lower basin lake

Happy Hiking: Basin Lakes Trail

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After spending a few weeks in the Flathead Valley, I moved farther south to Red Lodge, Montana.  Though you can still see many effects from the flood early this summer, the roads and businesses are open, so go support them.

Unfortunately, some of the hikes on the top of my list were not accessible unless I added an additional 8+ miles along a road.  Since those trails were already 10 miles, 18 miles wasn’t in the cards for me.  Fortunately, the Basin Lakes Trail was open, and it was spectacular!

Basin Lakes Trail is located in the Custer National Forest across the street from the campground which was closed due to bear activity.  The trailhead includes a large dirt parking area and pit toilets.

The trail to Basin Lake begins in the forest, and hikers are immediately rewarded with a wonderful waterfall to the left.  Then the path climbs through a burn area with little shade, but a variety of wildflowers and views.

waterfall on basin lakes trail

As it climbs, the single track as it enters back into the forest.  I was pleasantly surprised to stumble across an old cabin before reaching Lower Basin Lake.

Lower Basin Lake, blanketed in yellow lilies was quite a surprise!  Lily Pad Lake in Breckenridge is the only lake in the mountains that I know of which has lilies, though I hiked it when it was frozen.  So seeing yellow lilies in the mountains was new to me! 

lower basin lake

I really liked Lower Basin Lake, but pressed on to Upper Basin Lake to see it.  It’s marshy shore convinced me to immediately return to Lower Basin Lake.

Lower Basin Lake

I’m so glad I did because I came back to ducks diving underwater for food and dragonflies zipping around the reeds.  The cloud formations were also cool, and I kept an eye on them even though the forecast called for no rain.

I probably spent 30 minutes to an hour just chilling at this lake with Annie before one couple briefly joined but continued on the 7.4 mile roundtrip to Upper Basin Lake.

With the clouds darkening, I made my exit, and I am glad I did.  As soon as I arrived at my campsite near Timberline Trailhead, it started pouring.  I felt bad for the handful of people I passed just starting their hike.

Anyway, Basin Lakes hike is really great.  Unless you really want to get exercise, I shorten the hike to 5.4 miles and just go to Lower Basin Lake, as Upper Basin Lake was a little anticlimactic.  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.

5 thoughts on “Happy Hiking: Basin Lakes Trail

  1. Your hikes are always interesting. We have found water lilies several places in the San Juan National Forest in southwestern Colorado. One of the most amazing was a pond completely covered on the trail to Spud Lake.

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