Blossom Lakes trail receives the majority of its hiker and backpacker attention in the summer months, but those seeking a little solitude on the Idaho/Montana Divide will be well-served to wait until fall. The crowds, as well as the mosquitoes, will be long-gone, and the forested trail to the lake is at its best when the surrounding western larch turn golden and the low shrubs lining the trail turn shades of crimson.
Located about two hours east of Spokane, Blossom Lakes can serve as either a day hike or a backpack trip. Fall visitors need to check both weather and mountain pass conditions before planning an outing here, as Thompson Pass closes once the snow begins to stick. However, when timed correctly, a fall visit to Lower Blossom can be spectacular.
The hike starts in Idaho, from the large parking lot at the top of Thompson Pass, but immediately crosses the state line and enters Montana. The forested trail climbs slowly and steadily for approximately three miles to the lake. Day hikers can enjoy lunch along the shore before retracing their steps back to the Pass.
Backpackers will find several potential campsites at the lake, and can consider additional hikes to nearby Upper Blossom and Pear lakes. For those lucky enough to time their visit with a dusting of snow, know that the trail beyond Lower Blossom and leading to Pear Lake is faint and difficult to follow when obscured by fresh snowfall, but the improved view of the surrounding hillsides invites hikers to linger by the lake anyway. With fewer human visitors tramping along the trail, be sure to watch for animal tracks if there is fresh snowfall.
RT Distance: 6 miles, with 1,350 feet of elevation gain
Map: USGS Thompson Pass
Getting There: Travel I-90 eastbound to exit 43 at Kingston, Idaho. Turn left, crossing I-90, then right, following the Coeur d’Alene River. At 23 miles, turn right onto Prichard Creek Road to Thompson Pass. Park in the large lot on the right.
Give Back to Your Trails: Join Washington Trails Association for a work party on October 28 at Mica Peak Conservation Area near Spokane Valley. //
Holly Weiler is a hiker, backpacker, trail runner, and skier. She writes the Hike of the Month column for every issue of Out There.
[Feature photo: Lower Blossom surrounded by snowy mountains. // Holly Weiler]