Late Spring Hike To Lower Palisades Lake

By: Marc Bowen

I had been itching to do this hike ever since I heard the trail was clear of snow. Then another snowstorm and a week of ‘iffy’ weather caused me to postpone one more week.

Getting There

From Rigby I drove to Swan Valley then to Irwin. Just past Irwin I took a left on Old Irwin Rd/Palisades Creek Road. Then 2 miles in on a dirt road to the campground. Just past the campground is the trailhead for Palisades Creek Trail. I saw five head of deer along the edge of the trees as I pulled into the trailhead parking lot. They saw me and scattered so I wasn’t able to get a photo of them.


Photo by: Marc Bowen – Palisades Creek trail head

The trailhead parking area sits at an elevation of 5500 feet and has a restroom and info board with map of the area.

Beginning the hike

At the trailhead I crossed the first of many bridges along the way. It is a pleasant 4 mile hike from here to Lower Palisades Lake with only about a 500 foot elevation gain. Because of this you can make good time and if you push it you can make it to the lake in two hours. It took me a lot longer as I stopped often to capture images of the beauty around me.


Photo by: Marc Bowen – Trail registration box

Less than 1/4 mile up the trail the US Forest Service has a sign-in area and asks for hikers to register on their way in and again on their way out. I wish all trailheads had one of these. Just another way to make a hiking experience a little safer.


Photo by: Marc Bowen – Palisades Creek

The trail follows Palisades creek pretty much all the way into the lower lake. It had rained during the night and everything was fresh and clean looking. The Trees and bushes were getting there leaves and grass was growing, the colors vivid!


Photo by: Marc Bowen – Palisades Creek

This is a very scenic and fast moving stream, swollen and muddy now due to snow melt.


Photo by: Marc Bowen

Because the water level was so high there were 3-4 areas where the stream overflowed its banks and sent water down the trail creating a new stream for short distances. This is one of the reasons I use trekking poles. They help me keep my balance as I try to keep my feet dry and also are great for gauging the depth of water in case I need to cross.


Photo by: Marc Bowen

There are about 5 bridges between the trail head and the lower lake as the trail crosses back and forth across the stream. These are bridges built not only for human traffic but also horses. This trail is popular for horseback riding and also mountain biking.


Photo by: Marc Bowen – Palisades Creek Trail

Palisades Creek Trail changes elevation quite a few times from down level with the stream to a few 100 feet above the stream with some grand views.



Photo by: Marc Bowen

Many parts of this canyon are lined with cliffs and sweet looking rock formations. If you take time to stop and check the cliff ledges above you, you might see some mountain goats. I had been told that there were quite a few in this area but didn’t see one until about a mile or two up the canyon.


Photo by: Marc Bowen

Mountain Goats love to eat along the cliff edges and watch hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers from their lofty perches. Many hikers I’m sure walk right by them without seeing them.


Photo by: Marc Bowen

This goat watched me the whole time I watched it.


Photo by: Marc Bowen

The trail pulls away from the creek at times and meanders through some beautiful groves of trees and vegetation.


Photo by: Marc Bowen


Photo by: Marc Bowen – Palisades Creek Trail

Not long after I walked across the fifth bridge of the hike I started up a rocky incline which would be the first of five switchbacks before reaching the lake.


Photo by: Marc Bowen – Lower Palisades Lake campground

Just before I reached the lower lake there was a nice campground off to the right of the trail with several campsites and an outhouse off in the trees behind the area.


Photo by: Marc Bowen – Lower Palisades Lake

Lower Palisades Lake sits at about 6100 feet elevation. I read that it was created by a huge rockslide blocking the stream ages ago. The lake was muddy brown from runoff but still picturesque. I ate my lunch and visited with a couple of hikers who arrived shortly after I did. They were some of the first people I had seen since early morning. (I ran into three hikers when I first started my hike. They were finishing their hike and had spent the night at the upper lake the night before.)

After lunch I headed back to the trailhead. I ran into several hikers and mountain bikers on the way back and saw some more mountain goats. It started to rain when I was about 30 minutes from the car. I keep a rain poncho and waterproof jacket in my pack but decided to relax under a big tree with lots of cover until the rain stopped which was long enough to reflect on this beautiful hike and plan my next one. I decided I would hike this same trail next time but keep going until I reach the upper lake and maybe go a little farther up into Waterfall Canyon. Already looking forward to it! Happy hiking!!


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