Lava Mountain

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It's unclear where the summit of Lava Mountain really is, but the place I went doesn't get many visits.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

It was October, and despite the gloomy weather prediction, I wanted to get out and see some fall color. I agonized about where to go, worrying about what the roads might be like if the storm moved in early. I finally decided on Lava Mountain, near Prairie.

After a late start and some wandering around to make sure I was turning off at the right road, I was out of the car at 10 after 9. The sky was quite dark to the west, but it wasn't too bad where I was.

The trail has been rebuilt for motorcycles, so although it is quite steep in places, the tread is pretty good. If you look hard, the old trail is still visible in the woods down by the creek (as opposed to sitting up in the cheat grass).

Start of trail up Lava Mountain

The first few miles gain elevation rapidly, then access the ridgetop. The ridge is a pleasant, fairly flat walk. I think this might be a great spring ski tour.

This pic shows the 'wildlife' predominant to the area- slow elk.

Idaho wildlife

The ridge is only two or three air miles from Trinity Peak lookout, which sits on the high point in the middle of the picture (click on the image for a larger version, where you *might* be able to see the lookout).

Trinity mountains

The actual location of Lava Mountain is a little confusing. The Forest Service and USGS label Lava Mountain as a slight bump on the ridge. Tom Lopez, author of Idaho, a Climbing Guide, calls the summit the high-point of the ridge, the northern terminus. However, others go by the maps, like Trails and Tread.com. I tend to agree with Tom, and that's where I was heading, marked in red.

One of the things about these long ridge walks, which should be evident in the picture, is that is is often hard to tell exactly where the summit is until you get quite close. This can be discouraging. It's like the darn peak is moving away as you hike.

lava Mountain in the distance

I eventually worked my way to the highest part of the ridge, a semi-circular arc of false summits. At least the views were good. The dark spot in the valley to the right is Northstar Lake. This little lake looks like it would be a great starter backpack, since it sits only about 3 miles from the trailhead in the Trinitys.

Northstar Lake

And you can now see the actual summit, the high point on the right. It looks a lot like the other false summits at the top of the basin, except for the distinguishing rocky prominence at the left. You may have already figured out that Lava Mountain is only about 5 feet taller than the bump I'm on. But off I went...

There was a summit register, but it was labeled "Peak 8704".

It took me 3 hours to get to the summit, but I had walked at a brutal pace.

Summit of Lava Mountain

Then it was time to head back. This picture shows the ridge as viewed on the return trip, with Prairie in the background.

Although it got quite windy on the way back, and the temperature dropped, I made it home well before the storm moved in.

Mr. Natural Home | 2005 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski