Last spring, our nephew Max asked me to shoot his senior photos. I was uncomfortable with this since I have very little experience taking portraits. Senior photos are a special thing and I was worried about not doing a good job. Max explained to me that he wanted to be able to hike into Beehive Lake in the Selkirk Mountains and have them taken there. Locations don’t get any more stunning than Beehive, but trying to shoot senior photos in a big location like that would be challenging. How would I be able to make Max the center of attention with the large background he wanted?
We set Harrison and Beehive Lakes as our shooting locations. These alpine lakes are located on the crest of the Selkirk Mountains in remote northern Idaho, near the Canadian border. The Selkirks are exceptionally scenic and the lakes are as stunning as it gets with towering granite cliffs behind them. This area is so wild that it is home to caribou and grizzly bear- one of the last remaining populations of grizzly in the lower 48 outside of the Glacier and Yellowstone ecosystems. We had hiked into both lakes and knew that Max had picked beautiful locations.
The drive up US 95 in northern Idaho is beautiful. We made our way north pat Lake Coeur d’Alene and Lake Pend Oreille (5th deepest lake in the U.S.). Ten miles north of Sandpoint, we turned west onto Pack River Road (Rd 231). We made our way 20 miles up this road, past a great view of Chimney Rock, to the Harrison Lake trailhead.
The Harrison Lake trailhead parking area is relatively small with maybe a dozen spots. There were about 10 cars parked when we arrived. We had difficulty parking since an inconsiderate individual had parked sideways using 3 full spots. We managed to get just far enough off the road that vehicles could pass.
The 2.5 mile trail to Harrison Lake begins at 4,750′ elevation. The trail begins in thick forest and climbs steadily its entire length. Back in 2012, we saw a moose along the lower stretch about 15 feet off the trail.
About half way in views of the surrounding mountain peaks start to open up, including some impressive views of Harrison Peak. The trail and surrounding terrain become increasingly rocky as you ascend. Cairns mark the way in areas where the trail crosses large slabs of granite rock. After steadily gaining 1,435′ in elevation, we arrived at Harrison Lake (elevation 6,185′).
Harrison Lake sits in a beautiful cirque backed by granite cliffs. The lake is a popular destination for both day hikers and backpackers. We had passed a large group of backpackers headed out as we were headed in and there was maybe 4 small parties scattered around the lake when we arrived. While we didn’t have a feeling of seclusion or complete privacy, everyone kept a nice distance from one another creating an enjoyable wilderness experience.
Max and I worked our way around the lake selecting several locations to shoot senior pictures including some shoreline spots and a snowy talus slope with large granite boulders.
Some of my favorite shots of Max were informal shots that we took just for fun, like this one of him with some bear grass:
After completing our 5 mile hike to Harrison Lake, we drove the short distance from the Harrison Lake trailhead to the well signed Beehive Lake trailhead. There were about 8 cars parked in the lot, but I was delighted to see the single campsite available, complete with stream and pit toilet.
We enjoyed a nice evening around a roaring campfire. We retreated to our tents around 9:00 when temperatures dropped and we ran out of firewood. We awoke at 6:00 with temperatures around 40 degrees.
The trail to Beehive Lake begins at 4,420′ elevation. Over the first two miles, the trail climbs gently, but steadily. Despite the cool morning temperatures, we warmed up quickly. There had only been a few cars in the parking lot when we left, so we knew things wouldn’t be crowded. One party leapfrogged us on the way in and we passed 2 parties on their way out.
At about two miles in, the trail began to climb with more earnest. About a mile later, views of the peaks above Beehive came into view and were a welcome distraction from the climb.
On the final ascent to the lake, the trail left the soft dirt tread and climbed steeply up a granite slope marked by cairns. This final stretch was a real leg and lung burner, but was well worth it when we got our first views of Beehive Lake at 6,4600′ elevation and 4.5 miles from the trailhead. We had been to Beehive the previous summer, but it was still an impressive sight.
Jason found a place to relax while Max and I sought photo locations. Again, Max and I were lucky to have most of the shoreline to work with. The summer sun made for harsh shooting conditions, but we had a good time.
This was our fourth trip to the Selkirks and once again they did not disappoint. We had hiked both of these trails before, but they were just as good the second time around.