St. Paul Lake

Virtually constant access to water, lots of shade, a phenomenal flora, and a comparatively easy climb make this a pretty summer hike, despite its low elevation. The lake is perfect for a quick dip, if you can take the ice-cold chill!

Location Cabinet Mountains
Rating 3.2 out of 5
Difficulty Moderate (some uphill hiking)
Distance 8.7 miles
Duration 3:21 hours moving time (hiking)
Elevation Gain 1,720 feet
High Point 4,781 feet (St. Paul Lake)
Low Point 3,069 feet (trailhead)
Trail Type Out-and-back
Trailbed Packed dirt, loose rocks
Trail# 646
Water Almost throughout the hike (East Fork Bull River and its tributaries; St. Paul Lake)
Status Wilderness Area
Administration Kaniksu National Forest
Conditions Excellent. We hiked this just after a trail maintenance crew had gone up. Thanks guys!!
Permits None required
Camping At trailhead and at south shore of St. Paul Lake. An additional site sits ahead of the lake just before you get over the lip. There is a pit toilet at the trailhead
Maps USGS Elephant Peak
Trailhead From MT-200, about 5 miles north of Noxon, take MT-56 north for 8 miles. Turn right onto FS-407 and follow it to the trailhead (6 miles). There are a few forks in the road, all signed (look for signs to trail #646).

Google Directions (48.122045, -115.700383)
Season June – October
Squirrel Density Lots, especially at the lake. Horses are allowed to use the trail but can’t be at the lake
Features Lake, Grove
Distance From
  • Coeur d’Alene 104.2 miles
  • Lewiston 217.8 miles
  • Sandpoint 58.4 miles
  • Seattle 408.2 miles
  • Spokane 130.3 miles
Resources
Nearby Hikes
Date July 15, 2018

St. Paul LakeThe St. Paul Lake Trail almost immediately enters the Cabinet Wilderness Area, as it winds through dense cedar-and-hemlock forest along the East Fork Bull River. The forest floor is lush and green with mosses and ferns and devil’s club. At a gradual climb, the trail at first moves away from the creek, only to re-approach it at the half-mile mark. Then it moves away once again, crossing a few tributaries (easy rock hops) and passes a small pond with a natural spring and the clearest water. Isabella Creek is crossed on a handy log (though you could probably manage a rock hop as well) and soon after you reach Placer Creek, which would be difficult to cross were it not for the heavy-duty bridge making life easy. Afterwards the incline picks up a bit, but the trail remains nicely forested as it climbs through old-growth cedar groves. There is one more major crossing, accomplished on a lengthy log (you actually have the choice of 2 or 3). About a half mile before ahead of the lake, the trail crosses a basin thick with alder and thimbleberries where you’ll get a first glance of St. Paul Peak, then switchbacks up to the lip of the lake. The lake, incidentially, is very steep-sided, with the best approach from the southeast side, where it’s relatively flat. The best campsite also is on that side of the lake.

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

A nicely shaded trail in the woods for the most part
A nicely shaded trail in the woods for the most part
East Fork Bull River
East Fork Bull River
A spring-fed pond. It was crystal clear before Naughty jumped in
A spring-fed pond. It was crystal clear before Naughty jumped in
A verdant tributary to the East Fork
A verdant tributary to the East Fork
Placer Creek
Placer Creek
Bridge over Placer Creek. No wet feet on this hike!
Bridge over Placer Creek. No wet feet on this hike!
Placer Creek
Placer Creek
The wilderness is non-motorized. No chainsaws. Crosscut saws and elbow grease
The wilderness is non-motorized. No chainsaws. Crosscut saws and elbow grease
Rotten to the core but still alive!
Rotten to the core but still alive!
Naughty going for a swim
Naughty going for a swim
Naughty at it again
Naughty at it again
As you climb higher the forest gets thinner
As you climb higher the forest gets thinner
St. Paul Peak
St. Paul Peak
Close up of St. Paul Peak
Close up of St. Paul Peak
Looking back down the East Fork Bull River Valley
Looking back down the East Fork Bull River Valley
St. Paul Peak and its namesake lake
St. Paul Peak and its namesake lake
St. Paul Lake
St. Paul Lake
The other (south) side is better for swimming (less steep)
The other (south) side is better for swimming (less steep)
View from the south side
View from the south side
A flank of Elephant Peak
A flank of Elephant Peak
St. Paul Lake
St. Paul Lake
And this, too, is St. Paul Lake
And this, too, is St. Paul Lake
Trailmap
Alternate Routes

  • You could climb to St Paul Pass and cross over to Rock Lake. There is no maintained trail, however.


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

3 Comments Add yours

  1. montucky says:

    I’ve made that trip. It’s a beautiful hike!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. naughtyhiker says:

      Second that! Especially nice when it’s 90 degrees elsewhere and you hike in complete shade

      Liked by 1 person

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