waterfall on pulaski tunnel trail

Hikes Near Wallace, Idaho

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The City of Wallace is a historic mining town nestled in the Silver Valley.  It is engulfed in history and surrounded by the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.  As a result, it is a very interesting place to visit and affords visitors many hiking options.

Below are a few hikes near Wallace I found:

Lone Lake Trail – 4.6 miles – Hard

Lone Lake Trail is located about 11 miles east of Wallace near Mullan in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.  The last few miles to reach the trailhead is a dirt road which requires navigating around a few big holes.  Additionally, it is narrow, with not too many pullouts, so keep in mind that you may have to back up.  While the clearance was not a problem for me in VANgo, I certainly hoped I wouldn’t run into anyone coming or going and was glad to arrive at the trailhead early.

The trailhead shares parking with the wildly popular Stevens Lake.  I could have chosen this hike, but from reading the reviews on AllTrails, it sounded like Lone Lake provides equal reward for a slightly lower effort with less crowds.

“Wildflowers out in force” on a Lone Lake Trail review tugged me its way and the word “scramble” in many of Stevens Lake reviews steered me toward Lone Lake as well, especially since I prefer “moderate” hikes, and these two trails are marked as hard.

I almost considered coming back to do Stevens Lake the following day since it is the most well-known, but given both trails simply follow the opposite side of the drainage to the corresponding lake, I figured the views couldn’t be that different.  Though I could be wrong.

Lone Lake Trail has a relentless assent for the majority of the way, and the first 1.25 miles through the forest is hardly enjoyable.  But then the trail travels through a hillside of wildflowers, some of which are chest high! 

While I have seen more wildflowers in Crested Butte than this, the variety of flowers was remarkable.  There were at least 25 different kinds; trilliums, Indian paint brush, bluebells, penstemon, thimbleberry, salsifies, and more! The only time I have seen something similar was at Bill Moore Lake in Colorado.

In addition to the wildflowers, shortly after the forest opens to the flowery hillside, hikers a treated to a waterfall!  Waterfalls and wildflowers…what could be better?  A lake I say!!  A lake with a waterfall and a lovely reflection!  This a perfect hike with a little bit of everything.  Kind of like a drift dive in Cozumel.  Remarkably, aside from the tent campers who were still asleep, I had this magnificent trail all to myself on a Friday!

lone lake hike near wallace

I really can’t give this hike in Wallace any higher marks.  Perhaps it was the way in which the beauty escalated over the 4.6 mile roundtrip.  It starts on a boring dirt road (which 4×4 vehicles could drive to another parking area, turns into a relentless single track through the forest with no views, and then suddenly you feel like you are in an Alice in Wonderland scene with wildflowers, waterfalls, and lakes!

I suspect, with all the vegetation, the hike to Lone Lake would also be lovely in the fall.

On a side note, keep the AllTrails map handy in the beginning as there are many roads that lead from the parking area and vault toilets, so it can be confusing to find the unmarked trailhead.

Pulaski Tunnel Trail – 4.0 miles – Moderate

The Pulaski Tunnel Trail is likely the most famous hike in Wallace.  The trail is well marketed and draws visitors who want to see where Edward Pulaski and his crew of 45 men seeked refuge in a mine at the edge of the river during the 1910 Big Burn. 

Several fire crews were tending to multiple small fires during the drought when hurricane force winds blew up the blazes into one of the worst fires in USA history, ultimately burning 3 million acres in three states.

Pulaski and his men were trapped.  As he knew the area, they raced the fire and a bear down to the mine where they took cover for 2 days.  The smoke and heat were so bad that some men tried to leave, and he held them at gun point!  Most men, including Pulaski, passed out, several had injuries and six died, but in the end, he saved many lives.

The path is maintained by the Idaho Trail Association which asks for donations.  It includes multiple interpretive signs, in my opinion too many, though some of Pulaski’s accounts of the event are quite interesting.  Fun fact: He designed the Pulaski fire tool, so named for him.

The trail begins paved and turns to a single track, dirt path which follows the creek as it climbs through a lush forest.  This type of trail always lulls me into a false sense of safety.  It is so well groomed, then suddenly there are seven trees to climb over.  In my opinion, either maintain it, or don’t!  I didn’t have my mind set for a “wilderness” hike on this humid morning after starting out on a wheelchair accessible trail!

