Snow Lake – Bottleneck Lakes Loop

Two gorgeous alpine lakes and a bare-granite peak, it can’t get much better than that! A gently-ascending trail leads to Snow Lake, a cirque just north of the more popular Roman Nose basin. From there, a cross-country scramble leads steeply uphill through huckleberries to a ridge connecting to Bottleneck Peak and its sweeping views of the American Selkirks. The descent via Bottleneck Lake requires a bit of non-technical climbing and the thick shrubbery ringing the lakes might be something to remember for a while.
  • Selkirk Mountains
3.9 out of 5
Strenuous (the bushwhack on the Bottleneck side is tedious)
9.9 miles
3:53 hours moving time (Hiking)
Elevation Gain
2,451 feet
High Point
6,954 feet (Bottleneck Peak)
Low Point
4,357 feet (Trailhead)
  • Mountain
  • Lake
  • Meadow
  • Outing Type
  • Daytrip
  • Trail Type
  • Lollipop
  • Trailbed
    Old forest roads, packed dirt/rocks, bushwhack
    185, 187
  • Snow Lake, Bottleneck Lake, and the trail crosses Bottle Creek a few times. There is no water up/down the scramble to Bottleneck Peak.
  • Camping
    • Snow Lake, Bottleneck Lake
    • Excellent on trails, but Bottleneck Peak is a bushwhack and the Bottleneck Lake side is densely overgrown.
  • Kaniksu National Forest
  • Status
  • Unprotected
  • Maps
  • Roman Nose
  • Fees & Permits
  • None required
  • ()
    Open To
  • Hikers
  • Dogs
  • ()
  • On US-95, take the Deep Creek exit about 2 miles south of Bonners Ferry (going north, this is shortly after the Mirror Lake golf course). Follow Deep Creek Loop westwards for 3 miles, then turn right onto Lions Den Road. After .6 miles Lions Den will turn into West Side Road at a right angle. Continue north for another 1.5 miles, then turn left onto Snow Creek Road #402 (Snow Creek is a gravel road with a fair amount of washboarding). Continue for 9.3 miles. The trailhead and parking for 5 – 6 cars ist to the right, just following the fork to FR #661.
  • Season
    July – October
      August 12, 2017

      Following an old forest road, trail #185 starts out easy enough, climbing rather gradually for about a mile to the fork between Snow and Bottleneck Lakes. The choice is yours, but the bushwhack on the Bottleneck side is a whole lot easier going downhill than uphill. So take left and continue on the old forest road through fir and spruce to Snow Lake, about 3 miles from the fork. The trail crosses Snow Creek a couple of times, both easy crossings, with the second one, just ahead of the lake, benefiting from a newly-installed boardwalk. The last mile on that section is also much more open, impacted by the 1967 Sundance Fire, but views of the lake are really not possible until you’re virtually upon it. From afar you see only a nameless mountain, which looms over the lake, and since it shares the basic shape with Roman Nose to the south, we’ll call this “Little” Roman Nose.

      At the lake (stocked with cutthroat) you’ll find several pretty campsites and you’ll get a good view of the hillside about to be ascended to the ridge leading to Bottleneck Peak. This hillside is very open and comparatively easy to climb, with the huckleberries and other shrubbery at their worst just a couple feet deep. The elevation gain is about 700 feet up to the ridge, and then another 300 feet uphill along the ridge to Bottleneck Peak. That bare-granite peak offers grandiose views across the Pack River valley to Harrison Peak, the Beehive and Harrison Lake cirques (but you can’t see the actual lakes), and prominent Chimney Rock. To the south you’ll see Roman Nose and “Little” Roman Nose and the ridge that burned during the 1967 fire. At the foot of Bottleneck Peak lies its namesake lake, far below.

