Check it out Distance: 8 miles round trip Difficulty: Moderate Hiking time: 6 hours or overnight Season: Late June through Oct. Maps: USGS Mount Headley, Priscilla Peak, plus Lolo National Forest map Info: Thompson Falls Ranger District (406) 826-3821
Backpacking trip notes
Access: From Thompson Falls, Mont., drive east on Highway 200 and turn left (north) at milepost 56 onto paved road along west side of Thompson River. Four miles from Highway 200, pavement ends near riverside campground. Pass another small campground at 5 miles.
At 6-1/4 miles, bear left at Y onto West Fork Thompson River Road. Follow road another 7-1/2 miles to Four Lakes Trailhead.
Attractions: Quick access to mountain lakes, ideal for beginning backpackers or dayhikers looking for routes with several length options. Featured route is eight-mile loop. Optional 11-mile loop might be more appealing to dayhikers, who may take advantage of several additional ridge walks. Stay at Cabin Lake and catch small fish or scramble to Cube Iron Mountain, elevation 7,110 feet, for views into Idaho’s Selkirk Mountains and Montana’s Cabinets and Bitterroots.
Comments: Trailhead has large parking area and pit toilet. Begin on Trail 459, walking past small trailhead campsite before route switchbacks in good grade up sidehill. At two miles, grade levels. Take left at junction with Trail 450. At 2-1/4 miles, come to junction with Trail 506, which heads toward Winnemuck Creek. Dayhikers who want to do longer 11-mile loop should head west on 506. Featured route, however, continues southerly a short way on Trail 450 to Cabin Lake.
Stay to left of lake, hiking across outlet to switchbacks leading over saddle before dropping to Porcupine Lake. Terrain rolls from Porcupine past several other boggy lakes to junction with Trail 460, which is about three miles from Cabin Lake.
Dayhikers and backpackers alike should hike up from junction one-quarter mile to Squaw Pass. At junction, go right onto Trail 1512 about 30 yards, where unmaintained but well-defined trail heads steeply up scramble route to former lookout site at summit of Cube Iron Mountain, elevation 7,110 feet. Also, Trail 450 continues south along ridge to Silcox Peak, another area worthy of exploration.
Note: Dayhikers who headed west from Cabin Lake area come to Squaw Pass after excellent hiking on open side hills and ridges. Junction of Trails 506 and 1510 is poorly maintained and easier to find when hiking west from Cabin Lake area.
Back at junction with Trails 450 and 460, finish last three downhill miles to trailhead by hiking into gully that shows obvious signs of spring avalanches. Trail heads into forest. Last two miles of route follow old road now gated and designated for non-motorized use.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Map of area
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