That said, it was an enjoyable and quiet morning stroll, however, I much preferred the small waterfalls of Placer Creek and sporadic wildflowers to the “tunnel”.  The mine opening was hardly visible or reachable under the vegetation on the opposite shore.  There is a sign that points to it, so you won’t miss it.  It was a little anti-climactic after reading the 20 signs!

Even more anti-climactic, had I been with the family I met the following day while exploring Burke.  They saw a mountain lion on the trail, the same day I hiked, but in the afternoon!  I should mention, if you go in the afternoon, you will be sharing this hike in Wallace with many. 

Anyway, most visitors really like the Pulaski Trail with its short, 4-mile roundtrip distance and moderate incline.  But if you are looking for more solitude, there are several unmarked trails along the same road with similar terrain.

Cranky Gulch Trail – 4.4 miles – Moderate

Speaking of, Cranky Gulch Trail or trail #39 is located just up the road from the Pulaski Tunnel Trail.  I normally wouldn’t have even hiked this trail in Wallace because the AllTrails map made it look like there was no water on it.  But I was trying to get Annie out for a quick run, so I figured I walk for an hour.

Much to my surprise, it begins following a creek though it is difficult to see under the thick vegetation.  Then, along the way, I spotted an old mine.  It wasn’t too different from the Pulaski Tunnel, but at least it was along the trail rather than on the opposite side of the creek.  Not far from the side trail which goes to the right, it is small, boarded up, and easy to miss. So don’t worry if you don’t see it.

Toward the beginning the trail, the incline was slightly steeper than I anticipated, but it soon leveled out to a nice grade with long switchbacks.  The second switchback affords magnificent views, and frankly this is where I would turn around. 

view from cranky gulch hike near wallace

Going to the end of the AllTrails recording leads you into the trees on the top of the ridge with no views.  The trail continues along the ridge, though I can’t say how far, as I only did the 4.4 mile out and back as shown on AllTrails.

One of the reviews mentioned motorcycles using it, despite concrete barriers at the base, so I recommend hiking it on a weekday and in the morning to avoid them.  I only crossed paths with one runner near the end of my hike.

Pear Lake Trail – 6 miles – Moderate

Another very enjoyable hike near Wallace is the Pear Lake Trail.  To get there, you travel up Burke Canyon, past the old Star Mine site, past the power plant, and then into the National Forest.  The trailhead, about 13 miles outside of town, is marked by a concrete barrier on the side of the well graded, dirt road.  There is maybe room for four calls to pull off this road which travels over Cooper Pass and into Montana.

The first quarter mile of the trail is sort of miserable as you spend most your time climbing over fallen trees.  I’d definitely wear pants.  Soon it reaches a split where you veer to the left.  After this intersection, the trail climbs through the forest with intermittent views and is easy to follow.  While in the forested section, I enjoyed seeing interesting fungi, but got a little creeped out be the fresh deer leg in the middle of the path!

To go to Pear Lake for which the trail is named, be on the lookout for a tree with a red deflector at the bottom.  It is next to a trail that descends to the right.  The turn off is about 1.75 miles into the hike. 

Here the north facing slope was still covered in a decent amount of snow in early July.  I descended the first two switchbacks and thought better of it, since I was alone.  My desire to see the lake, however, fueled me to return to the trail intersection and continue up toward the ridge.

view of pear lake

I am so glad I did.  The ridge opens to magnificent views.  Not only can you see Pear Lake, but also as you keep hiking across the talus field, you will spot lower Glidden Lake in the distance to the left and then Upper and Lower Blossom Lakes to the right.

Just past the dark grey pinnacle of rocks is a patch of grass and a few trees.  Once you pass this, if you walk up to the right rather than descending the path, you will find a wonderful overlook to soak in the views while eating a snack.  It is probably about a mile from the turn off to Pear Lake.

view of upper and lower blossom lake

It was so beautiful. I couldn’t have felt more peace and solitude at that time.  In fact, for me I got a late start on a Saturday, and I didn’t run into anyone until after I had passed the trail to Pear Lake upon my return.  Even then, I only crossed paths with three groups and a total of six people.

Unnamed Bonus Trail

If you have read this far, here is a little bonus.  Approximately 0.6 miles up High Bank St from the Pulaski Trail on the left hand side is a turnout with some large boulders and wild flowers (in July).  There is a narrow trail that goes up to the left.  It simply follows the road toward town on the side of the mountain.

It is nothing special, and I don’t know how far it goes, but I camped right here for a few days because it has great cell service. It was easy to let Annie run a mile out and back.  I never saw anyone use this path…a secret hike near Wallace! ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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