Myrtle Peak Trail #286
Hiking the Wild Selkirks with Dennis Nicholls
Destination: Myrtle Peak, 7,122 ft., and Myrtle Lake
Best Suited For: hiking, horseback riding
How Much Use: A lot
What's it Like?: This trail begins on private timberlands that have been heavily logged, but after one-quarter mile the trail enters the forest and climbs steadily along a ridge. Maybe one-half mile from the trailhead a short, off-trail excursion to the north will take you into a basin cradling a lovely little lake at the head end of Jim Creek, but be prepared for thick brush if you take off cross-country. The trail continues to climb through open forest and rocky meadows with views of Harrison Peak and the Two Mouth Lakes basin to the south becoming increasingly awesome. Be on the lookout for Myrtle's Turtle, as well. Where the trail finally breaks over the top, a short trail (100 feet or so) to the east accesses the summit of Myrtle Peak and the remains of the lookout that once sat there. The views in all directions are stupendous, particularly of The Lions Head and Smith Peak. The trail meanders down the north slope of the peak, then drops over the side toward the lake. It is a rather steep descent of about 1,000 feet. This is one of the larger lakes along the Selkirk Crest, and it has a good population of cutthroat trout.
USGS Map: Roman Nose, The Wigwams, Smith Peak
Trailhead: In Bonners Ferry, turn off Hwy 95 next to the Kootenai River Bridge onto Riverside (County Rd. #18) and head for the Kootenai Wildlife Refuge. After about 5.4 miles the road bears right past the wildlife refuge headquarters. Go about 1.3 miles to Myrtle Creek Rd. #633. Follow that nearly ten miles to Rd. #2406. Turn right and go three miles to the end of the road. Road 2406 is rather rough and may require a high-clearance vehicle. There is a large turnaround at the trailhead that will accommodate eight to ten vehicles.
Trail Length: About 3 miles one way to the peak, 4.5 miles to the lake.
Trail Condition: Fair
Elevation: Trailhead– 5,000', High/Low Point—7,122' (Myrtle Peak)/ 5,946' (Myrtle Lake)
Estimated Duration of Hike: 1.5 to 2.5 hours to the peak, 2 to 3 hours to the lake, and the same back to the trailhead.
Sweat Index: Buckets of sweat (difficult)
Mountain Bike: Not suitable
Best features: Mountaintop, remains of old lookout, beautiful lake
Availability of water along the trail: a few small trickles in the first quarter mile, then nothing until the lake.
Stream Crossings: Nothing significant
Campsites: Primitive camping can be had at the trailhead, and there are several primitive sites with fire rings at the lake.
Alternate Hikes: Adventurous hikers head for Kent Lake to the southwest from Myrtle Peak. There is no trail and the going is tough.
This story first appeared in Trails of the Wild Selkirks, written by Dennis Nicholls and published by Keokee Books, and is reprinted with their permission. The book is now available, $16.50, paperback. Purchase it online at the Sandpoint General Store or look for it in your local stores.