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After moving from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest three years ago, I quickly fell in love with the gorgeous and diverse outdoor scene here. For reasons unknown, however, it took me almost three years to visit and explore the great Idaho Panhandle. I’ve now learned that I waited three years too many.

Early this summer, the summer of 2016, I had the chance to visit and experience firsthand the Panhandle’s natural beauty and in particular the pristine alpine lakes in the Selkirk mountain range.

Leading up to the trip, I called the local ranger station to learn about current conditions in the Selkirks, where we planned to hike and backpack. Before ending the call, I asked the ranger if there’s one spot he’d recommend. “Fault Lake,” he said simply. Having never heard of the lake, I assured him I’d look into it.

Based on my research, I learned that Fault Lake was a remote alpine lake surrounded by granite cliffs next to the crest of the Selkirk range. As part of our Idaho Panhandle adventure, my friend and I decided on hiking to Fault Lake for an overnight backpack. The hike would cover roughly 13 miles round trip with almost 3,000 feet of elevation gain.

From the trailhead, the route had us immediately cross over the fast-moving McCormick Creek on a single log bridge, which was an exhilarating experience right off the bat. Reaching the other side, we proceeded to follow the trail, an old overgrown logging road, upward and eastward.

After several miles of a gradual climb, we reached an open meadow with a view of our destination. Although the mileage was adding up, the views in the meadow were spectacular.

man hiking in green mountains
Hiking the meadows up to Fault Lake.

Hiking through the meadow, we passed by lush greenery, colorful wildflowers, along with streams and waterfalls. The beauty of the area fed the anticipation of reaching Fault Lake, our home for the night.

A waterfall on a dense mountainside.

We finally reached the lake and were blown away by the beautiful alpine setting. The meadows, cliffs, and the lake itself were a sight to see. We quickly scanned the area and found our camping spot for the night on a ledge above the lake.

Tent on a rocky point above a mountain lake.
Our home for the night at Fault Lake.

After setting up camp, we took in the visual rewards of our strenuous hike up. Some lingering snow hugged the south side of the lake near Hunt Peak. As the sun set to the west behind the ridge crest, the eastern horizon filled with oranges and pinks. An amazing way to end the day.

Sunset over the mountains.

After the sun set, however, dark clouds rolled over the ridge crest and hovered overhead. We started to see an incoming storm and rainfall. Although the incoming weather system was daunting, the beauty of the sky was worth an extra minute soaking up the view.

Man standing by tent looking at the mountains.
Moments before the storm rolled in.

The rain started pouring down, and we took shelter in our tent. The wind howled and shook the tent’s walls and rainfly. Although we momentarily weren’t able to step out and enjoy the views without getting soaked, the experience was an exciting one.

We finished our dinners inside the tent, played some cards, and soon thereafter drifted off to sleep, happy as could be.

After a solid night’s sleep, we slowly arose, ate breakfast, and packed up, sad to leave such a beautiful place. Hiking out, as a grand finale, we saw a bear almost one hundred feet away off the trail. Keeping our distance, we hiked onward when safe and back down to the trailhead.

Overall I couldn’t think of a richer experience in a more beautiful setting for our backpack trip. Fault Lake was truly an alpine paradise.

All photos, including feature imaged, credited to Scott Kranz.

Scott Kranz is a full­time freelance photographer and writer based in Seattle, Washington. His work focuses on adventure, landscapes, astro, outdoor sports, and outdoor lifestyle. Scott specializes in capturing images of the most wild, rugged, and pristine beauty of the great Pacific Northwest and beyond. Follow Scott’s Adventures on his Website, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


Published on July 14, 2016