Help keep our trails and parks open during COVID-19 by committing to social distancing. Some trails or park services may be closed this weekend so check with local authorities before heading out.
Learn more

Wanless Lake is a 19.5 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Trout Creek, Montana that features a great forest setting and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from July until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length 19.5 mi Elevation gain 4,927 ft Route type Out & Back
Dogs on leash Backpacking Hiking Nature trips Bird watching Forest Lake Views
Waypoints (0)
Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (24)
Photos (44)
Recordings (8)
Completed (36)
View user's profile page
Kyle Baird
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 7, 2020
Hiking

Great trail. Well maintained. Lakes are stunning.

View Kyle's Recording
View user's profile page
steven woerdehoff
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 21, 2020
BackpackingGreat!RockyScramble

long hard slog uphill for 7 miles. Wear trainers with ankle support as a lot of the trail is just broken rocks. I recommend poles as well. Distance to Wanless is 10.4 miles in. Or you can stop at the first lake at about the 9.2 mile mark. Really beautiful out there. still lots and lots of huckleberries. Saw 1 bear on the way out. But it was a juvenile a scurried off with the quickness. Expert tip: if fishing, use thomas bouyants and thomas cyclone spinners. Those worked 95 percent better than anything else we tried.

View user's profile page
Scotty Livengood
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSeptember 12, 2020
Hiking
View Scotty's Recording
View user's profile page
Scotty Livengood
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSeptember 11, 2020
Hiking
View Scotty's Recording
View user's profile page
Tim McGillicuddy
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 31, 2020
HikingGreat!

This is the 2nd year my friend and dog have backpacked overnight the full Wanless hike. For the average hiker, this is definitely hard and challenging. One reason the hike is so hard is there is no water after McKay creek (0.25 miles from the trailhead) up to Goat peak and the 4,000 vertical climb requires a large amount of water. The hike is worth the effort and the four lakes alone are spectacular. Wanless is the largest lake in the Cabinet mountains and truly impressive. The huckleberries are still large and plentiful.

View user's profile page
micah bowen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 8, 2020
Great!Off trailRocky

Great day for a walk! Me and Echo doggo hiked up to wanless lake in around 4 hours. I wouldn't call this trail hard, it's more moderate.. Just really long.. Road to trailhead is good, and there are 2 creeks along the trail still with water flowing on 8/5/2020 and loads of huckelberries, which will by the way soak you if it has just rained i learned! Spent the night at upper lake, which is my favorite lake out of them all.. Enjoy!

View user's profile page
Josh McDonald
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 27, 2020
RunningSnow

27 June 2020: The trail is well maintained and has a pretty harsh incline for the first 2.5 miles and then becomes much more manageable. If hiking, you will be fine. For trail runners, it will be pretty tough with some really technical terrain later in the trail. Small wild flowers and mushrooms filled the first half of the trail and start to disappear as you get higher and it becomes more rocky. The views are fantastic and the area has a truly rugged feel. I was the only one on the trail besides the friendly forest service guys doing some trail maintenance. There is still snow at the very top and I did not make the trek down to the lake because of the amount of snow. Saw a couple deer but no other large wild animals. The drive in wasn’t bad in my car either. I’d like to come back again when the snow is cleared up.

View user's profile page
Tim McGillicuddy
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 2, 2019
Backpacking

9/1/2019 The road to Wanless is very rocky in sections and is okay for a higher ground clearance car. If I drove again, would take my SUV. The hike challenged us and is definitely hard. I would say it is lightly trafficked and only two other people were seen in our three days. The huckleberries were plentiful and the trail was overgrown towards Wanless Lake but overall in decent shape. There was a two person kayak at the lake and we were curious if someone brought it in by horse? Overall, it was a great hike and adventure.

View user's profile page
Sunny Mills
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 15, 2019
Hiking

This was a phenomenal hike! It had incredible views (especially once you get close to the ridge) along with multiple small lakes along the way. I really enjoyed this one! However, the mileage they have down here is definitely incorrect. According to my hiking book, our GPS and the sign at the trailhead- this is nine miles each way (18 miles round trip- opposed to the 14.3 they have here).

View user's profile page
kate baxter
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 10, 2018

Did Wanless for the first time in mid-October 2017. Beautiful........ but shoulda had snowshoes! Can’t wait to do this one again!

View user's profile page
K Wally
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMay 17, 2018
Hiking

Favorite hike ever.

