- Cabinet Mountains
- The trail was sawed out
- The middle section was very brushy. It is difficult to see the roots and rocks hidden beneath the shrubbery
Trail #324 immediately starts to climb and switchbacks through a dense patch of ferns. Switchbacks, unfortunately, are far and few between, so better get used to the steep ascent. Climbing out of the Spar Creek canyon takes place beneath a thick canopy of cedars and hemlocks that limit undergrowth to a minimum. Alas, with increased elevation come fewer and fewer trees. The positive is that you’ll have a bit of a view, so turn around once in a while and catch a glimpse of Spar Lake.
More likely, however, your focus will be on the trail, which has been sawed out, but the wildflowers (yarrow in particular) are incredibly eager to regain their space. The grade is steep and booby traps in the form of large rocks and roots lurk beneath the shrubbery all too frequently.
On approach to Cub Creek the grade lessens somewhat. The crossing is easy and the creek likely dries up later in the year. The ascent resumes on the other side, with the shrubbery retreating more and more, making views of Spar Peak possible. Nearly 2.5 miles into the hike, you’ll pop out onto a ridge covered with burnt snags and a fork. Swing a right (left heads out to Mount Vernon) and the trail coils around Spar Peak across a vast alpine meadow with great views of Sawtooth Mountain. The shrubbery and the booby traps are gone, though the tread is sometimes obscured by the efforts of ground squirrel colonies.
The trail eventually tackles Spar Peak from the western side. There are numerous faux peaks on the way up, but eventually you get to the top, where the views are indeed incredible and a light breeze keeps the mosquitoes at bay. The lookout tower that once stood there is long gone.
- I have not tried this, but it appears possible to drive up Troy Mine Road to Mount Vernon and hike the ridge to Spar Peak from there. That trail (at least the western portion we saw) looks really good and you’d do most of the elevation gain in the car, but I don’t know whether it is maintained at all
Things to Consider
- The sign at the trailhead states 2 miles to the peak. I don’t think so…