Norton Lakes

After a day hike and a four day backpacking trip I was about ready for a break. Fortunately Gary was not. He convinced me to do an easy hike for our last full day in Sun Valley. Lower and Upper Norton Lakes are only 5 1/2 miles round trip with 1500' of gain. I could do that. Of course the guide book does mention the trail continues to a saddle above the lake. The trailhead is close by. We drove only about 15 miles north of Ketchum, turning left on the Baker Creek Road for about 6 miles then a right for another mile to the trailhead. We arrived first with another car arriving as we headed out.

First you must cross the creek. The creek bed is wide and I can see where this might be impossible during the high water of spring. Now it was an easy rock hop across. Immediately the old road splits with the Norton Lakes Trail turning uphill to the right. The old road is steep at first then settles down. There is some forest and a number of meadows. It was cold when we started but warmed up quickly.

There were some wildflowers in the lower meadows and they improved as we gained elevation. The creek is soon left and is out of sight most of the hike up. The trailhead is at 7600' with the lower lake at 8947 and the upper lake at 9107'. This hike is in the Smoky Mountains. Legs zipped off soon and short sleeves replaced long. We were out early as the afternoon promised the hottest temperatures of the trip. We were both a little tired after the previous five days of hiking but we kept up a reasonable pace.

In just under an hour we reached the lower lake. It is forested and tucked into a rocky basin. The trail leads up easy terrain to the upper lake. It follows the creek which is lined with wildflowers. Lupine, paintbrush, some monkey flowers, and even some scarlet gilia. Much better flowers than I would have expected in this dry environment in late August. From the upper lake shore we could see fish feeding on the few bugs there. A close look showed a lot of 5 -8 inch long trout. It was fun but difficult to spot them with our cameras and try to capture their images.

I waited for the inevitable suggestion from Gary that we really should had on up to the saddle. It didn't look too far above the lake. Of course I agreed. That was not actually the saddle we were seeing it was some 740' above us. The trail climbs with gentle switchbacks. First in forest and soon on mostly open slopes with some big trees widely spaced. The flower show improved as we ascended. Higher up the entire hillside was covered in a carpet of yellow flowers. Quite a show.

We could hear voices as another party began the climb. They had a dog so were not the two who arrived just after us. We topped out on the ridge at 9850'. A snow patch has survived from the long past winter. The trail continues down the other side. There is also a bootpath heading higher to the right. Of course Gary had to go a little higher. Off we went up a much straighter and steeper track. It was only another 350' to the high point at 10,200'. The actual summit of Norton Peak at 10,336' is only 136' higher. The ridge looked difficult to scramble and the alternative is to lose 100', traverse scree, and climb steeply. We did not need to do all that to get a similar view.

This point is actually only 516' lower than Cramer Peak in the Sawtooths, our perch a few days earlier. Terrific views in all directions and a number of lakes laid out below. This proved to be so much better than either of us expected. The lakes are very nice but with a little more work the views and flowers above are much better. A single woman runner arrived and then two more women. Looks like this is a popular place.

We had lots of time and spent a full hour on top. It might be the last time I'm over 10,000' for quite some time. The trip down was much easier though it did get hot. We passed a number of folks hiking up in the early afternoon heat. It was 83 degrees when we reached the car. This is a great trip. Not hard at all to reach the lakes and a little more effort pays off immensely on the top of the ridge near Norton Peak's summit. It was a great way to finish up six straight days of hiking and back packing.

Just More Granite
Forest & Meadows
Multi Colors Above Lake
Between Lakes
Gary On Trail
There Are Fish
Upper Lake & Basin
Norton Lakes
Flower Field
9,000' Ridges
Lakes & Ridges
Gary On 10,150' Ridge
Actual Norton Summit
Creases & Folds
Another Lake Below
Opposite Side Valley
Saddle At Far Right
Norton Lakes Again
Saddle Below
Yellow Slope Again
Flowers Below
Even More Flowers
Riot Of  Red & Yellow
Click on thumbnails to get larger pictures.

Trips - 2009