Cedar Lakes Trail
The Cedar Lakes Trail is a long and involved adventure in the Kootenai National Forest that yields a diversity of flora and fauna in addition to breathtaking alpine scenery. Discover a collection of idyllic lakes hidden deep in northern Montana’s unspoiled wilderness.
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Route Description for Cedar Lakes Trail
Sweeping views and crystalline lakes await you on the Cedar Lakes Trail. This incredible adventure into the untouched backcountry is demanding and requires considerable preparation. While many tackle this route as an overnight backpacking expedition, it can be managed as an arduous day-hike with plenty of water and determination. Although exploration in the spring is possible, it is worth noting that the trail is not clear of snow and blowdown until July. Additionally, the route is overgrown—no matter the season, so long pants are highly recommended. Let us not forget to mention that the mosquitos are relentless, so bug repellent is a must! Although bear encounters are unlikely, there is plenty of wildlife, so it is wise to make sure at least one person in your party carries bug spray.
While rough and rugged, the Cedar Lakes Trail is unrivaled in its natural beauty! Immerse yourself in the preserved wilderness and indulge in the variety of flora and fauna. Meander amongst moose, mule deer, mountain goats, and black bears munching on the huckleberries that line the footpath. While this is well-loved, you will likely enjoy the tranquility as you wander beneath the dense tree canopy, but you will probably enjoy some company along the lake shores. The strenuous and wild character of this route is challenging, but the crystalline pools framed by Dome Mountain are an unforgettable scene worth the sweat! The next time you find yourself near Libby, Montana, a trip to the Cedar Lakes is worth adding to the itinerary.
Embark on your journey to the Cedar Lakes from the Cedar Creek Trailhead off Cedar Creek Road. Setting out from here, the Cedar Creek Trail travels westward, climbing into the forested canyon alongside the meandering creek. Enjoy the sounds of the gurgling water and the scene of the charming cascades that tumble over the smoothed granite. Not long after your departure, you will reach a junction, keep left along the Cedar Creek Trail, escaping beneath the dense tree canopy, protecting hikers from the elements. Now tracking southwest, you will continue the relentless climb into the wilderness.
As you hike through the corridor of mixed pines and cedars, be sure to keep an eye out for flora disguising in the woodlands. The terrain will become increasingly rocky and steep as you near Lower Cedar Lake. Here you will likely run into blowdown and overgrowth but keep persevering. Soon you will pass another intersection, keep left, and you will crest the shoreline of the first Cedar Lake. Marvel at the beauty of the blue-hued lake, the encircling evergreens, and the Cabinet Mountains. Take a break here overlooking the gorgeous setting, then turn right onto the Cabinet Divide North at the following trail split.
This section of the route is more demanding and exposed, so be mindful of your footing on the steep, rocky ridges and keep an eye on the skies. You will briefly wander along the shore of Upper Cedar Lake, which boasts awe-inspiring sights of Dome Mountain looming above. Beyond this point, you will be led up a collection of switchbacks along the lakeside cliffs. Enjoy the scene of the pool from above, and you will eventually reach the route’s end at an overlook of the alpine basin on the west side of the lake. Admire the expansive views of Montana’s mountainous landscape and rest and rehydrate as you revel in the beauty of the scene. When you are through appreciating the grandeur of the landscape, retrace your footing back to the trailhead.
Dome Mountain stands at an elevation of 2,306 m in Montana’s Cabinet Mountains. This granite dome towers above the Cedar Lakes, to the west of Libby.
Insider Hints for Cedar Lakes Trail
- Wear long pants—much of the path is overgrown
- The mosquitos are relentless, so bring bug repellent
- Head out in the early morning to avoid returning after nightfall
- Dress in layers as insurance against changing conditions
- Consider bringing a can of bear spray
- Bring plenty of water or a water filter to stay hydrated on this arduous ascent
Getting to the Cedar Lakes Trail Trailhead
The Cedar Lakes Hike is accessed from the Cedar Creek Trailhead off Cedar Creek Road.
Cedar Lakes Trail Elevation Graph
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Cedar Lakes Trail Reviews
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