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Fault Lake, trail #59

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A tough trail to a magical cirque

The River Journal is proud to present a series of guides to area hiking opportunities written by Dennis Nicholls for his upcoming book, Trails of the Wild Selkirks. The book, published by Keokee Books, is a companion piece to Nicholls' successful debut guide, Trails of the Wild Cabinets, which was published earlier this year. "Wild Selkirks" is scheduled for publication prior to Christmas of 2003. -TG

Fault Lake Trail #59

Destination: Fault Lake

Best suited for: Hiking, mountain bikes and horseback

How Much Use: A LOT

What's it like? For about four miles this trail follows an old road bed. It is now maintained as a trail, but it gets brushy from near Gunsight Creek to where the single track takes off uphill toward the lake basin. The climb is a gentle one until that last mile or so. Along the entire length of the trail the effects of the 1967 Sundance Fire are evident. Snags still stick up like gray skeletons from the young forest which has regenerated across the mountainsides. The views out over McCormick Creek to the ridges beyond are fabulous. Look out for some nice waterfalls beyond the Gunsight Creek crossing. Once into the basin below the lake, the magic of the high country casts its spell. Sparse, stunted trees dot the open terrain. High peaks rise before you on the ascent into the slot that drains the lake. A magical cirque cradles Fault Lake. Cliffs sheltering it to the west and stony ledges rising on the east frame the summit of Hunt Peak. From a vantage point just southwest of the lake the fault line for which the lake is named is obvious. Hardy mountain bikers can make it most of the way to the lake, but the first three miles or so are the easiest.

USGS Map: Mount Roothann

Trailhead: About 13 miles north of Sandpoint, Idaho turn off Highway 95 onto Pack River Road No. 231. Travel just over 12 miles to the junction of Road No. 293 and bear left. At a switchback, take the spur road straight ahead to the parking area, which will accommodate eight to ten vehicles. A section of the 1.2 miles to the trailhead along this road is steep and rugged, and requires high clearance vehicles. The trail begins at a bridge over McCormick Creek.

Trail Length: 6.5 miles one way

Trail Condition: Fair to good, very dense brush in places.

Elevation Gain: 3,350 feet

Estimated Duration of Hike: 3 to 4 hours up, 2.5 to 3.5 hours down.

Sweat Index: Difficult (buckets of sweat).

Mountain Bike Sweat Index: moderate the first three miles, then brush makes it virtually unsuitable.

Availability of water along the trail: two creeks splash across the trail between three and four miles up.

Stream Crossings: There are several springs and boggy areas along the trail and a couple of creeks to jump across.

Campsites: There are several primitive sites near the outlet and on the rock ledges to the north.

Alternate Hikes: This is a good place to initiate a climb to the tops of Hunt Peak (7,058 feet) to the south and Gunsight Mountain (7,352) to the north.

Copies of Dennis' book, Trails of the Wild Cabinets, can be obtained at many locations in North Idaho and western Montana, or on the Internet at www.Keokeebooks.com

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Author info

Dennis Nicholls Dennis Nicholls was the founder, publisher, janitor and paperboy of the River Journal from 1993 to 2001. He passed away in 2009.

Tagged as:

Fault Lake, Trails of the Wild Selkirks, Trails of the Wild Cabinets, Hunt Peak, Gunsight Mountain

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