Cedar Lakes is a 11 mile out and back trail located near Libby, MT and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is accessible from July until September.
The Forest Service has a decent map of all of the trails connected in the area that you can pick up in the Libby office. The "knowledgeable" employees were all "in training" when we got there, so a kindly temp and office worder gave us a printout of trail info and I helped myself to map. The FS printout lists this trail as 500 feet vertical, so we chose it. Of course, it is actually 3000 feet if you study the map. Your tax dollars at work. Camping at upper lake is ok but close to water. You will want to try to keep your footprint minimal and not tear branches off live trees for your fire. Use the dead branches or just go up the ridge trail a few hundred yards and collect blow-down wood for your fire. Day hiking from upper lake is great--you can go 2 directions with great views. The trail to the lake is a steady climb with lots of blow-down in a 1-mile stretch just inside wilderness boundary. Keeps out the horsy crowd. Mosquitos increase when you leave the hemlock-cedar forest in lower part. Would rate a 5 but the trail itself is a bit tiresome.
Moderate blowdown in the wilderness area. Snow still blocking the trails above the lakes. Beautiful scenery.
Tons of trees down still... Barely any snow at the lower lake no though.
29 August 2014
Great hike. Directions had us take Cedar Creek Road off of Highway 2, between Libby and Troy. Mild Forest Service Road in excellent condition. Trailhead was marked a mile or two up the road with ample parking.
Hike was a steady climb to both Lower and Upper Cedar Lakes. You gain more than half the elevation in the first couple miles of the hike, with the very beginning being the steepest. Trail was very clean all the way up and at no point did we lose the trail (though the junction with Upper Cedar Lake isn't marked, its fairly obvious). Huckleberries were all along the trail, with the majority being after you pass the Wilderness boundary. If you get off trail there are even more to find amongst the thick vegetation.
Lower Cedar Lake was the first point we noticed the mosquitos. The main campsite is right as the lake is first revealed. We found a second spot, to the left and back by the marshy area on some rocks over looking the lake to hang our hammocks. We found plenty of driftwood for a fire and this kept the mosquitos mostly at bay along with a slight breeze that came from being on higher ground. The lower campground was occupied and was thick with mosquitos when we came through. Fish jumped all evening and the other parties had some success with flies. All night and into the morning we had deer and elk crashing the woods and brush around us.
We headed up to Upper Cedar Lake in the morning expecting a four mile hike (misprint in guidebook) - however it was only about another half a mile up the trail. There were plenty of camping spots throughout the area. To the left you'll find where the lake spills into a creek, down a mountainside and into the Lower Lake. To the right you'll start heading farther along the trail, higher above Upper Cedar Lake. Great shoreline for fishing without too much brush where you first come to the lake. The farther you go in either direction the more brush you'll find. Fish were jumping all day (even midday). They showed no interest in lures but would bite just about anything on top of the water. Dome Mountain looms large over both the lakes. Crystal clear water, refreshing in mid-summer. Mosquitos didn't care how much DEET you had on and were a pain throughout the day. When they weren't biting the flies were. However, neither was enough to ruin what was a great hike and a fantastic area to explore and spend the day.
So far as wildlife goes: We ran into adolescent moose both days on the trail. Elk crashed through the marsh in the early morning. Deer banged all night. Wolves talked to one another in early evening.We saw no signs of bear activity (though that means nothing overall).