      For the descent you get to choose between two ridges, one heading north, the other east. We picked the northern one, which required a bit of climbing to get down (Naughty wasn’t too eager, but she made it). The scramble along that ridge is easy, but the descent to Upper Bottleneck Lake is thickly overgrown and rather tedious. There were no obvious campsites at the upper lake, nor, to our chagrin, any established trails to the lower lake. That required another bushwhack, and Bottleneck Creek offered the path of least resistance.

      Lower Bottleneck Lake sat rather prettily in its cirque, nestled against Bottleneck Peak to the south and offered a number of excellent camping opportunities. From the lake, the trail heads out as a single-track, but soon enough widens once again as it takes over a former logging road. It just slightly touches on Corner Creek during the descent, a spot where an avalanche or landslide ripped a gouge into the forest (you can actually see where you’ll end up on trail #185 below). The trail then turns south one last time and soon merges with the Snow Lake trail. Head out the way you came in.

      Alternate Routes

        Things to Consider

          Not so great

            A few trickles along trail #185
            Trail #185 uses the roadbed of an old forest road for most of the way
            Naughty cooling down in Snow Creek
            Geocache spoiler photo
            “Little” Roman Nose, towering over Snow Lake
            Trail near Snow Lake with “Little” Roman Nose in the background
            Boardwalk near Snow Lake
            There are numerous campsites along the east and north sides of Snow Lake
            Snow Lake and “Little” Roman Nose
            Naughty swimming in Snow Lake
            Snow Lake and the saddle between “Little” Roman Nose and Bottleneck Peak
            The ascent to Bottleneck Peak is along the north side of Snow Lake (pictured to the right)
            Looking back at Snow Lake while climbing to the ridge
            There are lots of huckleberries, sweet and ripe
            A snag near the top of the ridge
            As you ascend, the real Roman Nose pops up behind the Snow Lake cirque
            “Little” Roman Nose in front, the real thing behind it
            A snag on the ridge, which is mostly exposed granite
            Bottleneck Peak
            View of Harrison Peak
            Looking at the Snow Lake (front) and Roman Nose (back) basins
            The ridge in back was burned in the 1967 Sundance fire
            View from Bottleneck Peak to lower Bottleneck Lake
            A butterfly sucking the salt and moisture from my backpack
            Upper and lower Bottleneck Lakes
            Lower Bottleneck Lake
            Bottleneck lakes
            The ridge heading north from Bottleneck Peak
            Naughty claiming upper Bottleneck Peak
            A small pond between upper and lower Bottleneck lakes
            Lower Bottleneck Lake, looking east
            Panorama shot of Bottleneck Lake
            Lower Bottleneck Lake up close
            Nice bearhang. But guys, a dead snag? And right above your tent? 🙂
            Wildflowers near a pond below Bottleneck Peak


            1. Bill Love says:

              Ooops…I posted my previous comment too soon. Many years after the canoe portage, I packed a float tube up the current trail to Snow Lake. I maintain that mountain lakes have an on/off switch regarding fishing. It was “on” that afternoon as I released countless very small cutthroat trout. My #14 Adams fly would no sooner hit the water and several fish raced to grab it.

              Thanks for the very detailed description and photos of a special place in the Selkirks.

            2. Bill Love says:

              Great photos and description of Snow and Bottleneck Lakes. Back in the mid-70s you could drive on old logging roads to within half a mile of Snow Lake. A group who worked together at the Bonners Ferry Ranger District once packed a canoe up the steep skid trail that accessed Snow Lake. We called ourselves the Kaniksu Angling Society.

              1. naughtyhiker says:

                That must have been a bit of work hauling a canoe up there! Nice lake though; it makes it all worth it! Thanks for the feedback

            3. Mike says:

              Great hike! This loop has been on my list for awhile.

              1. naughtyhiker says:

                Make sure to hike up from the Snow Lake side. A whole lot easier that way. Thanks for reading!

            4. naughtyhiker says:

              Thanks! It was still a bit hazy from smoke but by now that’s cleared up

            5. montucky says:

              That’s another beautiful hike! I love the lakes and the peaks!

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