Blue Lake, Cascade (Idaho)
Even though I grew up here, Idaho continually knocks my metaphorical socks off with how pristine and beautiful it is, especially if you’re willing to travel a little off of the beaten track. Blue Lake is one of those pristine beautiful places that is more well known but still manages to feel secluded and magical – and it’s only a two hour drive from Boise.
Getting there was so easy; directions are uncomplicated and the dirt road up to the trailhead only has one fork in it. The drive up to the trail was spectacular, with a dirt road winding up a mountain until reaching the top and leveling out into an incredibly scenic vista of the valley below. We got up to the trailhead around 10 am on Saturday, and the parking lot was nearly full as it only has the capacity for about ten cars; later we saw people parked along the side of the road as well, so a full lot doesn’t have to mean the end of your adventure!
At 0.8 miles, the hike down to Blue Lake is also incredibly easy, so we brought extra toys in the form of inflatable rafts that we wouldn’t have been able to carry on a longer or more strenuous backpacking trip. We initially descended with our normal gear while we looked for and set up camp – a lovely shady site with ample space for us to spread out, and a well built fire pit to boot. After getting settled, we hiked back up to the car and brought down our rafts and the extra cooler. Hiking up and down the steep incline was a trip, but spending the afternoon floating on the lake more than made up for it!
We brought fishing gear and saw fish jumping all over the place… but they must have learned better long before we got there because they showed Z-E-R-O interest in our bait. Even after the large day hiking groups had left, when the fish were all out and trying to catch a delicious buggy dinner, we didn’t get anything more than a nibble. *Sigh* someday I will catch a fish and eat it for dinner on a backpacking trip, but alas, this time it just wasn’t meant to be.
I will offer this word of caution: this is a very popular spot, not only for day hikers but also for weekend warriors such as ourselves. If you’re looking for a secluded getaway, this may not be the best choice. That being said, although there were several large groups around the lake, we never felt that there were too many people. There was a fair amount of foot traffic right on the edge of our campsite, as we chose a spot near the water, but people were very respectful about our space and it never felt overwhelming.
If you’re new to backpacking, wanting to break in a new pair of boots, have kids or are even just looking for a quick weekend getaway, Blue Lake is the perfect hike for you. It’s very accessible, has a toilet at the trailhead (always a plus), and is a short and sweet hike down to a beautiful lake. Depending on the time of year you visit, wildflowers bloom all over the valley, and whatever the wind was doing kept the area around the lake from getting filled with smoke from the nearby wildfires; a huge plus for those of us who don’t like breathing it in while doing strenuous activity.