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.
|Rating||4.1 out of 5|
|Difficulty||More Difficult (steep uphill)|
|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)|
|Water||Several brooks and the lake|
|Administration||Kaniksu National Forest|
|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)
|Squirrel Density||Never been better|
|Date||November 12, 2016|
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.
The 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.
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