View user's profile page
Wally Loucks
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 28, 2017
Backpacking

My GPS recorded our journey on this trail (#924) at 10.06 miles from the Mckay Creek Rd. TH to the lake campsite. A demanding 20 miles round trip. The NFS sign at the TH claims it's 9 miles to Wanless Lake. The first 2.35 miles will have your heart pumping and then the slope moderates from that point to about the 4 mile mark. From there to Goat Peak and the Ntl Forest boundary for Kanisku and Kootenai (6.6 miles) the trail slope and features are varied. With a 35lb pack and snow coming into play at 5200 ft, reaching a depth of ~6" at 6400 ft, JoRayne and I were on the trail for 7.5 hrs. About an hour of that time was for breaks. Once we arrived at Goat Peak we considered climbing the rocky monster but the snow covered slope, mostly boulders and loose rock, would have made the attempt for the summit treacherous so we pushed on toward Wanless Lake. We wandered down the snow covered trail to the upper lake and beyond; along the way seeing various animal paw (cat and Bear) and hoof (Moose and deer) prints in the snow. A bear also left its partially digested meal on the trail for us to see...croiky! One enormous windfall tree blocked the trail just short of the camp sites. The lake was calm and the surrounding mountains make you feel really small. We had the place to ourselves and the night was peaceful and dry. **We did not have access to water until we dropped into the canyon from Goat Peak ridge.

View user's profile page
JoRayne Schiller
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 27, 2017
Backpacking

Great first back packing trip! Beautiful views at the top, hard climb but great trail!

View user's profile page
Abbie Johnston
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 26, 2017
Backpacking

Super beautiful trail. The climb was really hard at the beginning. Once you got to the saddle it was down hill. A friend and I went on June 24th. We crested the saddle excited to start going down to the lake. Little did we know there was a ton of snow! The trail disappeared and after trying to make our way for an hour without the trail we turned around and climbed out. We camped just below Goat peak. We had a great time and look forward to going when there is no snow.

View user's profile page
Micah Bowen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMarch 26, 2017
Hiking

Great hike! The trail has streams running along it in the early parts of the year and we always fill our canteens up in these so no need to bring a ton of water with you. The trail itself is pretty steep and you will think you're almost to the top when you really aren't.. It will play tricks on you like that. You can break the hike up into multiple days to make it less difficult and spend the night at the upper lake. The rainbow trout here are so delicious!!! There is snow here until late summer which may make it difficult if you hike early in the year, so always be prepared. We loved the hike and will do it again soon!

View user's profile page
Jenna Swenson
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 11, 2015
Camping

It was a very long and tough hike. You will want to have at least 4 liters of water with you. This is a dry trail, that has the heat bouncing off of the rocks you are hiking up. So be prepared with lots of water, and make sure you start off well hydrated! The first part is approximately 5 miles straight up of switch backs. Once you get to the top of the ridge, it's absolutely breathtaking! Feels like you are on top of the world! Followed by four miles of switch backs down to Wanless lake. There is an upper lake about a mile down from the ridge, with camping spots. This is an extremely difficult trail. You will want to be in great shape for this one! Believe me! This trail will play with your mind... Be warned! You will think you are almost there, and you're nowhere close. This happens the whole hike! This hike definitely feels like it is wat more than 9 miles to Wanless lake. But, it really is only 9. I promise. And it's totally worth it!

View user's profile page
Kyle Smith
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSeptember 9, 2013
Hiking

The first 4.5 miles is an intense 3300 ft very climb that's pretty deceiving u keep seeing a ridge u think ull come out on but never do old recommend going in spring seeing as when I went it was a dry hike other then the lakes and a creek at the bottom when u finally reach the top u go through a small pass with a pretty steep climb down to the lakes once in the basin its beautiful with at least 7 lakes for those that put fourth the effort for the initial climb its well worth getting to the lakes in total it took us about 14 hours to hike but trust me u want to do this as a backpacking trip with as much effort as the first climb in overall pretty good hike

View user's profile page
Chad Brockus
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarOctober 20, 2011
Hiking
First to Review

Very good backpacking trip. Long arduous hike though... you will want to be in shape for this one. Six miles of up, three miles of down. You can actually camp in the basin before the Cabinet Wilderness boundary and also you can stay at Upper Wanless Lake. There are other small lakes in the area and from Wanless Lake you can look down into Buck Lake. The headwall at Wanless Lake is very impressive ( I would guess it climbs nearly 1500 feet). Pack your bug spray or go in early October, however it can snow that time of year there. Also,,,this is grizzly bear country. Bring bear spray and be smart with your food and where you cook. There are also elk, moose, mule deer, whitetail deer and various other critters in the area. One of the best backpacking trips I have ever been on.

View user's profile page
micah bowen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 7, 2020
Hiking
View micah's Recording
View user's profile page
David Crain
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 24, 2020
Hiking
View David's Recording
View user's profile page
Elizabeth Hansen
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 20, 2019
Hiking
View Elizabeth's Recording
View user's profile page
Adam Cox
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 8, 2018
Camping
View user's profile page
Leanne LaCaze
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarApril 9, 2016
View user's profile page
Melissa Normandeau
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 7, 2014
Hiking