Ball Lakes via Pyramid Lake

A string of tree-lined alpine lakes cuddled below steep granite cliffs near the highest peaks of the Selkirk Crest; what’s not to like about that? This route visits three of the lakes, each one offering opportunities for camping and swimming, and with only 1000 feet of elevation gain the trail is ideal for a family trek.

Location Selkirk Mountains
Rating 3.6 out of 5
Difficulty Moderate (uphill hiking)
Distance 4.9 miles
Duration 2:11 hours moving time (hiking)
Elevation Gain 939 feet
High Point 6,735 feet (Upper Ball Lake)
Low Point 5,829 feet (Trailhead)
Trail Type Out-and-back
Trailbed Packed dirt, loose rocks
Trail# 43
Water There are frequent trickles between the trailhead and Pyramid Lake. The only reliable sources after Pyramid Lake are the Ball Lakes.
Status Proposed Wilderness
Administration Kaniksu National Forest
Conditions Excellent
Permits None required
Camping There are several sites on Pyramid and Upper Ball Lake and a large one at Lower Ball Lake
Maps USGS Pyramid Peak
Trailhead From U.S. Highway 95 in Bonners Ferry, drive west on Riverside Road (aka Country Road 18A) past the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge to the Refuge’s headquarters. Take West Side Road (blacktopped) north for 10 miles to Trout Creek Road #634. Take #634 uphill for 9 miles to the #13 trailhead (there is only limited parking for about 10 vehicles). Take trail #13 (Pyramid Pass) up half a mile to the trailhead.

Google Directions (48.805072, -116.606083)

Season July – October
Squirrel Density Phenomenal!
Features Lake
Distance From
  • Coeur d’Alene 100.8 miles
  • Lewiston 214.4 miles
  • Sandpoint 55.0 miles
  • Seattle 404.3 miles
  • Spokane 126.5 miles
Resources
Nearby Hikes
Date August 29, 2017

Pyramid Lake and the ridge to the south beyond which lie the Ball LakesFrom the junction of trails #43 (Pyramid/Ball Lakes) and #13 (Pyramid Pass), the trail crosses a small creek and meanders slightly uphill through a boggy open forest, frequently straddled by boardwalk, assuring no wet feet. In about a mile Pyramid Lake comes into view. Overshadowed by massive headwalls to the south and west. The hourglass-shaped lake offers a number of campsites along the forested northern shore, the best probably at the narrowing of the lake’s “waist” (the lake also appears to be deeper in the larger western section, if you’re thinking about going for a swim….).

Pyramid PeakContinuing on, trail #43 skirts the eastern shore of the lake, moving in a southeasterly direction through mostly fir and spruce forest with good views down the Trout Creek drainage towards the Kootenai River Valley (it got increasingly smokey while we hiked, though, limiting those views). The trail reaches a huge boulder field, switchbacks, and moves around the mountain’s flank to steadily climb the southern headwall of Pyramid Lake. Much of this is talus-covered and pretty steep with only a few switchbacks, but the trail is wide and the views of Pyramid Lake and soon Pyramid Peak are tremendous.

Upper Ball Lake panorama shotOnce you reach the top, the trail winds through open forest with a much more modest slope and reaches the upper Ball Lake at around the 2-mile mark. There is a sign pointing up (west) and that trail ends at the upper lake in no time. There are several camp spots, with one of the better ones on the southern end near the lake’s outlet. Just like Pyramid Lake, the upper Ball Lake also is nestled against a headwall, albeit not quite as steep, and it stretches along both the upper and the lower Ball Lake.

Lower Ball Lake is much smaller than Upper Ball LakeTo reach the lower Ball Lake backtrack to the sign and follow the trail for another quarter mile. The lower Ball Lake is much smaller and comes with just one campsite, but a large one at that.

The entire Pyramid-Ball-Lakes trail is part of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail. The trail continues southwest, but turns into somewhat of a bushwhack during the descent to Lion Creek. A project for another day… 

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

Trailhead
Trailhead
Long stretches of boardwalk across swampy areas to Pyramid Lake
Long stretches of boardwalk across swampy areas to Pyramid Lake
Panorama shot of Pyramid Lake
Panorama shot of Pyramid Lake
Pyramid Lake and the ridge to the south beyond which lie the Ball Lakes
Pyramid Lake and the ridge to the south beyond which lie the Ball Lakes
Campsite at Pyramid Lake
Campsite at Pyramid Lake
Pyramid Lake looking east
Pyramid Lake looking east
Looking down the Trout Creek Canyon. Wildfire smoke was drifting in; otherwise youd see the Kootenai River Valley
Looking down the Trout Creek Canyon. Wildfire smoke was drifting in; otherwise you’d see the Kootenai River Valley
Boulder field while ascending the ridge dividing Pyramid from Ball Lakes
Boulder field while ascending the ridge dividing Pyramid from Ball Lakes
Pyramid Peak
Pyramid Peak
The trail climbs the ridge above Pyramid Lake
The trail climbs the ridge above Pyramid Lake
Pyramid Lake and Pyramid Peak
Pyramid Lake and Pyramid Peak
Hourglass-shaped Pyramid Lake. The larger section is deeper = better swimming
Hourglass-shaped Pyramid Lake. The larger section is deeper = better swimming
Upper Ball Lake panorama shot
Upper Ball Lake panorama shot
Campsite at Upper Ball Lake
Campsite at Upper Ball Lake
Ball Peak? From Lower Ball Lake
Ball Peak? From Lower Ball Lake
Panorama shot of Lower Ball Lake
Panorama shot of Lower Ball Lake
Lower Ball Lake is much smaller than Upper Ball Lake
Lower Ball Lake is much smaller than Upper Ball Lake
Pink: Pyramid-Ball Lakes Trail; Red: Pyramid Pass Trail
Pink: Pyramid-Ball Lakes Trail; Red: Pyramid Pass Trail

Alternate Routes

  • Scramble up “Ball Peak”, the unnamed peak looming over upper and lower Ball Lakes
  • Continue on the Pacific Northwest Trail: going west ends at the Pacific, going east at Glacier National Park


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2 Comments Add yours

  1. montucky says:

    Beautiful scenery. I bet it will be even prettier without the smoke.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. naughtyhiker says:

      Absolutely. It’s been a smokey year, but hopefully the worst is over now

      Like

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