Ship Island Lake Trail

MODERATE 4 reviews
#3 of 12 trails in

Ship Island Lake Trail is a 20.4 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Cobalt, ID that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible from March until November.

20.4 miles 6348 feet Out & Back






nature trips

rock climbing





wild flowers



no dogs

Well known, large beautiful lake deep in the Bighorn Crags Ship Island Lake, the largest lake in the Crags area is a popular destination due in part to the great scenery on the way to and from and because of the beauty of the lake itself. Good fishing, big game and rugged mountain beauty combine to make this a photographers dream.

2 months ago

2 months ago

Amazing hike and views. Do not pass up the opportunity to take this hike. some of the most beautiful and diverse scenery in the state. Great fishing in every lake we tried too.

6 months ago

First things first. Make sure you have a spare, there is a lot of dirt road to the TH. We needed it. It is a rough go the last 10 miles or so in the car.

On to the hike.
Possibly the best backpacking tip yet. I did this hike with a few other guys ranging in age from upper 30s to low 50s.
We took 2 days in and 2 days out, setting up a base camp at Bill bird and Gentian lakes. We had a very late start at the TH (starting sometime after midnight, due to car, and tire issues).

Ship island lake was like a post card, the pictures don't do it justice. We crossed paths with one couple on their way out from the end of Ship Island, as we broke camp near the trail split to Cathedral lake. One of them looked just beat, and the other just tired. That is a long haul if you are not in shape. My group set up a base camp near Bill Bird, and Gentian. We then did day hikes out to different basins Ship Island was the favorite trip due to the view, and the fishing in Ship Island, an Airplane lake which we hit on the way back to camp. Another day we hiked over to Big Clear lake and several others in that area.Fish were caught in all lakes, using flies, spinners, spoons, or jigs. Ship Island was the best fishing, and likely held larger fish, although we did not catch much over 10-12 inches. Still alot of fun though. We chose not to hike to the end of Ship island to view the cascade into the Salmon river, but were told that it is phenomenal. Maybe next time. on the way back out we stopped near Cathedral again, and fished there. It is a bog, full of mosquitoes, and only fair fishing.

We met beautiful weather for the most part, only slight sprinkles during the day on occasion. On night we did have severe winds, thunder, lightning, and decent rain fall you could hear the wind gushing down the mountain side, and then it would hit you several seconds later. Spending the first night in my hammock and tarp during a storm of such size was a little nerve wracking.

My trip was late July, and we encountered a fairly large patch of snow that needed to be crossed while descending the switchbacks near Harbor and Wilson lakes, going toward Bill Bird.

I would recommend this trip. Just know that you are going to be doing a lot of smaller elevation changes along the way. We also met 2 groups of forest service rangers while on the trip who were there to make sure the camp sites and trails were being maintained. They said that aluminum foil was the biggest problem typically, so please pack it out.

1 year ago

Classic hike and lake in the Idaho Bighorn Crags. One day for the the stout. Two days for the more casual cruiser. Carry plenty of water. There is a camp host and a water pump at Crags CG. You will be ridge hopping for the first 7 miles until you get to Genitan and Bird Bill Lakes. Dead Horse pass at Fish Fish Ridge has a set of harry switchbacks. The 2nd half is easy up and mostly down hiking. Airplane lake is a large beautiful lake on the way. Ship Island Lake is a 1.5 mile tarn lake surrounded by steep crags with goat slides. Ship Island Creek literally "dumps" into the Salmon River (Impassable). Really fun 6-8' erratic cubelike boulders sitting on a large, slick, striated granite dome at the outlet. Waterfall too. Fly fishing was superb! Rainbows, Cut Throat and California Goldens! I didn't land any fish of real size, probably due to high altitude and rocky bottomed glacier lake (not to say that they aren't in there). Yet, I caught all the pan sized fish you could want. I carry a backpacker's float tube and super light fins. The fish were nearly jumping in my tube. Goldens really put up a good fight. Camping is on the right. There were boy scouts at Airplane Lake but we saw no others for two days until a group of horse packers came in. I was amazed that they actually rode their horses down the switchbacks at dead horse pass. The wife of the group had enough sense to walk hers down:). There are some short day hikes to smaller lakes. It would be easy to set up a 5 to 10 day trip to a lot of gorgeous high mountain lakes in the immediate area. On the way out we skipped over to Harbor Lake. Make sure your tires are in good shape. We popped a tire on the way out on the granite based dirt roads that go for 55 miles.