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Bonners Ferry, ID: Gem Lake

Tackle a steep climb to the immaculately clear Gem Lake on this 3.6-mile out-and-back deep in the Cabinet Mountains.

Trip Tools

True to its name, Gem Lake serves up idyllic mountain scenery and blissful solitude high in Idaho’s remote Cabinet Mountains. From the trailhead off the U-bend in Forest Road 419, head east alongside the babbling Gem Creek through a forest bustling with lodgepole pine, Douglas fir and Western larch. Negotiate your way over the occasional fallen tree before the trail bends upward at a noticeable grade near mile 0.5. Over the next 0.9 mile, you’ll gain 900 feet of vertical before earning a brief respite just below the lake.

Along the way up, catch a glimpse of the old Lunch Mountain Fire Tower through a break in the trees near mile 0.6. After the trail levels out for a quick 100-yard stretch, navigate your way through a maze of fallen trees to complete the hike’s final climb. The shores of Gem Lake are shrouded by dense forest, but the water is crystal clear and brimming with small cutthroat trout. Cliffs along the lake’s southern edge provide magnificent aerial views of the water (which unfortunately is not deep enough for jumping), and a primitive campsite is nestled into the lush woods east of the lake. Return to the trailhead via the route you hiked in on.  

-Mapped by Travis Lesicka

To Trailhead

From ID 200 E, turn left at Trestle Creek Rd. and follow for 15.6 miles. Turn left at National Forest Rd. 419. Parking and trailhead are at U-bend in road in 1.1 miles.

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