St. Regis Lakes Hike, Bitterroot Mountains, Montana

Robin was on call for work so I forced my children out of bed early to entertain me today in the woods. Actually, like usual, Jameson my 10 year old was already up. On the other hand I had to bribe my 7 year old Kylie out of bed with whatever I could, eggs and ham would do the trick. Eventually we found I-90 eastbound around 9:30am. The nice thing about today’s hike is that it is close to home, and when I say close to home I’m talking 105 miles from the house. We eventually parked at the second trail head for the St. Regis Lakes at the bottom of chair 4 for Runt Mountain aka Lookout Pass ski area.

 After prying my children from the swing at the trailhead, otherwise known as a chairlift, we hit the trail. The path started out pretty rocky and I was thankful I didn’t attempt to drive to the upper trailhead, eventually the rocks gave way to a good road (should have drove to the upper trailhead after all.) After hiking about 1.3 miles we found the actual trailhead where we picked up official trail #267 for St. Regis Lakes. We walked a well used wide trail smoothed out by elk hunters the night before to a junction with a signed hiker trail heading off to the right, finally we found ourselves on a true hiker trail. 

The trail leveled out through dense forest before descending to a creek crossing of the St. Regis River which looked like it could give you trouble at high water, lucky for us it was fall so the crossing was easy. Once across the creek we climbed a bit before crossing our first open meadow which was a blaze in fall colors of reds, yellows and oranges. We worked our way northeast a short way before turning west and working our way back toward the lake basin. The trail leveled out a bit as we climbed gently through open meadows and expansive views, the scenery was awesome. We climbed a few hand crafted steps cut out of log to an avalanche swath and several downed trees, it was impressive, I can see why so many people have died here in the past. Easy access for back country skiing can lead to unfortunate circumstances, and Lookout Pass is no exception. The trail worked its way left making several moderate switchbacks offering good views back down the St. Regis River valley toward the treeless ski runs of Runt Mountain and eventually the trailhead at the bottom of chair 4. Wildflowers and thimble-berries adorned the trail, even in the middle of September, it was a sweet surprise. We slowed down quite a bit to take in the beauty and the sweet treat provided by nature in the mountains. Eventually we made the final push to the lower of the two St. Regis Lakes which I could make out through the trees but kept to myself. Jameson was bringing up the rear and let out quite the cheer when he could see the shimmering water through the trees. It’s a wonderful feeling catching a glimpse of the prize on the horizon.

We arrived at the lake and took a trail down to the left that ended at a log near the shore. The view across the lake was splendid. We took advantage of the log and its perfect placement for the view across the lake. The kids didn’t waste any time depleting the lake shore of its rocks and logs as the chucking commenced. I departed as quick as i could to avoid catching a rock to the face. I wandered the east end of the lake to find a better view and in doing so stumbled across the remains of a fawn still wearing spots and no bigger than a cat. I called the kids over, they were sad at my discovery but took it as a lesson in biology, then like typical kids grabbed sticks and flipped the poor feller over for another look. Back at the log we enjoyed snacks before picking up the official trail continuing passed a few good camps to a rocky outcrop with a couple of giant downed trees which the kids used as a giant jungle gym. For us, halfway around the lake would be as far as we would go for I hear the upper lake wasn’t worth the effort. 

After bidding farewell to St. Regis Lake we got out of there, the hike out was good, ate a few more berries, checked out a few more flowers but ultimately we found the truck. St. Regis Lakes is a great hike if your looking for solitude, we had this whole place to ourselves on a Saturday! The high mountain meadows, expansive views and pristine lake are well worth the effort, we covered 6.5 miles and about 1,300 feet of elevation gain. After the hike we recovered at City Limits Pub in Wallace where we watched the Seahawks lose, needless to say, the hike was much better than the football game. For of my pictures from the hike click here. St. Regis Lake Hiking Pictures

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