- Bitterroot Mountains
- French Lake
- Good, but foliage obscures the trail in the meadows
- A few areas were muddy
From the junction with trail #103 next to French Creek, head north and uphill through a shady cedar forest. There are a few switchbacks as the trail lifts off the valley floor, but the going is easy and the trail clear. This changes as you move out of the cedars and into a mixed coniferous forest that is far more open. Soon, thimbleberries rule. About a mile into the hike, the trail crosses French Creek, an easy rock hop this time of the year. The path then stays on the northern side all the way to the lake, steadily climbing and leaving the timbered areas behind.
Instead, you’ll cover vast alpine meadows smothered hip-high in ferns and wildflowers, prominently black-eyed susan. Views of the surrounding hills, the steep slope of Lightning Peak, and Crater Peak at the mouth of the creek open up, but unfortunately all the peaks were shrouded in clouds as we pushed our way through the dripping foliage. Sometimes the trail is hard to make out and you’re not sure whether the prior user of the trail was a horse heading to the lake or a bear to its den. Hope for the former; it probably was, as these trails get a lot of equine traffic from nearby Hole-in-the-Wall Ranch.
Just ahead of the lake is a level meadow (likely a shallow pool in early summer) where horses have to stay behind. It’s then only a hundred yards down to the lake. There awaits a shaded campsite and the most picturesque miniture island you could imagine. Above it looms Lightning Peak, once home to a lookout, but we saw none of it, as clouds and fog gathered thickly above the lake.
- It may be possible to climb Lightning Peak. I have no idea; it was lost in the clouds!
Things to Consider
Not so great