Short, but relatively steep climb to two beautiful alpine lakes below towering Steven’s Peak along the Idaho-Montana border.
Distance: 5.55 miles round trip to upper lake
Type: out and back
Difficulty: moderately difficult due to elevation gain of 1,780′ (most of that over the first 1.75 miles)
Best season: July – August
July 7, 2012 we set out for northern Idaho to hike Stevens Lakes with Jason’s brother Chris, nephew Max, and coworker Kamyab. The weather forecast was for 100+ degrees in our home towns, so we were hoping to beat the heat at higher elevations.
We made the three hour drive to the trailhead (elevation 3,960’) just outside of Mullan, Idaho near the Montana border. There were quite a few cars here, but we were able to squeeze both of our vehicles in.
Departing from the trailhead, we took trail #165 to the left (trail #138 to the right climbs to Lone Lake). The lower stretches of the trail climbed through thick forest and across a couple talus slopes. Views opened up some as we gained elevation and we had a major stream crossing of Willow Creek at about 1.5 miles in.
Lower Stevens Lake had incredible views of snow covered peaks behind it. We took a short break there and then hiked south along the right hand side of the lake where we climbed a small saddle to Upper Stevens. We hit quite a bit of snow along that saddle, but it was easy following previous hikers tracks.
Upper Stevens (elevation 5,740′) was even more beautiful with towering snow covered cliff walls rising on three sides. Jason decided to beat the heat by wading into the lake—a refreshing experience given the icebergs that were still floating at the far end.
Directions to trailhead: Head east on I-90 from Wallace, Idaho and take exit 69 East Mullan. Turn left at the stop sign. Drive north over the freeway and take a right onto highway 10. Travel approximately 1 mile, past the Lucky Friday Mine, to Shoshone Park junction. Turn right at the junction and cross over the freeway. Follow Willow Creek Road approximately 1 mile to the trailhead.