Walton Lakes


Forest Service Trail #79

Why? Lovely lakes and a fine cross country hike.

Season: Mid-July through September

Ease: Moderate to difficult. It’s 9.5 miles with 1,300 feet down and 600 feet up from the Tom Beal Road to Savage Pass.

The Walton Lakes are lovely, sitting at the base of a hillside covered with rock - light colored slabby rock, black rock and even some purple streaky rock close to the lakes. But just because you can see all of the first and some of the second lake without hiking beyond the trailhead doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do the hike. Anytime you can spend time at lakes like these and hike miles through woods without seeing another soul, you’ve got a hike well worth doing.

This is one hike where taking two cars and doing a through hike is a sensible plan. For one, it’s otherwise quite a long haul unless you limit yourself to just going down to the lakes and back. Two, it’s an easy car shuttle. And three, you’d miss all that lovely, green solitude.

The lakes are the draw, however, and I’m reasonably sure they fish well, for especially in the second lake, the fish were jumping. But even for those of us who don’t fish, they make an ideal lunch destination, whether you head on or just back to your car. In July, expect mosquitoes. We had plenty, which is one of the reasons I’d suggest September, when the understory of false azalea, beargrass, and especially huckleberries would provide lots of color against the rocks and evergreens.

The rest of hike is the green part, through woods of Engleman spruce, grand fir, and lodgepole pine. Because the trail is in great shape and well graded, you almost don’t have to look where you’re putting your feet. And because there really are no vistas, you can make it a meditative kind of walk.

The only negative was that toward the end of the hike, which seemed longer than I thought it should, I began to worry that somewhere and somehow we’d missed a turn, even though there was none shown on the map. And the thought of walking all the way back to the car was more than I could handle. Luckily, we reached the Savage Saddle trailhead before we seriously thought of that.

The trail starts thru woods on what looks like road at first, along the ridge at first for 10 minutes or so, then via nicely graded switchbacks down to the first lake. There are some fine boulders – big ones – near bottom of trail At the lake outlet, there’s a particularly nice view of the lake and the hillside you just hiked down.

That hillside is a continuation of the Grave Peak Ridge, and the lakes are only 2 ½ miles as the crow flies from that peak.

Note: While you’re there, do drive to Tom Beal Park at the end of Tom Beal Road. It’s a lovely spot with fine views to Rhodes Peak area near the Idaho-Montana border.

Trail Notes: There is a trail junction part way down the hillside to the lakes. Go left. The right goes behind the lakes next to the cliff.

Directions: Turn off Highway 12 just east of Powell on the Elk Summit Road. Set your odometer to 0 at Colt Killed Creek. The east end of the trail is at Savage Pass, 6.9 miles farther. To reach the west end of the trailhead, turn right on the Tom Beal Road just past Colt Killed Creek. The trailhead is signed on the left 9.1 miles farther. I suggest hiking west to east even though that gives you the best views first.

Information: Powell Ranger District, CWNF, (208) 924-3113.

Map: Grave Peak, Idaho