Hike to Steel Lake

Rate this Adventure 7.2 miles 1980 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Keaton Poe

This challenging and exciting hike ranging from 7 to 9 miles has nearly 2,000 feet in elevation gain, provides incredible views of Steel Mountain's jagged ridges, and encompasses the true ambiance of the wilderness. The road to the trailhead is open June 16th to September 14th for all vehicles.

Steel Mountain, which defines the highest point of the Boise National Forest, has the impressive qualities of its neighboring Sawtooths. From its few alpine lakes to its sharp cliff-like ridges, Steel Mountain has something for everybody, as long as you’re willing to work for it.

The closest establishment to Steel Mountain is the former mining town of Rocky Bar. From there, continue northwest on Trinity Ridge Road. After a few miles, you should meet an intersection with Phifer Creek Road. Head north on Phifer Creek Road and continue past where it summits. Between this summit and the Middle Fork of the Boise River, a small road splits off of Phifer Creek Road and heads east into Steel Mountain. Take this road, but be aware that it is gated and only open during the summer months due to snow. Eventually, the road will dead-end in an open area within the Hot Creek valley. From there, a hiking trail heads east into the Lake Creek valley.

The trail itself has great views of the mountains to the north, and for most of the way, it is fairly easy to hike. However, toward the beginning, fallen trees may force you off the path. Also, near Lake Creek, the bridge that once crossed a narrow chute has been eroded out. While the chute is still passable, the way gets steep for a short while.

Upon reaching Lake Creek, separate from the trail and freestyle your way up the valley towards Steel Lake. Deer and elk wander along the creek, and bears possibly hiding in the thick brush are something to watch out for. Also be looking for chunks of crystals lying on the ground; the entire mountain is covered with them, and the Lake Creek valley is no exception. While hiking up, stay to the west side of the valley. The east side gets steep as you near the lake.

Steel Lake is somewhat large and there are a few camping spots on the northern shore. While the lake is not extremely popular, other people may be around the area. The lake’s quality of fishing varies year to year, but it appears to be alright overall. Photographers will find the area satisfactory, for there are plenty of picturesque scenes. However, what will really influence the quality of your adventure is how you decide to leave. Either head back to the trail and retrace your steps, or hike up 400 feet from the lake to the ridge between the Lake Creek and Hot Creek valleys.

If you choose to go up to the ridge, you will be faced with a tougher hike out. However, you will get to indulge in Steel Mountain’s most impressive views. The Hot Creek valley is truly the mountain’s secret treasure; it boasts sharp ridges, plush greenery, and even a high waterfall off in the distance. Hiking down through it all is a challenge, but the reward makes it well worth it. Try your best to navigate through the fields of fallen trees; staying up high may make it easier. Continue hiking down the valley until you come across your vehicle. Make sure you have something cold and refreshing to drink when you finally arrive.

Hike Time

For the average hiker, the way to the lake may take around 3 hours. The way back, regardless of which way you choose to return, may also take around 3 hours.

Skill Level

Taking the trail and the Lake Creek valley both ways only requires an intermediate skill level. However, you may want a more advanced level of experience if you wish to hike back through the Hot Creek valley.

Fishing Permits

Get an Idaho fishing license at https://idfg.idaho.gov/license...

Read More




Have you done this adventure? Be the first to leave a review!

Stay Nearby

Atlanta, Idaho

Atlanta Cabin

Overview Atlanta Cabin is located in the old mining town of Atlanta, Idaho, at an elevation of 5,800 feet. It is part of a historic ranger station compound built by the Civilian Conservation Corps ...

Boise County, Idaho

Deer Park Cabin

Overview This site was originally established as Deer Park Ranger Guard Station in 1913, and a cabin was built here in 1917. This cabin, along with many others in Boise National Forest, was replace...

Boise, Idaho

Graham Cabin

Overview Graham Cabin, a former Forest Service Guard Station, is an ideal getaway for motorcyclists, flight enthusiasts and equestrians, for whom getting there is half the fun. An airstrip is just ...

Idaho City, Idaho

Barber Flat Cabin

Overview The Barber Flat Cabin site was established for administrative use by the Forest Service in 1923, and was used prior to that by the Barber Lumber Company. At the time, the Forest Service us...

Nearby Adventures

  • Hike to Corbus Lake and Bald Mountain

    Soon after driving past James CreekSummit while heading towards Atlanta, a sign with 'Corbus Lake'written on it should appear on the uphill side of the road. The beginningof a small trail should be right beside it. Hike up this trailthrough some d...

    4.1 miles 1650 ft gain

  • Relax at Big and Little Trinity Lakes

    Because of the altitude of the this lake, the road to it doesn't open up until mid to late July. You can still get to the lake, but it is a 6 mi round trip hike down a dusty dirt road. It gets old. When the road is open, you can drive right up to ...

    6 miles 300 ft gain

  • Hike to Jennie Lake

    Perhaps one of the best beginner-esque lake hikes closest to Boise, making your way to Jennie Lake can either be packed-in overnight or and out-and-back day hike. You'll be delighted by the secluded ambiance of the lake and the cool mountain breez...

  • Snowshoe to Skyline Yurt

    This is one of many great Idaho Parks & Rec backcountry yurts. It sits on a ridge above some excellent tree skiing with views that make the hike well worth it! The wood stove will keep you warm on the coldest of nights, and the kitchen has all...

    5 miles 650 ft gain

  • Visit Idaho

    Idaho is a picturesque state filled with beautiful scenery and warm, wonderful people. It's an ideal destination for family travelers, outdoor enthusiasts, adventure seekers, or those just looking for a relaxing getaway.

    Learn More