Day Hike to Coquina Lake in the Lost Horse Country

Nestled in a tight basin, Coquina Lake is a true gem of a day hike in the Lost Horse country of the Bitterroot Mountains. I have fallen in love with the Lost Horse country, which I have not hiked until this summer (next hike will be the Spruce Lake). From the Bear Creek Pass trailhead, the trail meanders through and around a boulder-strewn slope until you arrive at the junction with the path to Fish Lake (another great hike). A slight uphill leads to Upper Bear Lake, a shallow depression surrounded by grass (seems perfect for moose sighting, no moose this time). At this point, there is no “official” trail, BUT the way to Coquina Lake is quite evident, and in fact, it is the best section of trail (in terms of footing) during the entire hike. After crossing a ridge, the descent of the lake is largely on huge granite slabs.

This year’s wildfires have largely filled the Big Sky with choking levels of smoke, and on this day this pattern held true. Surrounding the lake are several granite peaks that all crash into the placid water of Coquina Lake. Sitting on a slab of granite, paddle-tailed darners coursed back and forth along the shoreline, and their wings were the sound. Just a peaceful, even if I was being type-A (or was it hungry for a Rustic Hut pizza). Even the horse flies give us a break. I have endured more of those bitey little bastards this year than I care to.

Total distance: 6.79 mi
Max elevation: 7041 ft
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The outflow of Upper Bear Lake

The outflow of Upper Bear Lake

Upper Bear Lake is pretty, if not underwhelming

Upper Bear Lake is pretty, if not underwhelming

The unmarked trail is well-dfined

The unmarked trail is well-dfined

Meadow on the ridge between Upper Bear Lake and Coquina Lake

Meadow on the ridge between Upper Bear Lake and Coquina Lake

Vida wrapping up her Instagramming

Vida wrapping up her Instagramming

The sun was dping its darnest to burn through

The sun was dping its darnest to burn through

Coquina Lake is a mirror of the smoke-filled sky

Coquina Lake is a mirror of the smoke-filled sky

Vida in silhouette

Vida in silhouette

Written by Radd Icenoggle

I am a native Montanan, who has spent a lifetime as an outdoors and wildlife enthusiast. I earned a degree in biology with an emphasis on habitat relations. During my studies, I had the great fortune to research and compose a thesis that explored the effects of slope aspect on...
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