Virtually constant access to water, lots of shade, a phenomenal flora, and a comparatively easy climb make this a pretty summer hike, despite its low elevation. The lake is perfect for a quick dip, if you can take the ice-cold chill!
|Rating||3.2 out of 5|
|Difficulty||Moderate (some uphill hiking)|
|Duration||3:21 hours moving time (hiking)|
|Elevation Gain||1,720 feet|
|High Point||4,781 feet (St. Paul Lake)|
|Low Point||3,069 feet (trailhead)|
|Trailbed||Packed dirt, loose rocks|
|Water||Almost throughout the hike (East Fork Bull River and its tributaries; St. Paul Lake)|
|Administration||Kaniksu National Forest|
|Conditions||Excellent. We hiked this just after a trail maintenance crew had gone up. Thanks guys!!|
|Camping||At trailhead and at south shore of St. Paul Lake. An additional site sits ahead of the lake just before you get over the lip. There is a pit toilet at the trailhead|
|Maps||USGS Elephant Peak|
|Trailhead||From MT-200, about 5 miles north of Noxon, take MT-56 north for 8 miles. Turn right onto FS-407 and follow it to the trailhead (6 miles). There are a few forks in the road, all signed (look for signs to trail #646).
Google Directions (48.122045, -115.700383)
|Season||June – October|
|Squirrel Density||Lots, especially at the lake. Horses are allowed to use the trail but can’t be at the lake|
|Date||July 15, 2018|
The St. Paul Lake Trail almost immediately enters the Cabinet Wilderness Area, as it winds through dense cedar-and-hemlock forest along the East Fork Bull River. The forest floor is lush and green with mosses and ferns and devil’s club. At a gradual climb, the trail at first moves away from the creek, only to re-approach it at the half-mile mark. Then it moves away once again, crossing a few tributaries (easy rock hops) and passes a small pond with a natural spring and the clearest water. Isabella Creek is crossed on a handy log (though you could probably manage a rock hop as well) and soon after you reach Placer Creek, which would be difficult to cross were it not for the heavy-duty bridge making life easy. Afterwards the incline picks up a bit, but the trail remains nicely forested as it climbs through old-growth cedar groves. There is one more major crossing, accomplished on a lengthy log (you actually have the choice of 2 or 3). About a half mile before ahead of the lake, the trail crosses a basin thick with alder and thimbleberries where you’ll get a first glance of St. Paul Peak, then switchbacks up to the lip of the lake. The lake, incidentially, is very steep-sided, with the best approach from the southeast side, where it’s relatively flat. The best campsite also is on that side of the lake.
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- You could climb to St Paul Pass and cross over to Rock Lake. There is no maintained trail, however.
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