Ball Lakes via Pyramid Lake

A string of tree-lined alpine lakes cuddled below steep granite cliffs near the highest peaks of the Selkirk Crest; what’s not to like about that? This route visits three of the lakes, each one offering opportunities for camping and swimming, and with only 1000 feet of elevation gain the trail is ideal for a family trek. 
  • Selkirk Mountains
3.6 out of 5
Moderate (uphill hiking)
4.9 miles
2:11 hours moving time (Hiking)
Elevation Gain
939 feet
High Point
6,735 feet (Upper Ball Lake)
Low Point
5,829 feet (Trailhead)
  • Lake
  • Outing Type
  • Daytrip
  • Trail Type
  • Out-and-back
  • Trailbed
    Packed dirt, loose rocks
  • There are frequent trickles between the trailhead and Pyramid Lake. The only reliable sources after Pyramid Lake are the Ball Lakes.
  • Camping
    • There are several sites on Pyramid and Upper Ball Lake and a large one at Lower Ball Lake
    • Excellent
  • Kaniksu National Forest
  • Status
  • Proposed Wilderness
  • Maps
  • Pyramid Peak
  • Fees & Permits
  • None required
  • ()
    Open To
  • Hikers
  • Dogs
  • Horses
  • ()
  • From U.S. Highway 95 in Bonners Ferry, drive west on Riverside Road (aka Country Road 18A) past the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge to the Refuge’s headquarters. Take West Side Road (blacktopped) north for 10 miles to Trout Creek Road #634. Take #634 uphill for 9 miles to the #13 trailhead (there is only limited parking for about 10 vehicles). Take trail #13 (Pyramid Pass) up half a mile to the trailhead.
  • Season
    July – October
      August 29, 2017

      From the junction of trails #43 (Pyramid/Ball Lakes) and #13 (Pyramid Pass), the trail crosses a small creek and meanders slightly uphill through a boggy open forest, frequently straddled by boardwalk, assuring no wet feet. In about a mile Pyramid Lake comes into view. Overshadowed by massive headwalls to the south and west. The hourglass-shaped lake offers a number of campsites along the forested northern shore, the best probably at the narrowing of the lake’s “waist” (the lake also appears to be deeper in the larger western section, if you’re thinking about going for a swim….).

      Continuing on, trail #43 skirts the eastern shore of the lake, moving in a southeasterly direction through mostly fir and spruce forest with good views down the Trout Creek drainage towards the Kootenai River Valley (it got increasingly smokey while we hiked, though, limiting those views). The trail reaches a huge boulder field, switchbacks, and moves around the mountain’s flank to steadily climb the southern headwall of Pyramid Lake. Much of this is talus-covered and pretty steep with only a few switchbacks, but the trail is wide and the views of Pyramid Lake and soon Pyramid Peak are tremendous.

      Once you reach the top, the trail winds through open forest with a much more modest slope and reaches the upper Ball Lake at around the 2-mile mark. There is a sign pointing up (west) and that trail ends at the upper lake in no time. There are several camp spots, with one of the better ones on the southern end near the lake’s outlet. Just like Pyramid Lake, the upper Ball Lake also is nestled against a headwall, albeit not quite as steep, and it stretches along both the upper and the lower Ball Lake.

      To reach the lower Ball Lake backtrack to the sign and follow the trail for another quarter mile. The lower Ball Lake is much smaller and comes with just one campsite, but a large one at that.

      The entire Pyramid-Ball-Lakes trail is part of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail. The trail continues southwest, but turns into somewhat of a bushwhack during the descent to Lion Creek. A project for another day… 

      Alternate Routes

      • Scramble up “Ball Peak”, the unnamed peak looming over upper and lower Ball Lakes
      • Continue on the Pacific Northwest Trail: going west ends at the Pacific, going east at Glacier National Park

      Things to Consider

        Not so great

          Long stretches of boardwalk across swampy areas to Pyramid Lake
          Panorama shot of Pyramid Lake
          Pyramid Lake and the ridge to the south beyond which lie the Ball Lakes
          Campsite at Pyramid Lake
          Pyramid Lake looking east
          Pyramid Lake
          Looking down the Trout Creek Canyon. Wildfire smoke was drifting in; otherwise you’d see the Kootenai River Valley
          Boulder field while ascending the ridge dividing Pyramid from Ball Lakes
          Pyramid Peak
          The trail climbs the ridge above Pyramid Lake
          Pyramid Lake and Pyramid Peak
          Hourglass-shaped Pyramid Lake. The larger section is deeper = better swimming
          Upper Ball Lake panorama shot
          Campsite at Upper Ball Lake
          Ball Peak? From Lower Ball Lake
          Panorama shot of Lower Ball Lake
          Lower Ball Lake is much smaller than Upper Ball Lake


          1. montucky says:

            Beautiful scenery. I bet it will be even prettier without the smoke.

          2. montucky says:

            Beautiful scenery. I bet it will be even prettier without the smoke.

            1. naughtyhiker says:

              Absolutely. It’s been a smokey year, but hopefully the worst is over now

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