This fall we had a short weekend free and were itching for a quick, easy overnight backpacking trip. We also really wanted to camp by an alpine lake. So I was curious . . . what is the closest alpine lake to Boise? A search of Google Earth turned up a nice looking lake only 35 miles (straight-line, not driving) from town. And even better? I could find next to nothing about the lake on the internet.
North Star Lake
Overnight from North Lava Ridge TH
Vital Stats - L/9.6mi - V/1200'
We were quite pleased with this hike. To start, google earth says the drive is 2:37 hours from Boise. It took us around 2:15. So it's close enough even for a dayhike but great for a quick overnight. Note: the trailhead is not marked, and is shown in (maybe) the wrong spot on google maps. You can see the trail heading west from a switchback in the trinity mountain road here.
The major downside of this hike is that the trail is open to dirt bikes. While we saw evidence of motorized recreation including tracks and piles of beer cans, we actually didn't see any dirt bikes on the hike.
The trail is easy to follow and meanders along hillsides, through forests (living and burned) and past 2 mountain lakes. The views of Trinity Mountain are fantastic. Between Smith Creek Lake and North Star Lake there the trail wraps around a ridge that provides fantastic views of the (in my opinion) underrated Trinity Mountains. Especially nice in the fall when many of the greens have changed to golds and deep reds.
Once you're at the lake there are a few nice campsites. We snagged one right at the south end of the lake that had plenty of decent tent sites. The scenery at the lake doesn't stand up to more famous Idaho lakes but it is pretty and peaceful. Oh and this: the direction the hanging valley faces makes it a great spot to get up early for sunrise.
You can hike back out the way you came or you can do what we did. We hiked up and over the top of Pt. 8853. Route: head to the saddle just west of the peak, then up the ridge to the top. From the top drop down the ridge betwen Potter Lake and Smith Creek Lake. Drop down to whichever lake suits your fancy and find the trail below. It's a nice detour and provides excellent view of the lake and a visit-worthy-looking valley north of the peak.
On the way out I also made a detour up Pt. 9,037. But it honestly wasn't particularly fun, so unless you're really into peaks, I wouldn't recommend it.
Trinity Mountains - Trinity Ridge Traverse
Backpacking to Lakes - Upper Goat Lakes, Chamberlain Basin, Table Mountain/Sunset Lake
Backpacking close to Boise - Rapid River, Corral Creek, North Fork Owyhee River