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.
Indian – Pipes, Monotropa uniflora
Devil’s club, Oplopanax horridus
Baneberry, Actaea rubra
Cow – Parsnip, Heracleum lanatum
Wild Ginger, Asarum caudatum
Columbian Monkshood, Aconitum columbium *Note: All parts of the plant are highly poisonous.
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