by Bill Schneider & Russ Schneider (Falcon Guides)
© Bill Schneider & Russ Schneider/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
This was an approximately 5-mile, 4000 ft. hike from Pine Creek campground to a high alpine lake. I had hiked this as a teenager (about 25 years ago), and it was more difficult than I remember (25 years and 50 lbs will do that). this is a gorgeous hike, worth the effort. I'm not in great shape, and this hike took us 4 hours up (3 hours down). will post pictures soon.
Absolutely Beautiful hike. Gets steeper for the 25 switchbacks and beyond after Pine Creek Falls, but the scenery is absolutely beautiful. Doing an ascent of a peak nearby after attaining the lake leads to breathtaking views of mountains 360 degrees, with the awesome Cowen Cirque just next door. 5 stars, easily.
We'd heard this was a grueling 10-mile hike, locally known as the Bhutan Death March. The first mile leading to the falls was relatively flat. After that it just kept heading up and up. There was over 3,000 vertical feet to be climbed above the falls, so up we went. It was a beautiful Friday with clear smoke-free skies. We gradually rose above the forest entering small meadows and aspen groves. After about four-miles, we skirted below a ridge thru an interesting talus slope. We could see a waterfall from the lake cascading down a 300-foot cliff. We continued up around the waterfall thru a slot ramp leading to a small pass. The view down Pine Creek was spectactular, looking West towards the Paradise Valley, Yellowstone River, and over to the distant Gallatin Range. We shortly reached the lake, in a truly beautiful alpine glacier carved setting. Pine Lake sits in a fairly large basin 1,500 feet below the jagged and Westernmost Absorake peaks, surrounded by polished slabs of granite. The smooth slabs sloped right down into the lake, like a slide. I slid in on all fours, while my 3 year-old daughter Ginny played on the smooth granite slabs. The water was brisk, but very refreshing after the steep ascent. After swimming, I laid down in a bowl shaped depression as comfortable as any lounge chair, letting the afternoon sun dry me off. After taking in the vistas for half an hour and eating lunch, we headed back down. The descent was knee jarring, but quick, and we were back to the car within six-hours of our departure. Although the ascent had been relentless, the high alpine setting was spectactular, and worth every hard earned step.
We try to hike this trail once a year -- it's that awesome. It is a strenuous hike but keep in mind if you persevere, you won't be disappointed. It's probably one of the most beautiful places around. Along the way, the vast array of wildflowers is unmatched. There are huge, smooth rocks around the lake which are fun to climb on or "if you dare" you can jump off them into Pine Creek Lake to cool off -- but only if you dare! The last time we hiked this trail, we saw a black bear. This trip is highly recommended!
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