Montana Outdoors

March 8, 2008

Burgess Lake

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.

Flathead River

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.

East along the lower Flathead

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.

Burgess Lake

Burgess Lake

Burgess Lake

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.

Burgess Lake

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!

Flathead River

Patrick's Knob


  1. This area looks beautiful. I’d love to hike in Montana some day.


    Comment by Katie — March 8, 2008 @ 9:35 am

  2. Katie, there’s a lot of beautiful country here and all of the hiking opportunities you’d ever want. I hope you will be able to see it some time! Thank you for visiting and commenting!


    Comment by montucky — March 8, 2008 @ 9:48 am

  3. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Peter Quinn


    Comment by Peter Quinn — March 8, 2008 @ 10:00 am

  4. Peter, thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment!


    Comment by montucky — March 8, 2008 @ 10:09 am

  5. really nice shots here! I love the difference between east and west, quite dramatic! I think I would have to hike in the winter here, as I would prefer to deal w/ snow than rattlesnakes!!

    looks like you had a really nice hike here.


    Comment by silken — March 8, 2008 @ 11:02 am

  6. Silken,

    The country to the east in these photos is a 40-mile stretch of prairie before getting back into high mountains again. It makes an interesting trip, and the country to the south side of the highway is very wild and hardly ever visited. I like knowing that there are still places like that.

    With any more snow than is there right now, that trail would be nearly impossible, even with snow shoes. Actually, with a little care about where you put your feet and hands, the snakes really are not a problem. They have a bad reputation for no really good reason.


    Comment by montucky — March 8, 2008 @ 11:15 am

  7. Nice hike and pictures. Thank you for sharing.


    Comment by Patia — March 8, 2008 @ 1:04 pm

  8. Thanks for stopping by, Patia! I’ll bet that you are like me in that you have driven past the trail to Burgess Lake many times.


    Comment by montucky — March 8, 2008 @ 1:12 pm

  9. Beautiful country and beautiful shots. Looks like quite a bit of snow has melted in that area. Can’t wait to get down there and do some hiking.


    Comment by AK_Adventurer — March 8, 2008 @ 7:45 pm

  10. Yes, most of the snow below about 4,000 feet has melted, but higher there’s still lots of it, and that’s about normal for here. The high elevations will accumulate more snow on into April, and the valleys will be warming up. The major runoff and the high water level of the rivers is late May.

    I’m very anxious to be able to hike into the high country, too!


    Comment by montucky — March 8, 2008 @ 7:59 pm

  11. Beautiful, as always. Thanks so much for sharing your pictures and experiences, it’s like a breath of fresh air here in the DC suburbs. I was trying to pick out which of the pictures I like best, but I just love them all.


    Comment by Sara — March 8, 2008 @ 8:46 pm

  12. Thanks for more disgustingly beautiful winter images from Montana Terry, just kidding, do you ever get tired of all that beauty ? I could surely trade you a couple hundred thousand acres of flat featureless farmland for just one of your mountains 🙂


    Comment by Bernie Kasper — March 8, 2008 @ 9:24 pm

  13. Sara,

    Thanks for visiting! I’m so pleased to know that you enjoy seeing the country that I have loved so much all of my life. I wish that you could see these places in person and enjoy them as I do in complete peace and solitude.


    Comment by montucky — March 8, 2008 @ 9:56 pm

  14. Bernie,

    No, I never, ever, get tired of looking at these mountains. I see them nearly all day, every day and they never fail to excite and inspire me. Being up in them, all alone, is the most peaceful thing I think one could ever do.


    Comment by montucky — March 8, 2008 @ 10:02 pm

  15. These are some brilliant shots. You have a natural eye to frame shots really nicely. (Wish I had the same one….) eating lunch there? I’d respond that many people could really envy your situation good friend!


    Comment by aullori — March 10, 2008 @ 12:39 pm

  16. Thanks, Lori!

    It’s not hard to frame beautiful scenes around here, there are so many! Yes, I think there are lots of folks who would like to share this lunch room, and lots more for whom it would do a world of good!


    Comment by montucky — March 10, 2008 @ 12:52 pm

  17. […] 30, 2008 by montucky Early in May I first visited Burgess Lake and it seemed like a good place to visit again today to perhaps see what spring was doing up […]


    Pingback by Burgess Lake, an April visit « Montana Outdoors — April 30, 2008 @ 10:08 pm

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