Blackmare-Square Top Lakes loop


A loop for the loopy, we enjoy a three-day trek into the McCall backcountry.

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


Dave and I took pity and let Tom sleep in a bit, so we weren't on our feet until about 8am.


It's only a couple three miles to where you cross the East Fork of Kennally Creek. Dave did it with his boots on. Well, it's a dry year......

Check the 2019 link above to see how deep the water usually is in mid-July (over boot top).


Tom opted to leave his boots on but risk plunging to his death.

We used to just take off our boots and wade this, but these days that seems so pedestrian.


We almost lost Tom in the huckleberry honey hole.


But there's our sign. It says "Blackmare Lake, No trail" so you'd better put on your big-boy pants if you want to follow us on this one.


After climbing over the saddle, there's the two littler satellite lakes of Blackmare. The South Fork of the Salmon looks to be pretty smoky.

The highpoint on the left is "No Trail 2".


The first of the little satellite lakes. With water for Ruby.


And finally, Blackmare Lake. Now with wind. Occasional white caps to keep the bugs at bay.

The GPS said just a little more than 5 miles, but the legs said otherwise.


Later in the afternoon the smoke cleared off a little. Time to rest, because tomorrow we're going up that.

Or so John says- I thought I could see a possible line, but dreaded the reaction from the boys if we got cliffed out somewhere up high. Or on the other side...... that's why we call it an adventure.

We fished a little, rested some, and just marveled at the view.


The next morning we did indeed climb that hillside (with full packs!) but I was working too hard to take photos. Finally, coming down the other side (and we found a way down the other side!) I got the camera out.

It's not nearly as steep over here! ((but much steeper than this photo indicates)


Satellite lake for Square Top Lake.

Well, more like a frog pond.


But this one is definitely deserving of the 'lake' moniker. Idaho Fish and Game lists this one as "Little Square Top Lake"



On the map, no name, though. No trail, either.


Then over the hump to Square Top Lake. No trail here, either, but at least this one has a name on the map.

Only 2.1 miles, but it about did us in. Time to set up camp. Trailhead
Tom prepares his sleeping surface. Exactly big enough for a one-person tent. On top of those rocks, not much dirt to hold a tent stake. Trailhead
While the boys set up, Ruby rested. Trailhead
Then it was time to enjoy our surroundings. A little swimmin', a little fishin'. Trailhead

Tom fishin'.

We caught a ton of brookies. If you put them all together, they'd equal one big fish. But we still had fun.

We go to bed early in the mountains, so it was only 10pm when I had my first pee break and found the moon out being spectacular. Unfortunately my (lack of) photographic skills did not do it justice. Trust me, it was stunning. I woke Dave so he could try his hand at the photography. Then we watched as the moon slid right along the rising ridge, putting one tree or snag after another into silhouette. Trailhead
The next morning we were up early and heading up the headwall to escape the basin. More adventure trying a new route out of here. But pretty much anything had to be better than the hand-over-hand alder ascent we did to get out of here in 2019. Trailhead

Looking back down on the lake. Note the alder below.

Any guesses why I call the peak above there "The Slide"?


Working our way up. And up. And up.

And no alder!

Almost out. Trailhead
Then a high traverse to an overlook of Blackmare Lake with the summit of Square Top on the right. Trailhead
From the big flats with the overlook of Blackmare Lake, you have to climb over a ridge, then across a basin to Needles Summit. But that intervening ridge contains a highpoint I call The Castle. We hadn't climbed The Castle from this side, but it was oh so close. Time to give it a try. You start that adventure by steeply traversing under these cliffs, a couple of the castle crenelations. Trailhead
Here's what those crenelations look like from Needles Summit. Trailhead
And here's a 2017 view of it, shot from just north. Note the little tiny, exposed summit. Trailhead
And here's Tom on top of that summit. Trailhead

Here's looking south from the top of The Castle.

That all went pretty well, so we were soon back on the trail to Needles Summit.

Just over the summit, there is a little lake right off the trail, Stump Lake. I'd been by here half a dozen times and never taken the time to visit this pretty little lake. Trailhead

Then we were walking the log across the East Fork of Kennally Creek.

And a short while later, back home.

Map Trailhead

Dave's blog:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3


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