Montana Outdoors

August 3, 2013

Cabinet Mountains Wilderness ~ St Paul Lake trail # 646

The Cabinet Mountains Wilderness is located in western Montana about 40 miles from the Canadian border and 10 miles east of Idaho. It contains 94,272 acres or 147 square miles, is about 35 miles long and has about 94 miles of trails. It was designated as a primitive area in 1935 and gained wilderness status as part of the National Wilderness Preservation act of 1964.

This post is about a hike I made on July 29th on trail 646 to St Paul Lake in the southwestern part of the CMW and is the first of (I hope) many that I will publish about this wilderness.

The St Paul Lake trail can be accessed by going north about 8 miles on the Bull River Highway (State Highway 56) from its junction with Highway 200 near Noxon, Montana, then going east on Forest Service road 407 for 5 – 6 miles to the trail head. (This road is called the “East Fork of Bull River Road” where it leaves the highway and then a mile or so later the sinage shows it as road 407).

The trail is four miles long, starting at about 3000 feet of elevation at the trail head and reaching about 4600 feet just before it descends a short distance to the lake. The first 3 miles follow the river and appear to be a “cream-puff” with a wide tread, well groomed, very gentle slope and even endowed with bridges ( I think about 8 of them) to keep horses from turning boggy areas into mud bogs. I have to confess I was somewhat disappointed with it. At about 3 miles however, at the final stream crossing, all bets are off and once you cross the stream by wading or by walking across on one of the many trees that are down across the river it becomes a more typical wilderness trail complete with steep climbs, switchbacks and brush that sometimes completely covers the trail as it climbs nearly a thousand feet of elevation in the final mile up to the lake.

I have decided to simply post about half of the pictures that I took during my hike in their sequence along the trail, with a minimum of notes, in an attempt to display the scenes as you would see them as you hiked the trail. The peak behind the lake is St Paul Peak and its top is 3000 feet above the lake. There are a lot of photos: I hope they are not too many.

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

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Indian – Pipes, Monotropa uniflora

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

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Devil’s club, Oplopanax horridus

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Baneberry, Actaea rubra

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

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Cow – Parsnip, Heracleum lanatum

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

Wild Ginger

Wild Ginger, Asarum caudatum

Wild Ginger

Columbian Monkshood

Columbian Monkshood

Columbian Monkshood, Aconitum columbium *Note: All parts of the plant are highly poisonous.

St Paul Lake trail

Cabinet Mountains Wilderness trail 646 St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake trail

St Paul Lake

St Paul Lake

St Paul Lake

St Paul Lake

St Paul Lake

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St Paul Peak

St Paul Lake

On St Paul Peak

On St Paul Peak

St Paul Lake

White Violet

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61 Comments »

  1. Thank you for taking me and everyone else with you on this hike ! Your photos are just great and not to many, i enjoy to look at each and every one of them … I just love the views of your so breathtaking landscape !! // Maria 🙂

    Like

    Comment by mariayarri — August 3, 2013 @ 12:49 am

    • I’m very pleased that you enjoy seeing the wild country of Montana, Maria! The land within this wilderness is still pretty much as it has always been and a very comfortable place to be.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2013 @ 1:15 am

  2. What a wonderful series of photos.
    I almost felt as though I was sharing the hike with you.
    Definitely not too many photos (although a couple looked almost the same scene??). I would never get to see these mountainous & wilderness areas if photographers didn’t share them on the internet, so thank you very much. I can’t walk up & down hills/mountains as I did in my youth (due to chronic foot pain and a serious heart condition), so I really enjoy following PhotoBlogs of the country’s national parks.
    Is that white flower in the second last image a wild violet of some sort?

    Like

    Comment by victoriaaphotographyictoria — August 3, 2013 @ 4:57 am

    • Yes, it’s called Small White Violet (imaginative name), Viola macloskeyi. I was surprised to see some of them growing just a few feet above the water along the lake.

      I’m glad you enjoy seeing wilderness scenes!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2013 @ 9:26 am

  3. Oh my, now I am thoroughly homesick. This is exactly like the area I grew up in, only in the east. How I miss the piney forests, cool lush undergrowth, emerald green plant life, soft running brooks. I haven’t seen Indian Pipes since a kid.

