In the drainage just north of Lake McDonald lies the Camas Creek drainage. I’ve titled this as Trout Lake as this is the most famous feature in the area and the name of the trailhead that is the most popular way to access this remote and infamous* area of Glacier National Park.
From the trailhead, it is a bruising 2,000 vertical feet in a little over two miles showing you why most park visitors won’t be coming back there and you’ll have the place to yourself. It starts out in an old burn area with a wide variety of birds with squirrels and chipmunks. As you get to the top of the ridge, it goes in and out of the burn area.
At the top of the ridge, you get to see Rogers Peak and Rogers Lake through the trees. The forest on the northern slope is wetter and didn’t burn giving you nice cover with more moss and deciduous undergrowth. After dropping 1,000 feet, you reach the trail that goes up and down the valley. After a short hike heading east, you come to the gorgeous Trout Lake. A log jam at the foot of the lake teases at a walk across the lake and fish jump constantly. The trail follows the lake nicely never leaving it too far and avalanche chutes change alternate the forest. Bear scat is common letting you know that while you might feel alone, you know you aren’t.
From the head of Trout Lake, you gain some elevation plateauing to a large avalanche chute that receives snow from both Heaven’s Peak and McPartland creating great views of both, with waterfalls and great diversity of fauna with a view of the creek and your first glimpse of Arrow Lake.
At the foot of the scenic Arrow Lake is the campground with an incredible view of the lake nestled in between peaks with the wall of Heaven’s Peak providing a nice alpine backdrop.
The path to Camas Lake starts with a ford of Camas Creek, then you follow along the north shore of the lake where you ignore your map and follow the shore at the head of the lake through the feeder streams. You cross Camas Creek where it enters (looking for the orange marker on a tree) and head up through big meadows and an obvious trail.
While the trail isn’t hard to find all the way up to Camas Creek, it is very overgrown and forces you to gain over 1,000 more feet of elevation, cross the creek two more times and passes through prime moose and grizzly habitat. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it is fantastic! (it’s in the alpine section right before the lake where I crossed paths with the grizzly in the video)
Camas Lake is rarely visited and I wonder if more than 10 people use the campground per year (other than trail crew). It has a nice little island and the trail that leads you to the campground has more moose tracks in it than anything else. Bear diggings are all over the place. The food prep area looks down on the lake and probably provides fantastic viewing of wildlife. It also has a nice view of the back of Heaven’s Peak Lookout.
Heading back downstream past Arrow Lake and Trout Lake (and not back up and over Howe Ridge) you will ford Camas Creek before Rogers Lake and never come very close to the lake. You walk through a nice forest for a bit and then see the creek again when you enter the burn area and a beautiful meadow where the creek slows down and meanders. From here on out you are moving from meadow to meadow until you reach the Inside North Fork Road. A beautiful, remote and wild part of Glacier National Park one ridge over from one of the most busy and visited part of the park.
*Trout Lake is perhaps most well known as one of the sites of the fatal maulings famously known as the “Night of the Grizzlies” (the other site was up by Granite Park Chalet) back in 1967, Trout Lake has a spooky quality about it. It is perfectly beautiful and fantastic habitat for the popular bruins.