For my first hike in Eureka, Montana, I decided on Bluebird Lake via the Highline Trail in the Kootenai National Forest. As with many of the hikes in Idaho that I completed the last few weeks, the 7-mile roundtrip to Bluebird Lake is also a two for one experience, with Paradise Lake being on the way. It’s a good thing, especially since the drive on both paved and rocky roads through the Ten Lakes Scenic Area is very long. At least I spotted a doe with two babies along the way!
There are two trails at the primitive parking area (no bathroom), so be sure to check the signs. The sign to Bluebird Lake is broken and propped up off the ground on a rock.
The pathway is wide enough for two people to walk side by side in the beginning, but as it climbs following a moderate grade through the forest, it narrows to a single track. Hikers may enjoy a limited view and nice waterfall in the early stages.
Then it is time to tackle the snow in the shady forest and try to keep your feet dry as run off from the late snow trickles through the path. Soon the trail reaches Paradise Lake whose shores were blanketed in snow this July. Fortunately, it was not difficult to traverse.
After passing Paradise Lake, the trail ascends the mountain and intersects another trail in a meadow of glacier lilies. There is no sign at the intersection so be sure you have your AllTrails map downloaded. While I had the map downloaded, the app strangely failed (first time ever), and each time I selected Bluebird Lake it pulled up Pear Lake in Idaho!
Generally, I look at the map beforehand, so I had a vague recollection. Additionally, I am decent at knowing my pace. Finally, I figured the Bluebird Lake was likely draining into Paradise Lake. As a result, I turned right toward the creek and gave myself 10 minutes to head that direction as I knew I was nearby.
Luckily, I didn’t have to walk far to find a sign to another intersecting trail that climbs up the slope and leads to Bluebird Lake. This trail was a small stream of water surrounded by a mountainside of those lilies.
It’s funny, because I have only seen two or three of those flowers in Colorado, so they were always a rare treat and favorite, though difficult to capture with the flower pointing down. Here in Montana, they are a dime a dozen! I tried not to take them for granted and took advantage of the opportunity to snap a photo without having to lay on the ground!
Just beyond the hillside meadow, Bluebird Lake comes into view. This mid-July day, the lake with flowers on one shore and snow on the opposite shore glimmered beneath bluebird skies. While Annie and I ate our snack, we watched the moon sink below that granite cliffs. I’ve never seen the moon set so noticeably in the afternoon. Usually, it seems like it sits in the same place in the sky.
As I stared toward the cliffs at the moon with hopes of spotting some mountain goats in the prime, rocky terrain, a bald eagle did a fly by! It swooped in, circled the edge, and left the way it came. Magical!!! If only it found a fish!
I couldn’t have asked for a better hike, especially for having Bluebird Lake all to myself. Just as soon as I returned to VANgo, a mom, three kids, and two dogs headed up the trail. And I always feel like I have my hands full with Annie. Whew! ETB