Gem Lake

Gem Lake fully lives up to its name, cradled in a bowl opposite the Pend Oreille Divide of the Cabinet Mountains northeast of Sandpoint. Though the hike is short, the elevation gain is substantial, and most of that is up in a straight line with few alleviating switchbacks.

Location Cabinet Mountains
Rating 4.1 out of 5
Difficulty More Difficult (steep uphill)
Distance 3.2 miles
Duration 1:23 hours moving time (hiking)
Elevation Gain 1,149 feet
High Point 5,790 feet (Gem Lake)
Low Point 4,536 feet (Trailhead)
Trail Type Out-and-back
Trailbed Packed dirt
Water Several brooks and the lake
Status Unprotected
Administration Kaniksu National Forest
Permits None required
Conditions The trail was in great shape.
Camping Campsites at the lake.
Maps USGS Mount Pend Oreille
Trailhead From Sandpoint take highway 200 east 12 miles to Trestle Creek Road 275 (around milepost 42); turn left onto FR 275 (this is a well-maintained gravel road) and go 16 miles to Lightning Creek Road 419; turn left onto FR 419 (bumpy dirt road) and go approximately 1 mile to the trailhead located shortly after the bridge (go straight at the U-bend; it is well signed).

Google Directions (48.381104, -116.158206)

Season May-November
Squirrel Density Never been better
Features Mountaintop, Lake
Distance From
  • Coeur d’Alene 75.4 miles
  • Lewiston 189.1 miles
  • Sandpoint 29.9 miles
  • Seattle 379.6 miles
  • Spokane 101.7 miles
Resources
Nearby Hikes
Date November 12, 2016

Up, up, up!Gem Lake trail 554 starts out treacherously easily, meandering at the slightest of inclines beneath a thick canopy of fir. About half a mile into the hike the gloves come off halfway, as the trail tackles the steep mountain flank with the help of a few switchbacks. Then the gloves come off completely, and the trail heads straight up. A short reprieve follows around the one-mile mark, when the trail reroutes to the right at a relatively modest incline. Then it shifts eastwards and upwards, passing a small pond to the right, and climbs steeply towards the lip of the lake.

View of outlet of Gem LakeThe hike offers filtered views of the Pend Oreille Divide (the opposite range) throughout, including Mount Pend Oreille and the lookout tower on Lunch Peak. Once at the lake, the peaks and saddles surrounding it come into full view.

Enjoy this hike? Let us know in the comments below!

Crossing a creek in the lower third of the hike (this is not Gem Creek, though; this trail never intersects Gem Creek)
Crossing a creek in the lower third of the hike (this is not Gem Creek, though; this trail never intersects Gem Creek)
Frequent crossings of small brooks (likely seasonal)
Frequent crossings of small brooks (likely seasonal)
The trail is well-maintained
The trail is well-maintained
View of the Pend Oreille Divide in the background
View of the Pend Oreille Divide in the background
We ran into snow at around 5600 feet.
We ran into snow at around 5600 feet.
Up, up, up!
Up, up, up!
A lower lake (pond, really) just beneath the brim of Gem Lake
A lower lake (pond, really) just beneath the brim of Gem Lake
View of inlet of Gem Lake
View of inlet of Gem Lake
View of outlet of Gem Lake
View of outlet of Gem Lake
Gem Lake
Gem Lake
The snow was a foot deep at Gem Lake
The snow was a foot deep at Gem Lake
View of Mount Pend Oreille in dying light
View of Mount Pend Oreille in dying light
Trailmap

© 2016 – 2017 NaughtyHiker. All rights reserved. No duplication without permission.

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