The Jewel Basin
The Jewel Basin in aptly named. The Jewel Basin, which
is located in the Swan Range just to the east of Kalispell,
is a basin that consists of twenty, beautiful lakes. Many of these lakes
have excellent fishing. The Jewel Basin area encompasses more than 20,000
acres and has more than 20 miles of excellent, well-maintained trails.
All the trails in the Jewel Basin are reserved for hiking only, so leave
your mountain bike and horse behind.
The Jewel Basin is easily reached. Just follow the signs from Highway
83 just outside of Bigfork. The last eight miles of the road are gravel.
This section of the road tends to be very bumpy, along with being narrow
and twisty. The elevation of the trailhead rests at 5500 feet, allowing
for a rare high altitude trailhead access in this part of the state (most
trailheads begin way down in the bottom of the valleys and make for a
long walk up).
The mountains in the Jewel Basin are not the towering
peaks found in nearby Glacier
National Park or out in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. The highest
peak, Mt. Aeneas, just tips over 7500 feet. The lower heights of these
mountains allows provides for good early season hiking and fishing opportunities
at times when the higher, more loftier mountains are still covered in
snow. Generally, depending on the snow pack, most areas of the Jewel
Basin are accessible by early June, although this can vary greatly from
year to year.
Most of the lakes in the Jewel Basin have excellent fishing for cutthroat
trout, some of which exceed 16 inches with 10-12 inch fish being the
average. Fishing is successful using both spin fishing and fly fishing
gear, although some of the lakes have heavily forested banks, making
fly casting a challenge.
Camping is permitted throughout the Jewel Basin area except near several
popular lakes, such as Picnic Lakes and Twin Lakes. Use of the Jewel
Basin area is heavy. Its close proximity to the Flathead Valley and easy
access brings lots of hikers up for day hikes, particularly on the weekends.
While solitude can still be found in many areas of the Jewel Basin -
particularly in areas not in day hiking range or during bad weather -
expect to see people when hiking on the trails close to the trailhead.
Parking can also occasionally be a challenge on weekend days during the
summer, as the trailhead does not have a huge parking area.
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