Montana Outdoors

August 23, 2013

Cabinet Mountains Wilderness ~ Engle Lake trail # 932

Hike on 8/21/2013…

Engle Lake, along with several other high country lakes are spread through a large basin located to the northwest of Engle Peak in the southwest part of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness. Two trails access the area, the Engle Lake trail # 932 and the Engle Peak trail # 926. We chose trail # 932.

To reach the trail head for 932, you must take USFS road 150 (the Rock Creek road) from Montana Highway 200 near the Noxon Rapids Dam, about 4 miles to USFS road 2285 and then follow it for 7 miles to the trail head. 2285 is a good mountain road that is open all year although not plowed in winter: it is good to check its status with the Cabinet Ranger District before making the trip. There is parking at the trail head for 3 – 4 cars; we had the road and the trail all to ourselves however.

Trail 932 climbs fairly steeply from about 4900 feet at the trail head about 1.5 miles through the McKay Roadless area to the wilderness boundary and a beautiful narrow ridge that flattens out at about 6500 feet. It will meet trail 926 after a mile or so and will continue on to Engle Peak and a short connecting trail down to the lake.

From the ridge trail there are beautiful open views to the south looking down at the lower Clark Fork River valley and the Noxon Reservoir 4000 feet below. To the north of the ridge trail lies the basin containing the lakes, and beyond, some of the mountain peaks of the wilderness.

Following are some of the more than one hundred photos I took during the hike.

Along trail 932

Along trail 932

Along trail 932

Along trail 932

Along trail 932

Along trail 932

Along trail 932

Along trail 932

Along trail 932

Clark Fork River, Noxon Reservoir

Noxon Reservoir, Clark Fork River

Along trail 932

Along trail 932

Along trail 932

Engle Lake basin trail 932

Along trail 932

Along trail 932

Along trail 932

Engle Lake basin trail 932

Engle Lake basin trail 932

Engle Lake basin trail 932

Engle Lake basin

Engle Peak

Engle Lake basin

Engle Lake basin

Clark Fork River

Engle Peak

Engle Peak

Engle Peak

Engle Peak

Engle Lake basin


  1. That is a magnificent landscape you live in . Your photos are absolutely gorgeous! It felt as i was hiking along with you when i looked at your pictures . It´s really a pleasure to visit your blog.
    I must ask, is everyone in your family as interested as you in mountain hiking ? // Maria :)

    Comment by mariayarri — August 24, 2013 @ 3:01 am

    • My wife is interested in the places I visit, but for health reasons cannot hike. I started taking photos of the back country mostly so she would be able to see what I encounter out there. One of our daughters hikes a lot where she lives, but it is far away from here: when she visits we go on hikes.

      Comment by montucky — August 24, 2013 @ 8:35 am

  2. And i forget to tell you, that i really appreciates that you add such a informativ text to your post ! // Maria :)

    Comment by mariayarri — August 24, 2013 @ 3:03 am

  3. Wow! I can see why you love this country so much! You must feel as if you’re on top of the world when you’re up there. I love the photos of the deep forest just as much as the mountain views. What a glorious sky as well!

    Comment by Jo Woolf — August 24, 2013 @ 4:48 am

    • On trails like that you can see a lot more of the world than from the valley floor and the whole experience is exhilarating, the climb, the forest, the rocks, the sky, the weather, the solitude… We were fortunate to have a clear day without the smoke that covers much of the state now.

      Comment by montucky — August 24, 2013 @ 8:40 am

  4. That must have been quite a hike. It’s a beautiful area with all of the untouched mountains and lakes. If it were here there would be houses on every lake shore.

    Comment by New Hampshire Garden Solutions — August 24, 2013 @ 4:54 am

    • Since 1964, this area has been under the protection of wilderness under the wilderness act. To an extent, the ruggedness of the terrain serves as a form of protection, but without wilderness status, the valleys would have been thoroughly exploited and the forests logged. Throughout Montana, the lakes that are not protected are lined with houses, roads and tourist attractions. We are fortunate to have many acres of wilderness and roadless lands here so that folks from all over can witness and enjoy the land as it has always been.

