By: Marc Bowen
Two weeks ago I hiked Palisades Creek Trail into Lower Palisades Lake. To read more about that hike please click the link Late Spring Hike To Lower Palisades Lake. That post has a lot of photos I shot along the four miles of trail between the trailhead and lower lake.
This morning I arrived at the Palisades Creek trailhead at about 7:30 am and then hiked at a steady pace stopping only once during the first four miles to lower my pack to the ground, grab a snack and a photo.
Last time I hiked this stretch it took me almost four hours to reach the lower lake because I stopped many times along the way to shoot the scenery and glass the cliffs for mountain goats. This time it took me two hours less because I took just this one shot of the creek from one of the five bridges along the way. Two weeks ago the water was brown with runoff but now it has cleared up quite a bit. Still a little water on the trail in some places but much less then last time.
The photo above shows what the lower lake looks like today. The photo below shows what the same lake looked like two weeks ago. Big difference in two weeks. Much greener now. More leaves on the trees/brush and the lake water is green instead of brown. Also there is less snow on the mountain.
The trail continues along the waters edge at the left side of the lake and then on up the canyon about another three miles to Upper Palisades Lake.
This (above) is the bridge that crosses the lower lake outlet.
(above photo) Looking back across Lower Palisades Lake towards the canyon and the trail that leads back down the four miles to the trailhead.
About one hour of hiking past the lower lake I took a break in this nice shady area. There are a few campsites near by and a hitching post for horses.
Also in this area is this forest service cabin (above photo) which hasn’t been used in awhile other then by the local wildlife. Door was unlocked and ajar but wouldn’t open very far because the floor has buckled.
The trail climbs up a ridge overlooking Palisades Creek and I could look across to the ridge on the other side and just over that ridge in an upper valley (see above photo) is where Upper Palisades Lake is located.
To get there the trail descends back down into the canyon and crosses over another bridge there.
Pretty nice bridge for back country stream crossing. Makes me wonder how the people at the forest service got it there.
About one hundred yards past the bridge I spotted a cow moose grazing the grass from the bottom of the marsh. I watched her for awhile and thought about getting closer but when she wasn’t looking at me she was looking at something in the willows to my left and I suspect she had a calf or two hidden in there somewhere. If my suspicions were correct and I had moved in for a closer shot she would have been on me in no time. Not wanting a mama moose mad at me I moved on up the trail.
Not far up the trail I looked up to see a young mule deer watching me from a bend in the trail. This little guy gave me just enough time to snap a shot and then disappeared.
(above photo) View from the top of the trail looking back down the canyon I just climbed out of.
Upper Palisades Lake sits at an elevation of just over 6700 feet and is about two miles long. The water is a blue-green color (more green then blue) and is quite striking where the water covers the sand around the submerged portions of the island.
There are several decent campsites around this end of the lake. I hiked part way up the trail on the left side of the lake, rested, ate my lunch and then headed back. I saw several mountain bikers ride into this lake while I was there and am extremely impressed that anybody could make it this far on a bike.
I had originally planned to hike past the upper lake and into Waterfall Canyon where a 90 foot waterfall is probably gushing water this time of the year. But that would have added another five miles of hiking for a grand total of nineteen miles. I didn’t feel I had it in me and wasn’t sure I had enough daylight left either. So I headed back happy I had made the effort to see this beautiful lake but already a little tired and honestly not looking forward to the seven mile hike back. It took me about four hours to reach the parking area and although exhausted and hurting, I am already looking forward to my next hike.