Crystal Lake and Pearson Peak Loop

The Crystal Lake loop in the St. Joe Mountains is rather pretty and surprisingly popular given the rather tediously long drive up Rochat Divide. The trout-filled lake, gorgeous camp spots, and huckleberry-carpeted hillsides make it certainly a worthwhile endeavour, topped off with sweeping views from Pearson Peak across the Coeur d’Alene Mountains and the Palouse.

Location St. Joe Mountains
Rating 3.6 out of 5
Difficulty Moderate (some uphill and off-trail hiking)
Distance 4.2 miles
Duration 2:05 hours moving time (hiking)
Elevation Gain 1,067 feet
High Point 6,125 feet (Pearson Peak)
Low Point 5,104 feet
Trail Type Loop
Trailbed Packed dirt, loose rocks, off-trail
Water Crystal Lake and a small trickle halfway to the lake
Status Proposed Wilderness
Administration BLM
Conditions Good for the portion with a trail, but beware of rocks and exposed roots; the off-trail portion is comparatively good
Permits None required
Camping At the trailhead (Sheep Camp) and at Crystal Lake
Maps USGS Crystal Lake
Trailhead From I-90, take exit #40 (Cataldo), and head south on Latour Creek Road. After about 7 or 8 miles the road turns to gravel. Eventually the road morphs into Rochat Road (FR-613), but you simply go straight (the left fork crosses the creek and heads up Latour Peak, which is a different hike). It’s just shy of 20 miles from the freeway to the trailhead at Sheep Camp, and the road gets worse as it winds higher, being a mere dirt road once you arrive at the trailhead.

Google Directions (47.388212, -116.401681)
Season June – October
Squirrel Density Phenomenal!
Features Mountaintop, Lake, Meadow
Distance From
  • Coeur d’Alene 46.5 miles
  • Lewiston 120.6 miles
  • Sandpoint 91.8 miles
  • Seattle 357.3 miles
  • Spokane 79.4 miles
Resources
Nearby Hikes
Date August 12, 2018

View of the Latour Creek mouthThe trail starts on the northeast side of FR-613, dropping slightly and contouring along the northeastern flank of Pearson Peak. At first the trail is rather open with good views to the mouth of Latour Creek and the surrounding mountains, including Latour Peak, then its gets rockier, crossing a few talus slopes, and finally fir takes over on approach to the lake. It’s about 1.5 miles to the lake. There are a few choice campsites right where the trail meets the lake, but perhaps the best one is on the far side, where a minute peninsula slides into the lake beneath the steep forested nose of Reeds Baldy. The easier way to it is around the western end of the lake, which features a decent angler trail. It’s possible to circumvent the lake (about 3/4 mile), but the eastern end is steep and brushy.

…Crystal Lake below Reeds BaldyEither head back the way you came, or, to get a bird’s eye view of the lake, steeply climb the headwall of the lake towards a saddle between Pearson Peak and Reeds Baldy. At the saddle you can either continue on the trail, which shortly meets up with FR-613, where you head north back to the car, or, for better views, hike off-trail up the rocky ridge towards Pearson Peak. After scaling the first knob, peek over the edge to the east at the lake as you won’t be able to see it anymore later. The route then follows animal tracks, sticking close to the spine of the ridge as it climbs higher up treeless Pearson Peak. The views here are phenomenal, starting with antenna-studded St. Joe Baldy, beyond it the Clearwater Mountains to the south, then the St. Joe River Valley and Palouse to the west, and the Coeur d’Alene Mountains to the north. There is a rock cairn at the top of Pearson Peak, and afterwards it’s downhill towards Rochat Peak, crossing plenty of shifting talus. Shortly before returning to the trailhead, alpine fir blocks the way and the animal tracks get a bit confusing. It might take some brute force…

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

Most of the trail is a nice singletrack
Most of the trail is a nice singletrack
Rochat Peak in the foreground, Boise Peak and Latour Peak in the background
Rochat Peak in the foreground, Boise Peak and Latour Peak in the background
The forested hillsides stretching out to Latour Peak
The forested hillsides stretching out to Latour Peak
View of the Latour Creek mouth
View of the Latour Creek mouth
Talus. Theres lots of it
Talus. There’s lots of it
The trail skirts this knob (through the woods); the lake is in the cauldron beyond the knob
The trail skirts this knob (through the woods); the lake is in the cauldron beyond the knob
Naughty finding a small brook to cool down in
Naughty finding a small brook to cool down in
Most of the trail is in good conditions, but there are some rocky spot and exposed roots
Most of the trail is in good conditions, but there are some rocky spot and exposed roots
Near the lake. View to the mouth of Latour Creek
Near the lake. View to the mouth of Latour Creek
Naughty taking a dip near the outlet
Naughty taking a dip near the outlet
Crystal Lake and the forested slope of Reeds Baldy
Crystal Lake and the forested slope of Reeds Baldy
A moss-overgrown log floating in Crystal Lake
A moss-overgrown log floating in Crystal Lake
Crystal Lake
Crystal Lake
View from the peninsula towards the lakes outlet
View from the peninsula towards the lake’s outlet
Naughty taking a swim
Naughty taking a swim
Naughty at the peninsula on Crystal Lake
Naughty at the peninsula on Crystal Lake
A raft adrift in Crystal Lake
A raft adrift in Crystal Lake
Crystal Lake below Pearson Peak
Crystal Lake below Pearson Peak
Crystal Lake and the lower end of Pearson Peak in the background
Crystal Lake and the lower end of Pearson Peak in the background
Crystal Lake while climbing to the saddle below Pearson Peak
Crystal Lake while climbing to the saddle below Pearson Peak
The ascent to Pearson Peak crosses more talus
The ascent to Pearson Peak crosses more talus
View into the Clearwater Mountains from Pearson Peak
View into the Clearwater Mountains from Pearson Peak
This spot is the last chance for a look at Crystal Lake; far below to the right, looking like this…
This spot is the last chance for a look at Crystal Lake; far below to the right, looking like this…
…Crystal Lake below Reeds Baldy
…Crystal Lake below Reeds Baldy
St. Joe Baldy
St. Joe Baldy
Pearson Peak
Pearson Peak
A flag flying near Pearson Peak
A flag flying near Pearson Peak
Pearson Peak is a rather longish ridge
Pearson Peak is a rather longish ridge
The St. Joe River Valley and the Palouse
The St. Joe River Valley and the Palouse
Cairn atop Pearson Peak
Cairn atop Pearson Peak
Panoram shot from Pearson Peak
Panoram shot from Pearson Peak
View into the Palouse and Coeur dAlene Mountains from Pearson Peak
View into the Palouse and Coeur d’Alene Mountains from Pearson Peak
From Pearson Peak, looking back. Crystal Lake is hidden beneath those two ridges
From Pearson Peak, looking back. Crystal Lake is hidden beneath those two ridges
Rochat Peak
Rochat Peak
Trailmap

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