Hiking in Sanders County 

So you think hiking in northwestern Montana is all the same? There are beautiful, scenic vistas everywhere–but what sets us apart is the solitude. Open vast spaces + less population = the trail to yourself! There are many resources for hiking in the Lolo and Kootenai National Forests. Remember to be safe on the trails; be bear aware and leave no trace! Click the links below for maps and additional trail directions!


A Few Great Hikes in the Area


The Baldy Mountain and Lake trail is an intermediate hike approximately 2-3 miles long. It is a rough road to get to the trail head though, so make sure you have 4-wheel drive. The road is narrow, rocky and bumpy for about 3·5 miles before the trail head. The trail head is located about 15 miles North of Plains, MT. Once you get on the trail it’s a consistent uphill hike. Although it is not very steep, it does get rockier the closer to the top you get, make sure you watch your step.

When you reach the top of Baldy Mountain, you can approach the foundation of the old lookout. Just beyond the lookout foundation, you will see your first glimpse of the basin which holds Baldy Lake. A few hundred feet away, you will be able to see the lake. The trail will go downhill from here.

Directions: from Plains, MT: Take Upper Lynch Crk Rd (paved road). Go left onto Cedar Crk Rd (forest road 1025) which is a dirt road. Stay on this road until it forks and you see a forest road 886 sign, it will be to the left. Follow this road (it’s narrow and very rough) for about 3.5 miles. Just follow the road to the very end, the Baldy Mountain & Lake trail head starts here.


The Elk Lake hike is approximately 1-1.5 miles long. Although, there is a 4-wheeler trail that is for expert hikers which is only about 3/4 mile long. The 4-wheeler trail is very steep the entire way.

Directions: To get to the trailhead from Trout Creek, MT, you will travel West on MT Hwy 200 about one mile. Just beyond the highway bridge, there will be Blue Slide Road to the right. Take this road about 4-5 miles and just before you cross the first bridge on Blue Slide Road, you will take a left up Vermillion River Road. It is a dirt road. Take Vermillion River Road approximately 9·5 miles. Then take a left at the road marked ‘Elk Lake Trailhead.’ You will travel on this for 3 miles.

You can also access this trail starting in Thompson Falls, drive 1/2 mile west of town, go right at Blue Slide Road. Take Blue Slide Rd to Vermillion River Rd- go Right. Follow directions above to trailhead.

The Elk Lake Road is a VERY rough and narrow road, so a 4-wheel drive vehicle is strongly recommended (and the higher the clearance, the better). There are many ruts and rocks on this road.

The trailhead will be to the right, the 4-wheeler trail is about 200ft beyond the trailhead sign on the road. We do not recommend taking a 4-wheeler up the 4-wheeler trail.
There are camping spots available. Follow fire restrictions.


Rock Lake trail starts on an old mining road and is a low angle trail through an area frequented by bear. At about 2.5 miles the trail climbs moderately to a nice waterfall just below the lake. Be sure to stop and photograph this falls. The lake is a short walk further up an easy grade. There are a couple of campsites at the lake. To continue the hike further, hike the left side of the lake to the north end for great views of Ojibway Peak 7303′. With a little bushwacking a hiker can continue up towards St. Paul Pass. The upper sanctuary is calm and very scenic.

This upper “trail” can take a hiker to St. Paul Lake. This information gleaned from and more information about hiking trails in the region is available at www.TrailsNW.com

Directions: From Sandpoint, ID drive east on Hwy 200 into Montana. About 2 miles past the Noxon, MT bridge turn left (N) on Rock Creek Road #150. At about 5 miles turn right on 150A to trailhead.


The Powerhouse Loop trail is a 2.3 mile loop near Thompson Falls. There is a low water trail that runs below the high water elevation and may be flooded in the spring. The High Water Trail is an alternate route that is open year round.

Directions: In Thompson Falls, from the west end of Main Street (Hwy 200), head south on Pond Street (by the Post Office) towards the river. At the end of Pond Street, make a left on Maiden Lane; the PPL Montana Power Park will be immediately on the right where parking is provided. Follow the sidewalk through the center of the park, turning left on the paved road that leads to the powerhouse and follow it to the powerhouse gates. Do not enter the gates; look right where there are directional signs pointing to the trail. Follow signs and markers until the loop returns to the Post Office and Pond Street. Turn right on Pond Street and head back to the trailhead at the Power Park on Maiden Lane. A seasonal restroom is available at the Power Park.

2504 Tradewinds Way Suite C1
Thompson Falls, MT 59873