    Like

    Comment by Homestead Ramblings — August 3, 2013 @ 6:21 am

    • Isn’t it good to know that those scenes are being preserved and protected to support those good memories!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2013 @ 9:27 am

  4. The natural beauty of this place is just amazing and I see why they put so much effort into the trails that lead you there.I’ve never seen the columbian monkshhod-it’s a beautiful flower. Great shot of the baneberry “dolls eye” berries, and I’ll bet that ginger flower had you lying on the trail! I wonder what those red berries are in the 7th photo from the top. The leaves look just like blue bead lily (Clintonia borealis), I wonder if it’s a relative?

    Like

    Comment by New Hampshire Gardener — August 3, 2013 @ 6:26 am

    • They have put a lot into the lower part of the trail, especially for those who want to take horses there and to protect the boggy areas. I would not consider the last mile before the lake to be good horse trail at all.

      The monkshood and wild ginger were new to me, the first I’ve ever seen. Yes, the ginger grows very close to the ground, bit it’s fairly good sized and I love the heart-shaped leaves. In fact, the leaves drew my attention and when I looked at them more closely I discovered the blossom.

      I’m not sure about those red berries, but I think they might be baneberry too. My favorite plant book says its berries are more often red than white. Both were plentiful.

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      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2013 @ 9:38 am

  5. Wow, what a way to start my day! Thanks for sharing!

    Like

    Comment by Patty Startin — August 3, 2013 @ 6:49 am

  6. My eyes were doing the work but I swear I could hear the water in the creek and waterfall, the light breeze blowing through the trees and smell the earth beneath as I traveled along with your beautiful visuals. Thanks for taking us along.

    Like

    Comment by anniespickns — August 3, 2013 @ 6:50 am

    • Yes, there is much more than just the visual sensations there. Those tall waterfalls are on the lower part of the peak and at the lake their roar is very pronounced. The breeze was wonderful, chilled a bit by those snow fields. The temperature there at noon was about 65F while in the valley where I live it was 90.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2013 @ 9:41 am

  7. Enjoyable series of photographs. The bridges look new or freshly stained. Some nice deep-forest shots!

    Malcolm

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    Comment by Malcolm R. Campbell — August 3, 2013 @ 6:55 am

    • I think the bridges are quite new, probably last year. I know there is more maintenance planned this month for that trail, most likely the last mile which really need to have the vegetation cut back. There was a brief article in a local paper asking for volunteers to help with trail work there on Aug. 11th.

      I knew that nearly all of the trail would be under the forest canopy and was very pleased to see how pleasant it was there. Many times the forst is so think that you can’t see much, but nearly all of this trail was pretty.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2013 @ 9:45 am

  8. Beautiful – from tame to wild and enjoyable ALL the time! The view at the top makes the effort worth it. Thanks for taking us with you on your hikes.

    Like

    Comment by Elizabeth — August 3, 2013 @ 7:15 am

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the hike, Elizabeth! I especially enjoyed the hike because I saw no one else the whole day. That’s the way to enjoy wilderness!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2013 @ 9:46 am

  9. What an AWEsome place. Thanks for taking us on your hikes … did you see any wildlife? is the difficult climbing part of the trail marked or do you blaze your own trail? I hope that they warn cream puffs like me that the nice walking trail turns into a climb at the end. 😉

    Like

    Comment by bearyweather — August 3, 2013 @ 7:32 am

    • It is indeed an awesome place. I’m looking forward to more of the trails in that wilderness!
      No, I saw no wildlife once I entered the wilderness, but there were fresh deer tracks on top of mine when I returned.
      The last mile of the trail is indeed a good trail, just quite steep despite some switchbacks and the brush has to be pushed aside at the moment. A day for a good trail crew and it could be set straight. I know they will be working on that trail this month and I assume it will be that section. It was difficult to figure out exactly where the trail was at the final stream crossing. I crossed on a fallen tree and then had to look around for the trail.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2013 @ 9:52 am

  10. Like the others Terry, thanks for taking us along on your hikes. If we can’t be there then this is the next best thing. I like one of the others can almost feel the coolness of the shade and hear the tumble of the creek. Thank you,

    Like

    Comment by Ron Mangels — August 3, 2013 @ 7:40 am

    • I’m glad that you liked the area, Ron! I fell in love with the CMW and plan to visit more of it this summer.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2013 @ 9:53 am

  11. You’ve made me feel a desire to move . . .

    Like

    Comment by Andrée Reno Sanborn — August 3, 2013 @ 8:35 am

    • You know, Andrée, I felt the same way and I live only about 70 miles from there! Thanks for visiting!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2013 @ 9:57 am

  12. It looks so perfect. I wish I could get my mind off bears though. Do you never meet any bears? I think I’d be running for cover at the roar of the waterfall until someone could catch up to me and assure me it’s not the roar of a grizzly. Seriously, I don’t think bear spray would be enough to convince me it’s okay to hike there. I know you have all events covered. I’d have to do the same if I were hiking there.

