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North Cabinet Wilderness Loop

mt

Star Star Star Star Star

Distance: 23.8 miles


a nice loop in the Northern end of the Cabinet Wilderness
  • headparmenter.jpg
  • cedarlake.jpg
  • sugarloafmtn.jpg

this is a relatively unknown and underused area in extreme NW Montana. we took a three day trip this summer and thought I'd share my experience

the trip was roughly 25 miles, covering about 8 miles per day. right out of Libby (actually the trailhead may be in the city limits of Libby) we jumped on the Parmenter Ck trail (# 140)- the trail climbs gradually through old growth forest for ~ 6 miles at which point the trail forks, 140 continues up the N. Fork of Parmenter Ck, trail # 317 follows the S. Fork to Minor Lake and Weir Pass. we continued on 140, Upper Cedar Lake our destination. the trail really starts to climb at this point w/ a crescendo of a pull as you aim for the Parmenter/Cedar Ck divide (my wife uttered a few choice words at this juncture!). from the divide, the trail drops into Upper Cedar Lake (the trail forks once again- the lower fork leading you to Lower Cedar Lake and the Cedar Ck trail)

night one was spent @ Cedar Lake- a gorgeous alpine lake, relatively good sized- we shared the lake w/ one other party, but the were far enough away they were unseen/unheard

in the morning we caught the Cabinet Divide trail (#360)- this is a newer trail, built to more modern specs (ie the grade isn't near as severe as some of the older trails)- this trail takes you up high w/ plenty of gorgeous vistas- the trail is dry until you reach Sugarloaf Mtn (~ 5.5 miles) so water up good at the lake.

at Weir Pass the trail intersects trail 317 (Minor Lake) and 137 (Flower Ck)- we took 317 to Minor Lake- this trail I'm sad to report was in very poor condition- very overgrown, lots of windfall, water running down the trail and a very steep downward grade (too steep IMO)- my wife had some choice words (more than the previous day :) ) arriving at Minor Lake took some of the sting out the trail condition as it is a beautiful lake (sun shining didn't hurt either)- we spent the night here

we finished up our trip by following 317 downward until we again met up w/ the main Parmenter Ck trail- retracing our steps from day 1 we did have an hour delay on the way down as we hit the motherlode of huckleberry patches and stocked up. the lower portion of 317 wasn't in great shape, but better than the upper section

this is grizzly country (saw a fair amount of sign, but no bears) so caution w/ food hanging, bear spray, etc applies

three days of hiking and only ran into the one party, this area is far from over used

in hindsight we could have skipped Minor Lake and stayed at Sky Lake taking the Flower Ck trail (which has a cut across to Parmenter) which was evidently recently worked on by the trail crew- next time

all in all a great trip that ended too soon, we have relatives nearby so I'm sure we'll do some more poking around the Cabinets

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