Horseshoe Pond

Any excursions you may attempt from Little Spar Lake are bound to be off-trail. This short hike is one option, climbing a saddle between Savage Mountain and Vertigo Ridge, then dropping down the other side through talus and patches of snow to an azure-blue horseshoe-shaped pond. Further exploration, such as Scotchman Peak #2, is a possibility.
  • Cabinet Mountains
4.3 out of 5
Strenuous (steep; there is no trail)
3.0 miles
2:06 hours moving time (Hiking)
Elevation Gain
895 feet
High Point
6,038 feet (Savage Mountain saddle)
Low Point
5,236 feet (Little Spar Lake)
  • Lake
  • Meadow
  • Outing Type
  • Daytrip
  • Trail Type
  • Out-and-back
  • Trailbed
    There is no trail
  • Horseshoe Pond
  • Little Spar Lake
  • Camping
    • There weren’t any obvious sites, but you could easily improvise
    • There is no trail
  • Kootenai National Forest
  • Status
  • Roadless Area
  • Maps
  • Scotchman Peak
  • Fees & Permits
  • None required
  • ()
    Open To
  • Hikers
  • Dogs
  • ()
  • 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 (mostly blacktop); follow that for 4 miles to Spar Lake. At the campground take the dirt road to the right and continue for about a mile to the trailhead of Little Spar Lake Trail #148. Hike to Little Spar Lake, about 4 miles.
  • Season
    July – October
    July 18, 2020

    We attempted two different ways of climbing the saddle, with the first one far better. This one involved a relatively steep climb through the forest northwest of the Little Spar Lake outlet, and perhaps we should have chosen an even steeper route. The reason for that is that the offshoot from Savage Mountain that makes up the saddle is mostly granite and alpine meadows, which is far easier to traverse than the woods. Taking a steep approach, you’ll get there in a quarter-mile. Views are somewhat limited, but enjoyable nonetheless, consisting of granite rock formations, wildflower, meadows, and lots of talus. At first climbing a bit more, then dropping, you get to the saddle, with views of either lake elusive.

    We continued across the saddle and started to climb Vertigo Ridge. Alas, covered with boulders and talus it proved canine incompatible. It did, however, offer great photo opportunities of Horseshoe Pond. Crossing steep snowbanks, we then dropped down to the lake, which was as pretty up close as it was from afar, framed by granite.

    On the way back we moved south on the saddle, hoping to catch a glance of Little Spar Lake from atop. We had no luck initially, but stumbled across a meadow covered with glacier lilies. Following this turned our direction more northeastwards, and as we dropped the lilies gave way to beargrass and huckleberries. The terrain steepened even further and got more and more brushy, with spruce saplings, mountain ash and the dreaded slide alder replacing low-growing shrubs. Positively, though, we managed a few slightly filtered shots of Little Spar Lake. The descent then gets awfully steep and tedious the closer to the lake you get. Once near the lake, you won’t come across the faint angler trail until you are very close to the outlet where all the campsites are. I do not recommend this return route.

    Alternate Routes

      Things to Consider

        Not so great

          A offshoot of Savage Mountain
          An alpine meadow leading up to the saddle between Little Spar and Horseshoe lakes
          Scotchman Peak #2
          Horseshoe Pond
          Snow ringed the lake even in July
          Horseshoe Pond up close
          There was no distinct headwall, but a lot of this smooth slab along the northern edge of the lake
          The outlet
          Looking across the lake from the outlet
          Horseshoe Pond, looking south at Vertigo Ridge
          Naughty taking a quick bath
          Snow on Vertigo Ridge
          That’s Scotchman #2 and some mighty fine cornices left over from last winter
          A little pond above Horseshoe Pond
          An alpine meadow above Little Spar Lake
          Little Spar Lake. The peak behind it is unnamed; Spar Peak is further northeast