Submitted By: Dennis Nicholls
To reach Trail No. 932, turn off Highway 200 near milepost 17 about 2 miles east of Noxon, Montana, onto Rock Creek Road No. 150; proceed about 4 miles to Orr Creek Road No. 2285, veer right and follow it about 7 miles to a gate and parking area. To reach Trail No. 926 turn off Highway 200 near milepost 18 about 3 miles east of Noxon onto McKay Creek Road No. 1022 (opposite the turnoff to Noxon Rapids Dam); proceed about 3 miles to the signed trailhead on the left.
Engle Lake and Engle Peak are among the premier destinations for wilderness enthusiasts in the Cabinet Mountains. The lake nestles in a glaciated cirque and is the largest of seven lakes in the basin. It harbors a feisty population of small cutthroat trout. The peak, at 7,583 feet, is one of the easiest to climb because of a switchbacking trail up its southwest flank. The rocky summit is above tree line and is exposed to what is usually a stiff, cool breeze or the brutal glare of the sun on hot summer days.
Trail No. 932 begins in an old clear-cut that has reforested and is now a dynamic stand of young, vigorous timber. The trail is often quite steep in the first mile or so, but once on the ridgeline it gently undulates with the terrain. A massive windstorm in the late 1990s toppled thousands of trees, and then in 2000 a wildfire raced to the top of the ridge. The trail traverses this burned area, offering a firsthand look at the effects of fire in a high-elevation forest. Farther along the ridge, the trail skirts some rocky overhangs that afford spectacular views to the north. Views out over the Clark Fork Valley to the south can also be enjoyed along the way. Trail No. 926 spends a great deal of time in the trees and twice ties in with old roads and skid trails. Hunters utilize it a lot, but the majority of hikers will use No. 932 to access Engle Lake and Engle Peak.
Precautions: The junction of Trails 932 and 926 can be confusing because of the signage. If coming in on No. 932 and you are headed for the peak, don’t follow the sign that says “Engle Peak Trail 926” with an arrow pointed downhill. The trail to the peak does go downhill at one point to get around a large boulder field, but this junction is not the place. A bear den has been identified adjacent to the trail climbing Engle Peak not far beyond where Trail 932 drops into the lake. Avoid the area in the early spring when bears are emerging from their dens, or use extreme caution when hiking in this vicinity.
You must be logged in to leave a comment
I did this trail in august. The trail stays in the trees for the most part, but some views open up along the ridge. Saw a moose in one of the lower lakes and two big mlue deer bucks at engle. I awoke to thunder and lighting all around me.
Great hiking and views on a clear day. First mile in is up, up, up. But don't let that stop you. Take some breaks and enjoy any left over Huckleberries (late August and September). Once you reach the top (you will see a sign introducing the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness) it is pretty easy going along the ridge. No real places along the trail to pump water. Their are some beautiful views along the ridge. Don't miss any photo chances, they may not be there on the way out (due to clouds). The hike down is fairly steep but short. It follows switchbacks across a rock field. Once at the lake you will see a smallish campsite good for one (or maybe two) tents. There is a better (bigger) one just past the lake outlet. We didn't see any bears and actually not much wildlife at all. Although there are plenty of signs that they are there. The hike out is easier and faster than the hike in. We didn't get to fish due to bad weather on our second day. Best to check the Noxon, Mt. forecast for weather conditions before leaving. I would go again, just to get in some fishing and hike the Engle Peak. The hike was probably closer to five miles long. Get out and hike!
Fantastic hike with great views of the Central Cabinet Range. No place to hide on the boulder summit so come prepared. One of the few lofty peaks within the Cabinets with a well maintained trail. Great spot for scoping out the Clark Fork River valley.