Big Spar Lake

The Big Spar Lake trail refused to show its best side on this fall morning, being shrouded in fog most of the time. It would make for great summer hiking, though, as the path meanders through a pleasant cedar forest. Perhaps the best part is the old-growth cedar grove along Spar Creek.
  • Cabinet Mountains
2.6 out of 5
Moderate (the drop to the lake is a bit steep)
6.8 miles
2:28 hours moving time (Hiking)
Elevation Gain
828 feet
High Point
3,551 feet (Trailhead)
Low Point
3,238 feet (Spar Lake)
  • Grove
  • Lake
  • Outing Type
  • Daytrip
  • Trail Type
  • Out-and-back
  • Trailbed
    Packed dirt, old logging road
  • Spar Lake
  • Camping
    • None
    • Good
  • Kootenai National Forest
  • Status
  • Unprotected
  • Maps
  • Sawtooth Mountain
  • Spar Lake
  • Fees & Permits
  • None required
  • ()
    Open To
  • Hikers
  • Dogs
  • Horses
  • Mountain Bikers
  • ()
  • From MT-56, turn onto Troy Mine Road (westbound; aka Asarco Mine Road). It is located between milepost 24 and 25, a few miles north of Bull Lake. After about 3 miles, turn right onto FR-7148 (gravel) and follow that for 1.5 miles. It will merge with FR-384 a half-mile before FR-384 is blacktopped. Follow FR-384 for about 2 miles to Spar Lake; the trailhead is signed, in a clearing to the left. There is plenty of parking. To hike this west to east, follow the directions to Little Spar Lake.
  • Season
      September 27, 2020

      From the trailhead in an old burn, the trail almost immediately drops down to nearly the shores of Spar Lake, where it picks up an old logging road and follows it to the northeastern-most corner of the lake (it would be easy to drop down to the lakeshore along this stretch). Then, the trail moves away from the road bed and in true singletrack fashion meanders through a shady cedar forest, all the while hugging the lakeshore. Views of the lake are filtered throughout and the trail stays a fair bit above the water level, with the hillside exceedingly steep.

      The lake ends after about 2 miles (depending on the season), but the trail continues for another mile, crossing a few creeks and moving up Spar Creek through an incredibly nice old-growth cedar forest. The trail ends on FR-384 at the Little Spar Lake trailhead. All tributaries were dry in September, even lake-fed Spar Creek.

      Spar Lake is quite interesting in that it does not appear to have an outlet.

      Alternate Routes

      • This makes for a great combination with the Little Spar Lake or Spar Peak hikes
      • You could turn this into a loop by hiking out on FR-384

      Things to Consider

        Not so great

          The sun trying to dissipate the fog above Spar Lake
          Spar Lake, looking west
          The obligatory grouse
          Much of the trail winds through a pleasant cedar forest
          Nice old-growth cedar stands near Spar Creek
          This area is very verdant…mosses, ferns, cedars
          Naughty enjoying a puddle at trail’s end
          Spar Creek was dry
          Spar Creek, near the lake
          A handy staircase in easing a dry creek bed crossing
          Spar Lake
          Spar Lake, looking east
          The campground on the opposite shore
          Spar Lake, looking west. Still foggy