Snow Lake – Bottleneck Lakes Loop

Two gorgeous alpine lakes and a bare-granite peak, it can’t get much better than that! A gently-ascending trail leads to Snow Lake, a cirque just north of the more popular Roman Nose basin. From there, a cross-country scramble leads steeply uphill through huckleberries to a ridge connecting to Bottleneck Peak and its sweeping views of the American Selkirks. The descent via Bottleneck Lake requires a bit of non-technical climbing and the thick shrubbery ringing the lakes might be something to remember for a while.

Location Selkirk Mountains
Rating 3.9 out of 5
Difficulty Strenuous (the bushwhack on the Bottleneck side is tedious)
Distance 9.9 miles
Duration 3:53 hours moving time (hiking)
Elevation Gain 2,451 feet
High Point 6,954 feet (Bottleneck Peak)
Low Point 4,357 feet (Trailhead)
Trail Type Lollipop
Trailbed Old forest roads, packed dirt/rocks, bushwhack
Trail# 185, 187
Water Snow Lake, Bottleneck Lake, and the trail crosses Bottle Creek a few times. There is no water up/down the scramble to Bottleneck Peak.
Status Unprotected
Administration Kaniksu National Forest
Conditions Excellent on trails, but Bottleneck Peak is a bushwhack and the Bottleneck Lake side is densely overgrown.
Permits None required
Camping Snow Lake, Bottleneck Lake
Maps USGS Roman Nose
Trailhead On US-95, take the Deep Creek exit about 2 miles south of Bonners Ferry (going north, this is shortly after the Mirror Lake golf course). Follow Deep Creek Loop westwards for 3 miles, then turn right onto Lions Den Road. After .6 miles Lions Den will turn into West Side Road at a right angle. Continue north for another 1.5 miles, then turn left onto Snow Creek Road #402 (Snow Creek is a gravel road with a fair amount of washboarding). Continue for 9.3 miles. The trailhead and parking for 5 – 6 cars ist to the right, just following the fork to FR #661.

Google Directions (48.68291, -116.570451)

Season July – October
Squirrel Density Fabulous!
Features Mountaintop, Lake, Meadow
Distance From
  • Coeur d’Alene 85.6 miles
  • Lewiston 199.2 miles
  • Sandpoint 39.8 miles
  • Seattle 389.1 miles
  • Spokane 111.3 miles
Resources
Nearby Hikes
Date August 12, 2017

"Little" Roman Nose, towering over Snow LakeFollowing an old forest road, trail #185 starts out easy enough, climbing rather gradually for about a mile to the fork between Snow and Bottleneck Lakes. The choice is yours, but the bushwhack on the Bottleneck side is a whole lot easier going downhill than uphill. So take left and continue on the old forest road through fir and spruce to Snow Lake, about 3 miles from the fork. The trail crosses Snow Creek a couple of times, both easy crossings, with the second one, just ahead of the lake, benefiting from a newly-installed boardwalk. The last mile on that section is also much more open, impacted by the 1967 Sundance Fire, but views of the lake are really not possible until you’re virtually upon it. From afar you see only a nameless mountain, which looms over the lake, and since it shares the basic shape with Roman Nose to the south, we’ll call this “Little” Roman Nose.

View of Harrison PeakAt the lake (stocked with cutthroat) you’ll find several pretty campsites and you’ll get a good view of the hillside about to be ascended to the ridge leading to Bottleneck Peak. This hillside is very open and comparatively easy to climb, with the huckleberries and other shrubbery at their worst just a couple feet deep. The elevation gain is about 700 feet up to the ridge, and then another 300 feet uphill along the ridge to Bottleneck Peak. That bare-granite peak offers grandiose views across the Pack River valley to Harrison Peak, the Beehive and Harrison Lake cirques (but you can’t see the actual lakes), and prominent Chimney Rock. To the south you’ll see Roman Nose and “Little” Roman Nose and the ridge that burned during the 1967 fire. At the foot of Bottleneck Peak lies its namesake lake, far below.

Upper and lower Bottleneck LakesFor the descent you get to choose between two ridges, one heading north, the other east. We picked the northern one, which required a bit of climbing to get down (Naughty wasn’t too eager, but she made it). The scramble along that ridge is easy, but the descent to Upper Bottleneck Lake is thickly overgrown and rather tedious. There were no obvious campsites at the upper lake, nor, to our chagrin, any established trails to the lower lake. That required another bushwhack, and Bottleneck Creek offered the path of least resistance.

Lower Bottleneck Lake, looking eastLower Bottleneck Lake sat rather prettily in its cirque, nestled against Bottleneck Peak to the south and offered a number of excellent camping opportunities. From the lake, the trail heads out as a single-track, but soon enough widens once again as it takes over a former logging road. It just slightly touches on Corner Creek during the descent, a spot where an avalanche or landslide ripped a gouge into the forest (you can actually see where you’ll end up on trail #185 below). The trail then turns south one last time and soon merges with the Snow Lake trail. Head out the way you came in.