      Comment by montucky — August 24, 2013 @ 8:47 am

  5. Nice hike. I like the old growth forest.


    Comment by Malcolm R. Campbell — August 24, 2013 @ 5:46 am

    • I like it too. The parts of our forests that the commercial and political realm has fooled around with are sterile places indeed.

      Comment by montucky — August 24, 2013 @ 8:49 am

  6. So beautiful, especially the clear skies. We are experiencing smoky skies in our mountains which are being ravaged by wildfires caused by lightning. Although I know that these are natural occurrences the outcome is hard to look at right after the event. So glad your mountains have stayed out of harms way this summer and that you have shared them and your clear skies with us.

    Comment by anniespickns — August 24, 2013 @ 7:49 am

    • Our skies have seldom been clear this summer either. It was lucky that day that the smoke from the wildfires stayed just to the north of the CMW and 70 miles to the south of it. It was a rare day.

      On the southeastern shoulder of that ridge below Engle Peak there is a fairly large area that was burned not too long ago (several years). The exposure of the ridge makes it a natural place for lightning strikes, and in wilderness, the fires are allowed burn as they naturally occur. It is interesting to be able to see how the forests control themselves through the natural fire and recovery process, both of which are vital to their good health.

      Comment by montucky — August 24, 2013 @ 8:58 am

  7. What a gloriously blue-sky day! Looks like a wonderful way to spend a day … it would take my breathe away (in more then just one way ;-))

    Comment by bearyweather — August 24, 2013 @ 9:09 am

    • The weather was just right for seeing the high country, and up there it wasn’t even too hot.

      Yes, it does take a lot of breath! Hiking at 6000 feet is different than at lower elevations. The thing is though, it’s so beautiful there that you forget the effort and adapt you activity to it.

      Comment by montucky — August 24, 2013 @ 10:09 pm

  8. Amazing images and country Terry, it’s like I am following you on your hike but with out the pain afterwards lol !!

    Comment by Bernie Kasper — August 24, 2013 @ 9:11 am

    • I wish you could go one one of the hikes, Bernie! I know you would enjoy it.

      I’m of the age now that I have to hike a lot every day to keep fit enough for the steep trails, and one of the benefits of that is that I very seldom have stiff muscles after a hike, although I do find that I feel better making the more strenuous hikes after two day’s rest.

      Comment by montucky — August 24, 2013 @ 10:18 pm

  9. I could just feel myself inhaling deeply as if I were standing up there looking over the valleys. Beautiful photos of a beautiful place.

    Comment by wordsfromanneli — August 24, 2013 @ 9:37 am

    • I’ve found that achieving very deep breaths takes complete relaxation, and that comes with the beauty of the wilderness. It’s amazing how just being in places like that crowd out so many of the cares and tensions that we usually have to deal with every day.

      Comment by montucky — August 24, 2013 @ 10:24 pm

  10. I really was struck by your comment that it is “interesting to be able to see how the forests control themselves through the natural fire and recovery process, both of which are vital to their good health.” I’m convinced that one reason children and younger people today are suffering so many more allergies, asthma-like diseases and what I can only call a “general lack of sturdiness” is that well-meaning attempts to isolate them from all dangers and protect them from every germ on the planet is being counter-productive. Children who aren’t allowed free physical play – without the constant supervision of adults – and who aren’t allowed to live in a less than hermetically-sealed environment aren’t going to be suited, either physically or mentally, for the challenges of the places you show us.

    In my opinion, of course. I’ll put my soap box away now and tell you how beautiful these photos are. I loved the series – the sense of an expanding horizon as you went higher was palpable.

    Comment by shoreacres — August 24, 2013 @ 10:20 am

    • I agree that it is not in a child’s best interest to be protected from absolutely everything. You have to get out and eat dirt once in awhile and develop a natural resistance to whatever it contains. Many of the native Indians died from disease that the Europeans brought to America, simply because they had not built up any resistance to them. I also think that health problems will worsen as people get away from the natural rhythm of things, the use of their minds and muscles that living close to the earth demands.

      I’m very pleased that you enjoy seeing the beauty and awesomeness of the wilderness. This planet that makes life possible is an awesome and beautiful place!