    Like

    Comment by wordsfromanneli — August 3, 2013 @ 10:11 am

    • There is always an element of risk when spending time in the wild country or wilderness, however for me it is well worth taking a certain amount of risk to be able to enjoy those places.

      I do see half a dozen bears each summer and enjoy seeing them. Black bears are very shy and nearly always take great pains to avoid human contact in the wild. A sow with cubs though has to be watched for and avoided: I back away from them when I encounter them. Usually they are out and about at night when we aren’t and their senses, especially smell, are very keen which is why we don’t see them more often. I think you need to be prepared for a bear encounter although it is far less likely than getting hurt on your way to the grocery store. Our worst enemies by far wear clothing.

      I have no experience with Grizzlies, but they are pretty rare and most as I understand will avoid human contact. Park bears are another issue, of course, and are entirely different from wilderness bears.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2013 @ 11:15 am

  13. I love the post, I am always looking for hikes to add to my to-do list. The photos are wonderful…thank you.

    Like

    Comment by Charlie@Seattle Trekker — August 3, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

    • This might be a good one for you then. I plan to hike more of the trails in that wilderness too. It’s really a pretty area.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2013 @ 10:04 pm

  14. Definitely not too many photos…it’s fun to be able to go along on your hike and imagine how it feels. I love the darkness of the forest. And the lake is so pretty, too, what a great hike!

    Like

    Comment by Candace — August 3, 2013 @ 5:05 pm

    • I’m glad that you didn’t mind the large number of photos. I wanted to show what it looks like along the trail as well as the area around the lake. I will probably do mich the same thing on other hikes.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2013 @ 10:14 pm

  15. So much to see along this trail!! Thanks for taking us along with you. 🙂

    Like

    Comment by Mama's Empty Nest — August 3, 2013 @ 5:51 pm

    • Yes, there is much to see and I remember several places where I should have taken photos but didn’t. It’s easy to get so engrossed in the sights and sounds and smells that you can forget.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2013 @ 10:16 pm

  16. That was not too many photos. It’s hard for me to imagine that Montucky could post “too many” for my taste. Nice shot of the monkshood. That’s one I’ve read about many times, but have never seen.

    Like

    Comment by jomegat — August 3, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

    • You are very kind! I’m glad to find the trail photos are of interest.
      The wild ginger was new to me. I know it’s common, but not so in the areas that I usually frequent. Its heart-shaped leaves are really pretty, aren’t they!
      The Monkshood was also new to me. USDA Plants show its distribution is just in the far western states, but I had never seen it. It gets very tall, some over my head.
      I was also a little surprised at the Indian Pipes. I saw over a dozen groups of them along the lower part of the trail, more than I’ve ever seen in one area before and some were just now pushing their way up through the soil.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 3, 2013 @ 10:23 pm

  17. Once again I’m in awe of the scenery – and the deep darkness of the forest! So very beautiful. I can almost feel the coolness! I love the wild flower photos, especially the violet. Are you ever troubled with clouds of midges/mosquitoes in summer on these walks (they would be a bit of a pest in Scotland)?

    Like

    Comment by Jo Woolf — August 4, 2013 @ 12:45 am

    • Sometimes insects are a problem, but in the higher places usually only deer flies and an occasional horse fly. I usually carry a small container of repellent. On this hike there was only a stretch of a half mile where there seemed to be a lot of small insects, in the very dense brush that covered the trail.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 4, 2013 @ 10:33 pm

  18. The photos are just wonderful – and there certainly aren’t too many! As a healthy but not exactly fit-for-the-upper-trails sort, it’s good to see that the easier parts are so well maintained. If I started this very day, I might have myself in shape for those upper trails by next year. And how wonderful that there are volunteers who help with trail maintenance. If I may put my tongue in my cheek for a moment, it occurs to me that keeping both the Feds and hordes of tourists out of such areas might be a good thing. 😉

    Like

    Comment by shoreacres — August 4, 2013 @ 6:36 am

    • Fortunately, the nature of most of the trails keeps the hordes of tourists out of most of the wilderness areas, but I still think some are over-used. I avoid those areas. In fact I prefer the roadless areas over the designated wilderness because they are actually wilder in the sense that they are far less traveled by man. The feds, by the nature of the beast, are loose canons. Even the best of them are still managed by politicians.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 4, 2013 @ 10:44 pm

  19. Man…I’m bushed…but in a good way. I’m glad you included the photos you did. It truly felt like I was there!

    Like

    Comment by dhphotosite — August 4, 2013 @ 1:09 pm

    • I appreciate your thoughts. I will try to show more of the whole trek on my future trips. What I cannot show is the overwhelming feeling of being alone in the wild country. It is the most comfortable feeling that I know.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 4, 2013 @ 10:51 pm

  20. Hi Montucky, Thanks for sharing that hike. I feel like I have taken a virtual vacation field trip walk. Beautiful. Love the reflection of the mountain in the lake. Have a fine coming week!

