I don’t think Stahl Creek Trail initially made my list of hikes in Eureka when I was sifting through AllTrails, as I prefer hikes to lakes over mountain tops. But, after spending two days making long drives into Ten Lakes Scenic Area, I replaced Link Lake with Stahl Creek Trail because it was a shorter drive and a longer hike.
I would suggest to anyone planning on hiking in Ten Lakes Scenic Area for more than one day, to plan on backpacking or staying up there without cell service to cut down the ratio of driving time to hiking time. If I weren’t in the middle of the selection process for building my townhome or needing internet to blog, this is what I would have done.
Instead, I spent three days driving back and forth from Eureka. The good news from driving is I saw multiple mama deer with their babies and a rafter of turkeys with their babies!
NOTE: You can reach Stahl Peak from different trailheads.
This is Stahl CREEK Trail on AllTrails, not Stahl PEAK Trail
The trail is actually located in the Ten Lakes Wilderness Study Area vs Scenic Area as the forest service is deciding whether to designate the area wilderness which comes with more restrictions.
Parking for Stahl Creek Trail
The designated parking at the end of the dirt road has room for two cars and when I arrived before 8am, a truck had beaten me. This was definitely a surprise, as unlike Colorado (where I have done most my hiking), I find hikers in Northern Idaho and Montana don’t get started until closer to 9am.
Many times, it isn’t until the afternoon since it remains daylight until 9:30pm in the summer. Also, the altitude is much lower than Colorado and mostly below tree line, so afternoon thunderstorms are not as much of a threat.
Anyway, perhaps since it was a Sunday, which I typically avoid, a few more people were out. I wasn’t sure when they arrived, so I dilly dallied in VANgo to give my fellow hikers a head start. That way Annie could run freely and not bother anyone.
Hike to Stahl Peak
The 7-mile roundtrip trek begins up a gently graded fire road which passes a few mountainside waterfalls. Soon it narrows to a single track in lush forest.
After about 1.5 miles, the track veers up a slope to the left and crosses some valleys of snow. Once making it across the snow patches, it climbs at a slightly steeper grade on a rocky trail.
Eventually it reaches intermittent views of the surrounding mountains and one of the best views of the entire hike in the last quarter mile, which is also very steep. So take a minute to catch your breath and gaze between the cut of the rocks down onto a turquoise lake with a backdrop of evergreens and the Canadian Rockies in the distance.
Stahl Peak Cabin
The final push takes you to Stahl Peak and its fire lookout cabin. The cabin, built in 1926, was used for emergencies into the 1960s. It includes platforms and a loft for sleeping, a woodstove, and a table with a guest book. It is available on a first come, first serve basis.
I took a look inside before I joined the mom and two teen girls who were seated at the best part of the 360-degree view. There wasn’t a ton of room on the peak, so I was happy they invited me to join them. They had driven up to Eureka from Kalispell which surprised me since they have amazing hikes in their backyard.
They said they were trying to avoid people. Haha! Sounds familiar. I thought that explained their early start as well, but they were trying to beat the heat. This 95-degree weather in Northern Montana is certainly unusual.
Tips for Kalispell
Since I was headed to Kalispell, I asked for local tips. Their two favorite hikes were Link Lake (the one I had just skipped and closer to Eureka) and Lupine Lake. They also told me not to miss the pizza at Moose’s Saloon or the cider at Big Mountain Ciderworks.
Also, I learned that the trail to Stahl Peak is loaded with huckleberry bushes, but they weren’t in season yet. I’ve never picked a huckleberry, so I’m hoping before I leave Montana, I’ll be able too. ETB