Along the beautiful Swan Mountains that form the eastern border of the Flathead Valley, there is a great designated hiking area called the Jewel Basin, or “The Jewel” as it’s known to us locals. This network of trails is reached via a dirt road that climbs up into the alpine making the hiking rewarding almost instantly.
In early October, my wife and I decided to do a little hiking in the Jewel Basin. The fall weather was inviting and, after a wonderful breakfast at the Echo Lake Cafe, we headed on up. The dirt road later in the year is a washboard festival driving up, but it cuts out a couple thousand feet of elevation leaving you with the cream of hiking as you can discover summits and alpine pocket lakes linked by wonderful trails.
This designated hiking area is a short drive from the Flathead Valley and rewards you almost instantly. We got our daypacks and our Tenkara USA fly rods and headed out the door. Our destination was Birch Lake and a little bit of fly fishing. We got our fly rods earlier in the year and just failed to use them throughout the summer. Today we were trying to be more intentional.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever become a fly fisherman, but it’s not a bad way to spend the afternoon throwing flies on an alpine lake. After an hour or two with fishing and no catching, we decided to head on up to Mt. Aeneas for some epic views.
On the way up, we passed some friends, then some more friends and then walked with some other friends to the summit. The views on the way up are fantastic and only get better. From Mt. Aeneas, you can see peaks in Glacier National Park along the south and western borders. To the west lies the Flathead Valley with it’s various lakes and rivers. The biggest of the rivers is the Flathead River that lazily snakes it’s way into the beautiful Flathead Lake. To the south and east are the Swan and Mission mountain ranges.
It’s all beautiful and impressive. We hiked back down, bounced down the road and went home, happy that we’d gotten out and explored.