The hike up to Strawberry Lake is short and without much in the way of elevation gain. Consequently, it’s everything you’d expect from such a trail – more moderately trafficked and altogether not overly exciting. That said, if you’re looking for a short family outing to a secluded lake, this trail does the job.
Strawberry Lake’s trailhead is easily accessible, about 12 miles east of Creston at the end of Krause Basin Road (Forest Service Road #5390). Unlike a number of the minor (dirt) roads we’ve traveled in the Flathead National Forest, this one’s in pretty decent shape.
We decided to head to Strawberry Lake the day after hiking Warrior Mountain, which, due to some route finding, turned into a much longer day than we’d expected. We wanted a hike that was neither too far out there nor too long – even more so as Stephan’s shoulder was in rough shape after grappling with our frenetic, squirrel-obsessed, ex-street dog.
The route to Strawberry Lake is neither remarkably scenic nor stirring. The trail winds up the hillside in a series of fairly gradual switchbacks, gaining just under 2,000’ of elevation. While most of the trail is through the forest, there are a couple of peek-a-boo views looking out to Echo and Flathead Lakes towards the top of the ridge. Regrettably, we were surprised at how battered the forest appeared in places – with dead, uprooted, and splintered trees dominating several large swaths of woodland. Consequently, there was much more sun exposure than we’d anticipated and, frankly, it was a little disheartening to see such a seemingly unhealthy forest.
We arrived at the lake after around an hour of hiking. The lake itself is quite pretty – a small, turquoise tarn at the base of Strawberry Mountain. Unfortunately, one pair of hikers who arrived just after us had their music blaring for all others within a two-mile radius to hear. With that, my advice to anyone heading out for a hike would be this: put in some friggin’ headphones if you want to hear your music, podcast, inspirational sermon, sports game, whatever. Most people you are sharing a trail with (operative word: sharing) go out into nature to enjoy the tranquility of it all. Show a bit of common courtesy to your fellow hikers and native woodland creatures. At the end of the day, you may think the sun rises and sets from your ass, however we are definitely not interested in your cacophonous din. Better still, try immersing yourself in the sounds of nature. You may just find some unexpected joy in disconnecting for a bit. But I digress.
Back on our hike, Sanchez enjoyed a quick swim in the lake before we ultimately made our return to the trailhead. We had hoped maybe there would be a trail around the lake, but found no such thing. On either side of the lake, however, Alpine #7, does continue north/south if you’re looking to extend the hike a little (or a lot… the Alpine Trail runs for some 55 miles through the Swans from Columbia Mountain to Inspiration Point).
As always, we were grateful to spend a few hours outside on such a nice day, though I don’t think we’d pick Strawberry Lake again in the future. As a short walk or trail run to a mountain lake, this route fits the bill. Beyond that, though, it’s a fairly lackluster trail that you’re guaranteed to be sharing with a number of other hikers (though hopefully it’ll be quiet ones).
Total distance: 6.0 miles
Elevation gain: 1,975 feet