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Hiking into Ball/Pyramid Lakes

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An excerpt from Hikes in the Wild Selkirks

An easy stroll on a wide path through a beautiful spruce-alpine fir forest leads to Pyramid Lake, an hourglass-shaped body of water tucked up against a stony mountainside on one end with forest and reeds at the other end. Boardwalks in several places help protect marshy and streamside areas along the way. Shallows at the northeast end of the lake extend to a narrow straight between points of rock, but the southwest end is much deeper and reflects the cliffs towering above. Much of the shoreline is brushy, but there are numerous areas of rock at the water’s edge. The trail to Ball Lakes forks to the left just before reaching the first campsite at Pyramid and climbs a steep-sided ridge. The views become increasingly dramatic, not only of the lake but of Pyramid Peak as well. At the top of the ridge the trail winds pleasantly through an open forest of alpine trees and brush. Be sure to check for huckleberries all along the way. It forks before the lakes come into view and a wooden sign indicates the direction to the upper and lower lakes. Each lake sits in stunningly beautiful rocky cauldrons. All of these lakes have some small cutthroat trout.

Destination: Pyramid Lake, Ball Lakes

Best suited for: hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking.

How much use?: Excessive

USGS Map: Pyramid Peak

Trailhead: In Bonners Ferry, Idaho, turn off Hwy. 95 next to the Kootenai River Bridge onto Riverside (County Road No. 18) and head for the Kootenai Wildlife Refuge. After about 5.4 miles the road bears right past the wildlife refuge headquarters. Continue about 10 miles to Trout Creek Road No. 634. Turn west and go 9 miles to the trailhead anda parking area with 10 designated parking sites. (If the parking lot is full you are asked to return another day or park at least 3 miles away.)

Trail Lenth: Including a portion of Trail 13, it is about 1.25 miles to Pyramid Lake and 2.5 miles to Ball Lakes

Trail Condition: good

Elevation: Start - 5,190’ (junction with Trail 13), High/Low point - 6,050’ (Pyramid Lake), End - 6,708’ (Upper Ball Lake).

Estimated duration of hike: 1 hour or less to Pyramid Lake, 1.5 to 2 hours to Ball Lake.

Sweat Index: (no sweat (easy) to Pyramid Lake, break a sweat (moderate) to Ball Lakes

Mountain Bike Sweat Index: bathed in sweat (strenuous).

Best Features: Beautiful alpine lakes.

Availability of water along the trail: several small streams along the way have water.

Stream Crossings: Footbridges and boardwalk cross several small streams and wet areas.

Campsites: All three lakes have several primitive campsites with established fire rings. Please use existing sites, as creating new campsites and fire rings is prohibited in order to minimize impacts to these fragile, high-country lakes.

Precautions: Because of the spectacular beauty and the easy access, this area has been heavily impacted by human use. Be sure to do your best to protect these precious natural resources by packing out everything you pack in and stay on  established trails and campsites to reduce compaction of the sensitive soils. If possible, plan your visit during the week when fewer people are likely to be around.

Alternate hikes: There is good off-trail access to an unnamed peak (some refer to it as all Peak) from upper Ball Lake.

Wild Notes: What better way to refresh yourself on a hot summer day than to jump into a high mountain lake? You can bet the water is almost always cold, but that only adds to the invigoration!

This trail report was excerpted from “Trails of the Wild Selkirks, South of the Canadian Border,” a hiking guide published by Keokee Books of Sandpoint. You can order this book, and other regional guidebooks, online here.

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