Backpack to the “Not Unduly Spectacular.” Curly Lake, Tobacco Root Mountains.

I’m trudging up the steep trail to Curly Lake, thinking – somewhat crabbily – about the Montana Hiking guide’s description of Curly Lake as “not unduly spectacular.”  I haven’t been there, and right about now I’m wondering why we chose to backpack to a lake with such a lackluster recommendation.   Really?    And couldn’t someone add a few switchbacks to this trail?

Indeed, after about three miles we walk right by the lake and have to backtrack to find it.


It’s not spectacular, that’s true.  But it’s a lovely peaceful spot in the Tobacco Root Mountains, and would be a great spot for a base camp to explore the surrounding country which is duly spectacular.     And the trail did level out a bit and started switchbacking, and the wildflowers were most definitely spectacular:  Lupine, Indian Paintbrush, Arnica, Harebells, and many more that I don’t know the names of.



We find a pretty little campsite and build a fire since it’s cold at 8800 feet.  I’m glad for my down coat and warm gloves, and for my traditional post-hike reward of bourbon and Cheetos.  (I, apparently, am not unduly classy.)



The next morning is cold as well, but it’s delightful sitting on the edge of the calm lake, sipping coffee and listening to the kinglets and sandpipers calling to each other in the morning sunshine.

DSCN7049 DSCN7053

You’re OK, Curly Lake.  We all don’t need to be spectacular.


About westerner54

Hello. I'm Cindy, and I love to hike, bike and explore the outdoors - particularly the western U.S.
This entry was posted in Backpacking, Hiking, Montana, Nature, Outdoors and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Backpack to the “Not Unduly Spectacular.” Curly Lake, Tobacco Root Mountains.

  1. avian101 says:

    Wonderful vistas, I can smell the freely made coffee and the crispy cold air in the nostrils. G-d bless you guys! 🙂

  2. “Spectacular” is a relative term. Looks pretty freaking spectacular to me… then again, I live in the Midwest, so if there’s any scenery that rises more than 80 feet, that’s considered “spectacular.”

    Again, it’s all relative. Perspective helps. Seems like you have good perspective. 🙂

    • westerner54 says:

      Good point! I was actually thinking about exactly this – that when I was growing up in Massachusetts I would have considered Curly Lake spectacular for sure.

  3. Josh Baker says:

    It looks moderately spectacular to me. Cheetos, huh? Funny.

  4. A lovely spot. and your coffee cup enjoyed it too!

  5. plaidcamper says:

    Looks pretty good! A lake, decent campsite, peace and quiet, and morning coffee…not unduly spectacular works!

  6. Janet says:

    And it looks like you were the only ones there.

  7. Jet Eliot says:

    Looks incredible Cindy! I get a little peeved when a ranger or birder tells me a bird is “drab” too, because, well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I’m so glad you had a wonderful, spectacular, quiet visit in the woods with the kinglets, trees, and wildflowers. Laughed outloud at your post-hike treat. 😀

    • westerner54 says:

      Thanks! I just returned from a five-night backpack, and one of my friends brought along a bag of Cheetos. He made them last all five nights, which I thought was pretty darned impressive.

  8. John Goering says:

    Yep, Curly isn’t that grand of a lake-one you can no doubt walk across without getting your chin wet. The bowl to it’s north however, is spetacular and if hiking to Curly, the Westphal Parks trail (7159) offers better scenery. As for camping spots near Curly Lake, keep heading southwest on the trail that branches from 7151 at the upper end of the lake. Less than a quarter mile lies the ruins of a cabin, downhill from which maybe a 100 yards lies a beautiful meadow with a branch of Curly Creek running through it. Perfect!

    But as noted in the post on grizzlies, not someplace one should likely be during the hyperphagia season. My wife and I were there last year in late September and every rock in the meadow had been turned over, including some 200 pounders. And there are grizzlies in the Roots that I can personally attest to. We observed a sow and two yearling cubs at Globe Lake at a way too close range (and have photos to prove it). Globe Lake is just a little over a mile from Curly.

    The merits of Curly Creek aside, the Tobbaco Roots have a wealth of spetacular. In my opinion, only the remains of past mining and the resulting roads/motorized access detract. But there are a lot of areas where one can leave all that behind.

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