"Ten Lakes: lake-filled alpine scenery in one of the last roadless areas in the Whitefish Range."
Hiking Montana, Bill Schneider and Russ Schneider
Could you resist that description? No, neither could we. So, back on July 17, 2017, I joined Man with Hat for this 12-mile round trip hike, and I must say, it exceeded our expectations.
Ten Lakes Scenic Area encompasses 15,700 acres. Located along the northeastern edge of the Kootenai Forest with the Canadian border as one of its boundaries, the Ten Lakes area is dominated by a high ridge of the Whitefish Mountains. As we drove to the trailhead, my phone alternated between US and Canada cell phone service (until I lost service altogether). Yep, that's when you know you're close to the border!
The trail climbed steeply at first. At 2.5 miles, the trail flattened out past Wolverine Lakes Basin. Near the two lakes, a cabin nestled near a stream. A sign in the window informed us that the cabin is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Hmmm... good to know!
But if the cabin is occupied, you might have your choice of several serene camping sites with fire circles, cheek to jowl with the edge of Wolverine Lake.
Man with Hat quickly set about fishing, as four 10-inch cut-throat trout swam right up into the shallows - what a tease! (He caught one, but I was not quick enough to get a shot.)
Past Wolverine Lakes, we picked up the Highline Trail on the ridge between the Ten Lakes basin on the north and the Wolverine Flats to the south. The views are expansive in all directions, with glimpses of the ice-clad Bugaboos far into Canada.
|Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, lodgepole pine, Douglas fir, white bark pine|
We followed the Highline across the slopes of Green Mountain into the Bluebird Lake Basin. Alpine glaciers shaped much of the present rugged scenery. As the glaciers grew they carved deep scallops, or cirques, and high, rim-rocked basins sheltering the many lakes of the area. Other alpine lakes - such as Wolverine and Bluebird - are often bordered on one side by subalpine vegetation and on the other by a headwall or rook harboring old snowdrifts.
Squirrel, gray jays, ruffed grouse were some of the animals along the trail; only
captured the squirrel in my photos
Six miles into our hike, at Bluebird Lake, we met a group of the Montana Conservation Corp. These young people dug into their lunches with relish while taking a well-deserved break from repairing ditches and trimming bushes along the trail. This lake also has camping sites with fire circles, all with front-row seats to the lake and its soaring cliffs.
|Abundant glacier lilies, western pasqueflower, paintbrush, bead lily, foam flower, bear grass|
From Bluebird, it's a steady descent back to the trailhead. A lengthy section of the trail is overgrown with alder and other shoulder-high shrubbery, which is always concerning in bear country. Could a black bear or a grizzly be lurking? This day, we encountered no Ursus; maybe our constant shouting warned them off. Between the near-bushwhacking and the anxiety about the bears, I must admit this was not a trail segment I would like to repeat.
|Man with Hat inches across a downed tree|
Soon enough, the torrents of Wolverine Creek reached our ears, signaling an end to our hike. Except … no bridge over the creek! But never fear, a little creativity and courage usually carries the day.