Happy 40-something birthday to Jason! What better way to spend the special day than by visiting a new Eagle Cap Wilderness lake?
After a quiet night at Swamp Lake, we were crawling out of the tent at 5:00 as the first bit of light started to show. Conditions were a little milder than the previous morning on Copper Creek. We enjoyed a balmy 38 degrees while we had coffee and breakfast. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was going to be another beautiful August day in the high country.
After morning chores, we grabbed our day hiking gear and set off to visit nearby Steamboat Lake. We made our way over to the Swamp Lake outlet and caught the main trail on the east side of the lake. After a short distance, we came to a junction with the Long Lake trail. Those wishing to visit Long will take a left here. We continued straight head along the main trail and immediately began a third mile climb.
A short distance from the Long-Steamboat junction, we could see a small lake (or maybe it was a large pond?) off trail to the left. It looked like there could be a nice campsite or two there.
Near the pass (elevation 7,976′) between Swamp and Steamboat lakes, we passed three small ponds to the left of the trail. I have heard of people camping here and enjoying their stay, but I think Swamp or Steamboat are much better locations.
Like the drop into Swamp Lake, the trail down into Steamboat was well graded and never very steep. It was rocky in places, but overall a good trail. We had really nice views down onto the lake and it was a pleasant 1.75 mile hike from Swamp.
Arriving at Steamboat Lake (elevation 7,370’), we found that we had the lake all to ourselves. As spectacular as Swamp Lake was, Steamboat was even more so. I immediately wished we had camped here.
Steamboat is a large lake with an island and a few small beach areas all set in a massive granite basin. Its outlet stream flows into the North Minam River. We explored along the eastern side (right side) of the lake and found several nice campsites with lake views.
After exploring around the lake and enjoying a nice break on some lakeside rocks, we headed back to Swamp Lake. The 600′ climb out wasn’t too bad thanks to the well-graded trail. Some big trees also provided some welcome shade in spots. Including explorations around Steamboat, we hiked 5 miles with about 800′ total elevation gain.
Back at camp, we played some cribbage, explored the far end of the lake, Jason swam, and I read. It was another perfect August afternoon with a temperature of 66 in the shade. We didn’t see anyone on the trail this day, but there were two other parties camped on the lake with us that night. Both parties were quiet allowing for another peaceful night at Swamp.
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