      Comment by montucky — August 24, 2013 @ 10:38 pm

  11. Beautiful! A clear summer’s day in W MT! That hike seems well worth the effort! :)

    Comment by twoscamps — August 24, 2013 @ 10:38 am

    • Yes, well worth it! Really, they all are. I’m so thankful to be able to travel through the old-growth forests and the wild country. I wish I could feel comfortable that it will still be possible several generations from now.

      Comment by montucky — August 24, 2013 @ 10:41 pm

  12. Boy do I feel invigorated!!! This is again a fantastic series of photos! I have to agree with the comment from Shoreacres. When I was growing up we were rarely allowed to play inside. When neighbors would question her in this regard she would say ” recently they have invented soap” Folks both adults and children need to get out more. Funny thing…I did this several times…when I clicked on your post, music from the Big Band Era started to play. Not sure if it is intentional, but it was pretty cool.

    Comment by dhphotosite — August 24, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

    • It was the same when I was a kid. Playing inside hardly ever happened, and I don’t remember that was ever desirable either.

      I have no idea what the music was about. Haven’t encountered that. I do hope to spend some time this winter and figure out how to make slideshows out of some of these hikes and add music to them.

      Comment by montucky — August 24, 2013 @ 10:45 pm

  13. WOW!! Love the pictures from the top.

    Comment by Mary — August 24, 2013 @ 6:26 pm

    • I have to second that sentiment.

      Comment by jomegat — August 24, 2013 @ 8:13 pm

      • I guess that’s why I take so many photos. I want to capture those scenes!

        Comment by montucky — August 24, 2013 @ 10:47 pm

    • I love those views too, Mary. Can’t ever get enough of them!

      Comment by montucky — August 24, 2013 @ 10:46 pm

  14. Engle Lake is a a beautiful, peaceful place surrounded by all those pines. You seem to have a never-ending wealth of places to hike.

    Comment by Candace — August 24, 2013 @ 10:37 pm

    • The opportunities in this region really are just about endless for an individual, once you learn how to find them. Montana contains over 30,000 square miles of National Forest. and quite a bit of it is remote and secluded, protected from the developers by roadless area protections and wilderness designation and the protections that go with those. That seems to be a lot of land area, but it’s all that we have: no more wild country is being created.

      Comment by montucky — August 24, 2013 @ 10:57 pm

  15. I love hiking in the mountains…your photos and the views were amazing. Thank you for sharing such treasures.

    Comment by Charlie@Seattle Trekker — August 25, 2013 @ 12:21 pm

    • That whole wilderness is a treasure, Charlie. I have just broken the surface of it so far, but hope to do more before it is closed by snow.

      Comment by montucky — August 25, 2013 @ 11:50 pm

  16. another beautiful journey
    thank you for sharing your trail and vistas ~

    Comment by Tammie — August 25, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

    • I have been trying to document the trails for other folks who may be interested. That would have been helpful to me when I decided where to visit. I get very good verbal information from the ranger station, but photos would have helped.

      Comment by montucky — August 25, 2013 @ 11:52 pm

  17. These are just gorgeous photos — of some spectacular scenery. What camera are you using on your hikes? I am always reluctant to pack along the expensive equipment, and usually settle for my point and shoot instead.

    Comment by Sue — August 25, 2013 @ 2:40 pm

    • On the last two hikes I have taken both the D80 and an inexpensive P & S that I recently bought. I have been pleasantly surprised at what the P & S does although the quality is clearly inferior to the big camera and lenses. The trade-off for me is the weight, a half pound vs 5 to 7 pounds. On the trails with a lot of elevation gain that makes a big difference. Actually, the P & S has several advantages besides weight. It is quicker to get into action and has a built-in zoom that is not all that bad. I tend to get a lot of those first-impression shots with it that are usually the best composition. It also has less volume, which means that it makes it easier to carry and access bear spray and other things that I like to hang on my pack straps. At the moment my strategy will be to take both when I’m pretty sure there will be tremendous views that I may some day want to make into prints. On others I will take just the P & S, such as one I want to do fairly soon which will involve 16 miles on a mountain bike and 8 miles on foot. The elevation gain for the bike part will be over 2500 feet and weight will be important. (Now, if I were 50 years younger…)

      Comment by montucky — August 26, 2013 @ 12:04 am

  18. As usual, I enjoy the pictures and the posts.

    Comment by David — August 25, 2013 @ 8:38 pm

    • Thanks for the feedback David. I’m glad that you enjoy them!

