Several hundred times I have driven past the small trail that leads from the side of Montana Highway 200 up to Burgess Lake, and on almost every one of those times I told myself that I should take a little time and make the short hike up to it. Well, Thursday I finally got around to doing just that.
There’s even a fairly convenient place to park along the highway about six miles from the mouth of the Flathead River and two miles inside the western boundary of the Flathead Indian Reservation, and although there is no sign there to mark it and the trail itself is very small and unmarked, it isn’t really all that difficult to locate after looking at a map.
I’ve been told that the lake is only a quarter of a mile from the highway, and maybe that’s true, but the steep little trail is about twice that long, winding nearly a half mile up through a rocky ravine to reach the lake, about four hundred feet above the river at an altitude of about 2,900 feet, laying in a sort of a shelf on the mountainside with the Flathead river valley below and the high country of the Reservation Divide roadless area four miles and four thousand feet above. Winter is not the best time to negotiate that trail on the snow and ice covered rocks, but I made it with a little care, a great pair of hiking boots and a hiking staff I made last summer from a sturdy shaft from a hawthorn tree.
This photo was taken from about half way up the trail, facing toward the east.
The next three photos show about all there is to see of the little lake itself. It is around a quarter of a mile long and a hundred yards wide at its widest point, but is reputedly loaded with west slope cutthroat trout after Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in a joint effort with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe stocked it with 2,600 4″ fingerlings in 2002. It also has the reputation of being the rattlesnake capitol of western Montana, and after getting a really close look at the rocky terrain surrounding the lake, I think that could well be true. I plan to find out once the ice that now covers the lake melts.
Directly to the west about fifteen miles, across the North Siegel roadless area, and across the north end of the Patrick’s Knob roadless area is the peak of Patrick’s Knob itself, heavily snow covered this time of year. This entire area contains an abundance of elk, black bear and mountain lion.
Cutthroats or no cutthroats, snakes or no snakes, there are some beautiful views to be seen here for a fairly modest effort. These last two photos were taken from a little ridge above the lake. The first is looking due east, and the second, due west. They were taken one minute apart. There are few places that I know of that have that kind of diversity of landscape. Not a bad place to sit for a spell and enjoy a leisurely lunch!