake.  We were happy to be there and the views were impressive.

The water in the lake was crystal clear.  I quickly was able to spot some trout near shore; wishing I had a fishing pole with me.  We hung out at the lake for around an hour.  Cooled off, had some lunch, dipped our toes in and let the dog swim for a while.  Perfect weather, perfect views and a great hike made for a great day.

Canyon Lake
We were moving pretty slow throughout.  Between our flat land legs and my wife being pregnant we took our time on the hike.  We definitely burnt a few beers worth of calories!  Overall, it took us about 8.5 hrs including our lunch break at the lake and numerous stops on the trail.  The few miles of steep descent near the lake took quite a bit more than it's share of time.

We definitely recommend Canyon Lake if you are looking for a hike in the Bitterroots.

Katie hiking up along a rock fall; getting close to Canyon lake

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful photos. I found your site from lurking on nwhikers. I can recommend Big Sand Lake area west of Lolo Pass accessed via Elk Summit. Several large lakes in the area, but the big attraction is moose. We counted 11 moose around the lake when we camped at Big Sand Lake. They splashed all night while feeding. A loop trip can be done via the trail over Frog Peak. This was before wolves moved into the area, though, so the moose may be more secretive now.