      Comment by montucky — August 26, 2013 @ 12:05 am

  19. Hi Montucky, You saved your best picture for last in my opinion. Have a fine day today and a great coming week!

    Comment by wildlifewatcher — August 26, 2013 @ 10:51 am

    • I like that photo best too, wildlifewatcher!

      Comment by montucky — August 26, 2013 @ 7:42 pm

  20. Saw this this morning and was wondering how the Rim fire here in CA is affecting your skies?

    Comment by anniespickns — August 28, 2013 @ 10:50 am

    • Thanks for that link! Interesting to see the track of the smoke. Fascinating to think that it travels that far.

      The weather people here tell us that we are receiving smoke from that fire too. Some days there is clearly high altitude smoke and probably from the Rim fire. Other days, heavy smoke from Montana fires fill the valleys, and on still others it is very clear. The wind patterns through these mountains are constantly changing and unpredictable. We live about 80 miles northwest of Missoula and about the same distance south of Kalispell. There have been many days when both cities had a lot of smoke (from different fires) and we had none at all.

      Comment by montucky — August 28, 2013 @ 8:43 pm

  21. My sister lives in the Carson Valley and the smoke has been very heavy there. Tahoe and Reno are getting a lot too. I’m headed up Friday to the cabin I rent each year 1 1/2hrs north of Tahoe but believe that it is far enough north that we won’t be experiencing smoke there. I’ll find out real soon. Grand children and a cabin on a small lake, life doesn’t get much better.

    Comment by anniespickns — August 28, 2013 @ 8:59 pm

    • Perfect time for a cabin on a lake! Have a great time with the grand children! It seems to me that the smoke from so far away doesn’t hug the ground. I hope that will be the case there if it goes that direction!

      Comment by montucky — August 28, 2013 @ 9:07 pm

  22. Your shutter was busy on this trip Terry! Great results too, the weather and the light look perfect.

    Comment by Finn — August 29, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

    • It sure was, Finn. I have been taking more photos on many of these hikes because I know that I may never visit there again. The entire Cabinet Mountains Wilderness is beautiful!

      Comment by montucky — August 29, 2013 @ 9:09 pm

  23. I love those straggly old trees on top!

    Comment by Tammy — August 30, 2013 @ 10:46 pm

    • Yes, the trees in that region are amazing. It is old growth forest and it’s fascinating to study the plant life there.

      Comment by montucky — August 31, 2013 @ 10:17 pm

  24. gorgeous! I have really been getting the itch for a real hike! one of these days……

    Comment by skouba — September 1, 2013 @ 8:25 pm

    • There are plenty of trails up here, Stacey! I haven’t been out this week, but hopefully, next.

      Comment by montucky — September 1, 2013 @ 9:35 pm

  25. Oh, that looks like Home…different landscape features, of course, but goodness! A place where your heart can soar! Beautiful, Terry….just stunning…..

    Comment by seekraz — September 2, 2013 @ 10:20 am

    • It has been so good to hike into the wilderness area, and this one has a lot of trails that are just asking to be hiked! It’s a little far to be going all of the time, but I’ll make at least several more trips there this year.

      Comment by montucky — September 2, 2013 @ 9:45 pm

      • I understand that feeling…..I’m glad you have been able to get out there. Will look for your images from your next trips, too…..

        Comment by seekraz — September 2, 2013 @ 10:17 pm

  26. That’s a mother lode of pictures. I don’t recall your ever having published so many at one time.

    Comment by Steve Schwartzman — September 3, 2013 @ 4:41 pm

    • On rare trips, especially into the wilderness, I take lots of photos, knowing that I may never go there again, and I have decided to post more of them to give a richer flavor to the place. Not many people ever see these more remote scenes, and the photos don’t do much for anyone if they simply reside in my library.

      Comment by montucky — September 3, 2013 @ 9:14 pm

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