Blacktail Mountain

Wedged between Lake Pend Oreille and Cocolalla Lake, Blacktail Mountain perches almost 3,000 feet above the lakes, thereby virtually guaranteeing grandiose views in all directions. A bit of help from the weather gods is required, though, as we learned the hard way after climbing a trail switchbacking along the steep western flank of the mountain. The view was superb as long as you like the color white.

Location Selkirk Mountains
Rating 3.2 out of 5
Difficulty Moderate (uphill)
Distance 4.7 miles
Duration 2:24 hours moving time (snowshoeing)
Elevation Gain 1,684 feet
High Point 4,951 feet (Blacktail Mountain)
Low Point 3,236 feet (trailhead)
Trail Type Out-and-back
Trailbed Packed dirt, loose rocks
Trail# 117
Water None
Status Unprotected
Administration Kaniksu National Forest
Conditions Good, but a fair bit of loose rocks and rutting from motorcycle use
Permits None required
Camping None
Maps USGS Cocolalla
Trailhead From US-95, take Blacktail Road east. This is roughly halfway up/down Lake Cocolalla. Continue on Blacktail Road for 1.6 miles, then turn left onto Butler Creek Road (NF-230) and continue to the trailhead, 2.7 miles. There is parking for a few vehicles.

Google Directions (48.117281, -116.539475)

Season Year-around
Squirrel Density They were sleeping….
Features Mountaintop
Distance From
  • Coeur d’Alene 38.1 miles
  • Lewiston 151.7 miles
  • Sandpoint 16.5 miles
  • Seattle 342.3 miles
  • Spokane 64.4 miles
Resources
Nearby Hikes
Date November 4, 2017

Trail #117 near the trailheadFrom the trailhead, choose trail #117, which heads off north, rather than the Little Blacktail and Maiden Rock trails, which head south and east. The trail immediately disappears into the woods and really doesn’t come out of the forest until you’ve reached the saddle beneath Blacktail Mountain. For just a very short distance the terrain is comparatively flat, but that changes quickly and as the trail tackles the mountain’s flank in a seemingly endless series of switchbacks. There are occasional views of the mountainside to the south and you may catch a glimpse of Cocolalla Lake to the west. Other than that, it’s just back-and-forth and back-and-forth. Once you get close to the ridgetop, a narrower trail heads up to the ridge, which is essentially a shallow saddle between Blacktail Mountain and Butler Mountain. To reach Blacktail, follow the ridge eastwards–the two mountains are really just high points along that ridge. You’ll reach Blacktail in about a quarter mile.

Naughty making tracksThere was roughly half a foot of snow on the ground at the trailhead and up on the ridge that increased to about 1.5 feet. Unfortunately, though, it was windy and overcast, with heavy clouds nipping at the mountaintop and stealing the views. We trudged along the ridge further east, in hopes of better views and a geocache. The views ended up the same (white on white) and the geocache was buried deeply in snow, together with the snag at whose feet it was supposed to be located. Evidently a project for another day….

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

Trail #117 near the trailhead
Trail #117 near the trailhead
Views to the south open up on and off
Views to the south open up on and off
The trail was relatively easy to find, despite the snow, but loose rocks made for treacherous footing
The trail was relatively easy to find, despite the snow, but loose rocks made for treacherous footing
View towards Lake Cocolalla
View towards Lake Cocolalla
We saw lots of trees, but neither of the lakes
We saw lots of trees, but neither of the lakes
The larches are pretty this time of year
The larches are pretty this time of year
It is up, up, up all the way
It is up, up, up all the way
So much easier to walk in someone elses tracks
So much easier to walk in someone else’s tracks
Snow-covered trees near the top
Snow-covered trees near the top
The saddle between Butler and Blacktail
The saddle between Butler and Blacktail
Elk or moose bed near the saddle
Elk or moose bed near the saddle
Virgin snow along the ridgetop
Virgin snow along the ridgetop
Blacktail Mountain in all its glory
Blacktail Mountain in all its glory
The view from Blacktail Mountain. It was grand as long as you like white
The view from Blacktail Mountain. It was grand as long as you like white
We continued southeast along the ridge for a bit, but the white curtain wouldnt lift
We continued southeast along the ridge for a bit, but the white curtain wouldn’t lift
Naughty making tracks
Naughty making tracks
Teal: Blacktail Mountain trail; Purple: Maiden Rock trail
Teal: Blacktail Mountain trail; Purple: Maiden Rock trail

Alternate Routes

  • Starting near the trailhead, you could hike up to Little Blacktail Mountain. However, this is an ATV trail and for some length it merely follows forest roads
  • Continue northbound on the ridge to reach Butler Mountain. It is about half a mile from the point where the Blacktail spur trail headed right. You can continue past Butler down the other side along Bimetallic Ridge to make this a one-way (if you have a shuttle). The trail ends at FR #2235.


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