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

A few trickles along trail #185
A few trickles along trail #185
Trail #185 uses the roadbed of an old forest road for most of the way
Trail #185 uses the roadbed of an old forest road for most of the way
Thimbleberries
Thimbleberries
Elderberries
Elderberries
Naughty cooling down in Snow Creek
Naughty cooling down in Snow Creek
Geocache spoiler photo
Geocache spoiler photo
"Little" Roman Nose, towering over Snow Lake
“Little” Roman Nose, towering over Snow Lake
Trail near Snow Lake with "Little" Roman Nose in the background
Trail near Snow Lake with “Little” Roman Nose in the background
Boardwalk near Snow Lake
Boardwalk near Snow Lake
There are numerous campsites along the east and north sides of Snow Lake
There are numerous campsites along the east and north sides of Snow Lake
Snow Lake and "Little" Roman Nose
Snow Lake and “Little” Roman Nose
Naughty swimming in Snow Lake
Naughty swimming in Snow Lake
Snow Lake and the saddle between "Little" Roman Nose and Bottleneck Peak
Snow Lake and the saddle between “Little” Roman Nose and Bottleneck Peak
The ascent to Bottleneck Peak is along the north side of Snow Lake (pictured to the right)
The ascent to Bottleneck Peak is along the north side of Snow Lake (pictured to the right)
Looking back at Snow Lake while climbing to the ridge
Looking back at Snow Lake while climbing to the ridge
There are lots of huckleberries, sweet and ripe
There are lots of huckleberries, sweet and ripe
A snag near the top of the ridge
A snag near the top of the ridge
As you ascend, the real Roman Nose pops up behind the Snow Lake cirque
As you ascend, the real Roman Nose pops up behind the Snow Lake cirque
"Little" Roman Nose in front, the real thing behind it
“Little” Roman Nose in front, the real thing behind it
A snag on the ridge, which is mostly exposed granite
A snag on the ridge, which is mostly exposed granite
Bottleneck Peak
Bottleneck Peak
View of Harrison Peak
View of Harrison Peak
Looking at the Snow Lake (front) and Roman Nose (back) basins
Looking at the Snow Lake (front) and Roman Nose (back) basins
The ridge in back was burned in the 1967 Sundance fire
The ridge in back was burned in the 1967 Sundance fire
View from Bottleneck Peak to lower Bottleneck Lake
View from Bottleneck Peak to lower Bottleneck Lake
A butterfly sucking the salt and moisture from my backpack
A butterfly sucking the salt and moisture from my backpack
Upper and lower Bottleneck Lakes
Upper and lower Bottleneck Lakes
Lower Bottleneck Lake
Lower Bottleneck Lake
The ridge heading north from Bottleneck Peak
The ridge heading north from Bottleneck Peak
Naughty claiming upper Bottleneck Peak
Naughty claiming upper Bottleneck Peak
A small pond between upper and lower Bottleneck lakes
A small pond between upper and lower Bottleneck lakes
Lower Bottleneck Lake, looking east
Lower Bottleneck Lake, looking east
Panorama shot of Bottleneck Lake
Panorama shot of Bottleneck Lake
Lower Bottleneck Lake up close
Lower Bottleneck Lake up close
Nice bearhang. But guys, a dead snag? And right above your tent?  :)
Nice bearhang. But guys, a dead snag? And right above your tent? 🙂
Wildflowers near a pond below Bottleneck Peak
Wildflowers near a pond below Bottleneck Peak
Trailmap

© 2016 – 2018 NaughtyHiker. All rights reserved. No duplication without permission.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. montucky says:

    That’s another beautiful hike! I love the lakes and the peaks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. naughtyhiker says:

    Thanks! It was still a bit hazy from smoke but by now that’s cleared up

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mike says:

    Great hike! This loop has been on my list for awhile.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. naughtyhiker says:

      Make sure to hike up from the Snow Lake side. A whole lot easier that way. Thanks for reading!

      Like

  4. Bill Love says:

    Great photos and description of Snow and Bottleneck Lakes. Back in the mid-70s you could drive on old logging roads to within half a mile of Snow Lake. A group who worked together at the Bonners Ferry Ranger District once packed a canoe up the steep skid trail that accessed Snow Lake. We called ourselves the Kaniksu Angling Society.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. naughtyhiker says:

      That must have been a bit of work hauling a canoe up there! Nice lake though; it makes it all worth it! Thanks for the feedback

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Bill Love says:

    Ooops…I posted my previous comment too soon. Many years after the canoe portage, I packed a float tube up the current trail to Snow Lake. I maintain that mountain lakes have an on/off switch regarding fishing. It was “on” that afternoon as I released countless very small cutthroat trout. My #14 Adams fly would no sooner hit the water and several fish raced to grab it.

    Thanks for the very detailed description and photos of a special place in the Selkirks.

    Liked by 1 person

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