What was supposed to be an easy introduction to our backpacking season turned into one of the most challenging hikes I have ever done. Despite the unforeseen challenges, the hike was well worth the effort and sometimes very shaky legs. The trail itself is a moderate hike, taking you through beautiful cedar and fern forests, across creek beds, and rock chutes.
Hiking to Monashee Lake
The hike to Monashee Lake is beautiful. The best combination of forest, mountains, creeks, and alpine. The beginning of the hike through cedar forests is relatively easy, with little to no elevation. Many parts are absolutely gorgeous as you walk through fern-covered grounds and tunnels of trees with quiet streams running through. The trail eventually turned mucky as we began following a herd of cattle that all but destroyed the trail. Eventually, we caught up with them and had to scare them off the track.
A good portion of the trail is spent navigating various streams. Going across these streams, and over banks made our navigation of the trail a little more difficult. We lost sight of the trail markers quite a few times, so kind of guessed our way until we found a proper marker again. The only advice we had in which direction to go was that the trail never crosses the big river, which is always on the right side of the trail. Once you get to the end of the valley and are in a bowl of beautiful mountains and waterfalls, the ascent begins.
The climb begins with a jaunt up a steep chute filled with snow. We took this portion carefully as we didn't want to have the wrong footing and slide back down again. Once up and across this patch, the trail continues its steep ascent with a narrow path of loose gravel and rocks. At some points the rocks are so loose, you wonder when the landslide will occur that brings them all down. The vertical on this trail may be the steepest I have seen, but it was worth the effort to get to Monashee Lake.
Once through the worst of the elevation, the real winter wonderland began for us. Due to the snow, the trail pretty much disappeared with few to no markers. We found our way to Monashee Lake by following a fellow hiker's prints in the snow. Hiking poles were a lifesaver on this trip. Without them, I would have not felt safe navigating through the snow. This is a reminder to myself: Always bring hiking poles even if you think you don't need them!
This stretch of trail was definitely the hardest for me. With the sun high in the sky, melting the top layers of snow, the 'trail' became slippery. Knowing that there was a potential cliff meters away really made us dig our boots and hiking poles in and go step by step. I wasn't about to slip and find out how far the fall was! A character-building experience, to say the least.
Camping at Monashee Lake
Arriving at Monashee Lake was a relief, no more snowy cliffs to navigate! The lake was near frozen and surrounding area covered with many feet of snow, but we managed to make a nice campsite for ourselves to hunker down for the night. We were very lucky to be up there with beautiful clear skies, otherwise, we would have frozen. As soon as the sun went down we called it a night and bundled in our sleeping bags. But before then, we enjoyed the beautiful vistas surrounding the lake.
Monashee Lake is nestled between Mt Severide and Pinnacle Peak. It is a great place for a base camp in order to go day hike the surrounding ridges and peaks. I would definitely go back again to do more exploring. Stacy and I left the boys at camp and went and did a little trailblazing. We didn't get too far because of the snow, but every time we got onto a ridge we wanted to see what was over the next ridge. So, you can see why day hikes would be necessary here if you want to fully take in the area.
This backpacking trip was one of the most unique hiking experiences of my life. While I do prefer beautiful summer alpine meadows, there is a certain charm about experiencing a place still frozen in winter. And the added bonus of a new challenge is always welcome.