Silver Spring Lakes is a favourite early season trip. The hike follows a chain of three deep blue lakes at the base of steep cliffs not far from Elko. Each lake has its own distinct colour, depth and plant habitat.
Hikers are rewarded by views of rolling mountains to the north and picturesque cliffs to the south. These dramatic cliffs surround the third lake and can be seen clearly throughout most of the hike. A roughly-travelled trail winds along the eastern shores of these scenic, long, narrow and lowland lakes. The trail crosses exposed bedrock and lakeside talus slopes and winds through the forest. After the initial half a kilometre up a steep section, the rest of the hike is easy and mostly level.
In springtime, the lakeside meadows are awash in the glorious colours of wildflowers, bees and butterflies. Soft carpets of many species of flowers brighten the openings between the lakes.
To reach these three lakes, leave the vehicles and hike the south hillside on a small, steep and forested footpath. Climb for about 10 minutes to the powerline. Cross the powerline and hike south, up a steep washed-out gravel road. The entire steep section takes about 20-30 minutes and gains 100 m (300 ft.) to the northern shore of the first scenic lake. When you reach the shore of the first lake, turn left (east) and hike/scramble up a short rocky section.
Follow the trail south as it winds atop the bedrock banks. The many prominent bedrock outcroppings allow you to appreciate the lake views.
Hike the eastern side of the three lakes for 3 km. Maintain the same elevation as you travel over diverse terrain as the trail is indistinct in many places. Easy routefinding is necessary over the base of boulder fields and through the wet areas.
Cliffs stand above the third lake. They rise 122 m (400 ft.) almost straight up in places and appear as a barrier to further exploration. If you find a faulted section in the cliffs and hike up a less steep route, you can climb to the rim on both sides of the lakes. The climb to the western side rim offers flat grassy plateaus and is the access to the upper portions of the Wigwam Flats. Scrambling up to both cliff rims offers spectacular views of the shimmering, blue-green lakes below and the Rockies to the north.
From Highway 3 turn east into Elko. The Elko townsite is not visible from the highway. The turnoff is south (slightly downhill) from the prominent gas station/restaurant along Highway 3.
0 km Turn east from Highway 3 into Elko. Paved road winds around several corners. Stay to the main road through the small town.
1 km Turn left (east) downhill to the river.
1.5 km Cross the Elk River bridge on to the Elko/Morrissey haul road.
Follow this gravel road 2.3 km east from the bridge.The river bends away from the road for a couple of kilometres.
3.8 km Notice when the river flows alongside the road again and drive another 500 m (or less).
Look uphill on the right side (south) for a small well-worn footpath. Park about 200 m past (east) of the trailhead, at a wider spot along the busy roadway.
For more information on day hikes or backpacking trips into this area, see Mountain Footsteps, a New Edition by Janice Strong. Janice's detailed trail and road directions and her enthusiastic personal narratives help hikers of all skill levels to explore on their own, using her book as their guide. Photos copyright Janice Strong. Trail guide is excerpt from Janice's book, used with permission. See Selected Hikes in Southeastern British Columbia.
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