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Added by LJ Dawson

Biggest alpine lake in the Bitterroot WildernessFall colorsOne night tripWildlifeRemoteLight use

This is a challenging overnight hike into a beautiful alpine lake. The trail climbs 9 miles gaining almost 2000 feet to Big Creek Lakes.

The Hike:
The trail begins in a dense forest with a gradual incline. Over the first mile beautiful hillsides covered in aspens give way to a dense forest, gaining 200 feet. The trail crosses over a large foot bridge to the North side of Big Creek.

The trail follows the creek weaving up the valley floor in between massive trees and swaths of emerald moss. For about two miles, you will be in the forest catching small glimpses of the craggy granite peaks that ring the valley before you pop out into the open. Over these miles you will cross two dry creeks with small log bridges.

The trail runs right next to the creek as the valley closes into steep sides with a few trees hanging onto the rocky slopes. The trail climbs another mile out of the narrow part of the valley back into dense forest.

After another mile - a total climb of 1000 feet from the first foot bridge, the trail crosses over Beaver Creek with another log bridge. Then the terrain flattens out and crosses over to the South side of Big Creek.

The trail will begin to climb and leaves the forest behind. It switch backs up through an open area full of alpine bushes. The view stretches down the valley, and all the mountains hidden by the forest become visible. After a set of switch backs the trail heads south back into the forest to a Junction with trail 118, turn North towards the lake on trail 11.

The last part of the hike is a tough climb, gaining almost 1000 feet from the last creek crossing over two miles. Heading north the trail cuts back towards Big Creek. Before arriving at the lake, the trail turns into log steps that pass huge granite boulder faces on the south side of the trail.

The trail reaches the lake and crosses over the creek again. Designated camp sites are scattered around the lake. Breath in the beautiful views and enjoy sleeping in the mountains!

The hike takes anywhere from 3 to 7 hours depending on skill level. Check weather and bring bear spray.

To the trailhead:

  • From Missoula head West on Highway 93 (32 miles)
  • Turn right onto Bells Crossing (0.5 miles)
  • Turn right Turn right onto Curlew Orchard/ Meridian Road (1.3 miles)
  • Slight right onto Curlew Mine Rd (0.8 miles)
  • Turns slightly right onto Big Creek Road (0.8 miles)
  • Follow signs to the Big Creek Trailhead parking lot
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Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly

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Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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