Backpacking to Buckhorn Mountain Lake, Idaho

Buckhorn Mountain Lake is a small lake located on a little plateau near Buckhorn peak at about 7800 ft. of elevation. There is no trail leading to it and it is relatively difficult to access for inexperienced hikers since it has some pretty nasty brush and steep boulder fields to get up and down.

Trail Head

Our trip began at the Boulder Lake Trail Head, which feel pretty obscure when you’re driving up to it along a nasty pot-holed dirt road, but once we got there we saw several other cars and a small campground.

As we started hiking up we saw several people out on day-hikes or from fishing up at Boulder Lake. Boulder Lake is about 2 miles up and tends to be crowded by Idaho standards, which is to say you’re relatively likely to see other people. Once we got past Boulder Lake we left the other vacationers behind and the trip really started.

The Trip

Past Boulder Lake we ran into a gently sloping meadow that runs for about a mile until the trail splits into two, one going to Rapid Lake and the other hitting Summit Lake next to Buckhorn Peak and then running around the mountain and out for a long ways that I won’t bother to look at because trails aren’t for me. Right about where the trail splits we diverged and cut left up along the meadow and around the false Buckhorn peak. After working our way around a swampy area we hiked straight up onto the ridge west of Malony Lake, and after throwing some rocks off the top to see who could get it to roll down the furthest.

The descent down to the lake is pretty intense and rough on your knees, but it’s not particularly dangerous if you’re any good at path finding. You should try to arrive near the southwest corner formed by the ridge you’re coming down and Buckhorn peak since coming down further north gets a bit cliffy and is really not necessary. Depending on whether you prefer hard rock face or loose-ish dirt you can go down an eroded dirt gully or next to it clambering down the rocks. If you go early in July there will still be a little bit of snow that you can shoe-ski down at relatively safe increments to save your knees a bit of bother. Climbing around the U- shape across the peak is not feasible since the ridge east of the peak is pretty much impassable, so you just have to suck it up and go down and back up.

After skirting around the lake we hacked our way through a nasty layer of brush up the slope until we could break free and up onto the opposite ridge. This ridge is passable, and climbing north along it will eventually bring you into view of Buckhorn Mountain Lake on the east side of the ridge. After making our way down the boulder field we made our camp in a natural shelter formed between two large rock outcroppings, one of which extends out into the lake forming a natural springboard if you feel like taking a dip in some freezing cold water.

See you on the trail. Or better yet, off the trail.

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