Rock Lake Trail
The Rock Lake Trail is a phenomenal adventure into Montana’s Cabinet Mountains that explores the historic Heidelberg mine and a tumbling waterfall before opening to an alpine oasis. Discover a beautiful lake hidden amongst the talus slopes of Ojibway Peak and take a plunge in the refreshing glacial waters.
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Route Description for Rock Lake Trail
Hiking the Rock Lake Trail is an unforgettable experience. This pleasant adventure explores a variety of terrains, exhibiting the area’s diversity of mountain flora and fauna. Offering an unrivaled experience, this route is well-loved by intermediate hikers and families with older children, so expect some company. Those seeking a more tranquil experience are encouraged to head out in the early morning to beat the crowds and to enjoy the increased probability of spotting wildlife. As this lovely trail explores bear country, it is wise to make sure at least one person in your group carries a can of bear spray! Note the road to the trailhead is rough and rugged, so vehicles with high ground clearance are recommended.
Immerse yourself in Montana’s untouched backcountry, reconnect with nature and explore historic mine equipment that remains in the high alpine valley. The Rock Lake Hike is indisputably one of the greatest trails in the Kootenai National Forest, and it would make an excellent addition to your adventure itinerary. Wander beneath the canopy of mixed evergreens, ford creeks, marvel at the beauty of the Rock Creek Falls, relish in the sights of wildflowers that bloom in the montane meadows, and take a plunge in the chilly alpine pool nestled amongst the craggy peaks of the Cabinet Mountain. The variety and novelty of this hike are quite refreshing, and we can’t think of a better day hike in the north of the Treasure State. Don’t forget your camera; the scenery is picture-perfect!
Embark on your journey to Rock Lake from the trailhead off National Forest Development Road 150A. Setting out from here, you will be guided eastward along the same mining road that led you to the trailhead—though this section is closed to traffic. Wandering through a corridor of mixed pines, the path will soon demand a crossing over Rock Creek—in the spring, the water can run quite high, so expect to get your feet wet! Gradually climbing, the path will eventually open into the Rock Meadows. Here you will find a charming pond, marshy areas, brush, and two rustic cabins that are worth exploring. Take a break here and scan the wilderness for moose, bears, beavers, and more.
Beyond this point, you will dip back beneath the tree shade, intersecting with Rock Creek and its tributaries on several occasions. After some hiking, you will reach the old Heidelberg Mine. Take a peek inside the barred mine shaft and explore the historic equipment that decorates the granite cliff face. Admire the scene of the beautiful waterfall cascading down the wall and the old pipeline running up the precipice. When you are through appreciating the stunning waterfall, begin your climb up the Rock Creek canyon via a collection of switchbacks. As you climb, views of Rock Peak and Ojibway Peak will come into view—but don’t forget to look over your shoulder to enjoy the sights of Rock Meadows and the verdant valley below.
Soon you will crest the shoreline of Rock Lake. Marvel at the vista of the scree slopes bounding the crystalline alpine pool and explore the western shore. Notice Rock Peak on your left and Ojibway Peak on your right towering above. If you have the proper gear, set up shop on one of the dispersed campsites along the shoreline and spend the night in the wilderness. When you are through reveling in the breathtaking alpine scenery, head back down the path the way you came, all the way to the trailhead, marking the end of your adventure.
Ojibway Peak is a summit in Montana’s Cabinet Mountains that stands at an elevation of 2,226 m. This prominent peak of a quartzite blend towers over Rock Lake, flanking the alpine water with its steep talus slopes that are frequented by mountain goats.
Insider Hints for Rock Lake Trail
- Assuming you have a fishing rod and valid license, bring your fishing rod and try your hand at some cutthroat trout
- Make sure at least one person in your party carries a can of bear spray
- Vehicles with high ground clearance are recommended to reach the trailhead
- This route demands some creek crossings, so expect to get your feet wet, notably during peak run-off season
- Wear a pair of sturdy footwear to avoid rolling an ankle on the uneven terrain
Getting to the Rock Lake Trail Trailhead
Find the Rock Lake Trailhead off National Forest Development Road 150A.
Rock Lake Trail Elevation Graph
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Rock Lake Trail Reviews
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