    Like

    Comment by wildlifewatcher — August 4, 2013 @ 5:58 pm

    • I’m glad that you viewed it as a virtual vacation! Very well put! I hope you have a great week too!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 4, 2013 @ 10:52 pm

  21. As always, it’s just beautiful there.

    Like

    Comment by Mary Strong-Spaid — August 5, 2013 @ 12:27 am

    • The CMW will be an interesting place to explore, especially on the western side where there is not a lot of human activity on the trails.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 5, 2013 @ 7:56 pm

  22. What stunning country…. Thanks so much for taking us along with you. It’s absolutely sublime.

    Like

    Comment by FeyGirl — August 5, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

    • It is really wonderful! Thank goodness that we have some wilderness left in a protected state, but even there the exploiters are attacking. THe latest is building a mine that actually goes underneath the wilderness.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 5, 2013 @ 7:57 pm

      • Oh…my….goodness. Has it been discussed / written about in depth, this mine? One has to hope that it will stop, eventually, but greed and money are still reigning kings.

        Like

        Comment by FeyGirl — August 9, 2013 @ 9:23 am

        • Yes, the mine is actively being fought, but in Montana anything environmental is a target for the establishment. Thank goodness for the courts or there would not be any wild country left here.

          Like

          Comment by montucky — August 9, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

  23. it looks like a beautiful forest walk
    there seem to be less and less flowers
    so i treasure each one

    Like

    Comment by Tammie — August 5, 2013 @ 4:38 pm

    • Yes, the flowers at the lower elevations are about through blooming now. There are still those higher up though. That trail does not get very high, but I could still see quite a difference.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 5, 2013 @ 7:59 pm

  24. Next best thing to being there Terry, you do a wonderful job in capturing the beauty and majesty of your home !!!!

    Like

    Comment by Bernie Kasper — August 5, 2013 @ 8:38 pm

  25. I wondered about the name devil’s club and the species name horridus, so I went to the website of the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, and there I found a good explanation:

    http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=OPHO

    I take it you didn’t get “clubbed.”

    Like

    Comment by Steve Schwartzman — August 6, 2013 @ 5:20 am

    • There is a lot of it here, in just about every canyon that has a stream in it. Nasty stuff if you ever run into it. The spines are very sharp and they will break off easily after they penetrate. If not dug out, they quickly fester.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 6, 2013 @ 8:38 pm

  26. That is a beautiful area, Terry…and that first part does look rather like a nature trail with all of its level ground and pretty bridges. Hopefully you were able to work-up a sweat with the last portion of trail. 🙂

    Like

    Comment by seekraz — August 7, 2013 @ 6:25 pm

    • Yup, that last mile was a wilderness trail. No horse tracks or biscuits either. The wilderness trails are interesting after being so used to the regular forest pack trails. I was one one today that had some segments that were about as steep as a trail gets. Kind of tricky on the descent!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 7, 2013 @ 10:19 pm

  27. I’ll have to come back tomorrow to look more closely at these photos, they are amazing !

    Like

    Comment by Inspired and pretty — August 7, 2013 @ 8:54 pm

    • That wilderness will be a lot of fun to explore. It’s a pleasure just being in it.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 7, 2013 @ 10:22 pm

  28. I’m out of breath when making the track thru Your magnificent photos. This post is something so great that I cannot describe it. The amount of photos was just as it should be to give an idea to visitors.

    Like

    Comment by Sartenada — August 8, 2013 @ 11:37 pm

    • I am glad that you considered this post that way, Matti. Giving visitors an idea of what that area is like is exactly what I wanted to do. It is done best with photos I think.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 8, 2013 @ 11:59 pm

  29. Just incredibly beautiful!

    Like

    Comment by andreiplimbarici — August 19, 2013 @ 6:13 am

    • It is a beautiful area and there are many more such lakes there, I will visit as many as I can.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — August 19, 2013 @ 7:29 pm


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