Lake Nokoni and Lake Nanita – 21.7mi / 34.9km
Tucked below Ptarmigan Mountain are two stunning lakes, but it will take an epic effort to see both of them in one day.
You’ll work your way through wonderful meadows on your way up the wide North Inlet river drainage on a fairly level trail. You first view the river when you enter into Summerland Park as it lazily snakes through this giant meadow. Keep an eye out for deer and moose throughout this section.
After skirting the meadow, the valley closes up and you climb to Cascade Falls where the river both cascades and falls through large boulders (see Cascade Falls in 5-10 Miles for description). The trail continues along the river, predominately through trees, with intermittent meadows. At one point, the cascading water is squeezed through the rocks before entering into a lovely, champagne-bubbling, deep pool called Big Pool.
Take a right at the junction for the lakes where you’ll drop down and cross over the river at another waterfall. The slog up Ptarmigan Mountain begins as you steadily switchback up the mountainside with filtered views becoming more expansive. The lower montane forest gives way to subalpine areas of flowers and granite as you turn up towards Lake Nokoni.
The shore is a large slab of granite that slopes into the water and is a wonderful place to lay down as you gaze up at the towering, jagged profile of Ptarmigan Mountain in front of you. A ridge separates the two lakes and requires a 300ft/90m climb before you drop down through a soggy meadow to Lake Nanita. While similar to Lake Nokoni, this lake features a sheer cliff that, from this vantage, looks like monolithic spires. Turn around before the lake’s outlet and begin the journey back down, looking for animals feeding in the late afternoon.
Trailhead: From Hwy 36, turn onto West Portal Road to Grand Lake. Stay on West Portal Road for 1.1mi/1.8km and follow the signs for Tonahutu & North Inlet Trailheads up County Road 663 to the North Inlet Trailhead.
Elevation Gain: 3,100ft / 930m – Elevation Loss: 3,100ft / 930m