The Birch Lake route to Mount Aeneas is a pleasant off trail route that has many options and multiple degrees of challenge.
Mount Aeneas is the only mountain in the Jewel Basin that has a trail to its summit and there are actually two ways to reach the summit via trail. Those routes via Picnic Lakes and via Alpine Trail #717 are simple on trail hikes to this fantastic summit.
The Birch Lake Route includes about 3 miles of hiking along Alpine Trail # 7 then and enjoyable off trail to the summit or even the northeast ridge below the summit.
Getting ThereFor a complete review of this incredible area see The Jewel Basin page.
This page has directions to access points as well as other trip options and fishing information for the Jewel Basin.
Directions to the trailhead:
Please visit the Camp Misery Trailhead information for directions to the start of the route.
On Trail Directions:
Upon arriving at Camp Misery take a quick look at the map that is posted on the Information Board and take off up the Jeep Road to the right of the sign that is next to the gated road. Follow that road through a few switchbacks until breaking up onto the ridge above Camp Misery. An interesting side trip can be had by following a trail that takes off to the right. It goes up to a knob and there are nice views there. Continue on the road for another ½ mile or so where you will find another enlarged parking area. Back in the 1970’s we could drive to this point, since then the US Forest Service has closed this road hence the gate at the bottom of the road.
By looking south the foot trail will be seen. Follow that trail to a junction. There are actually 5 trails that meet at this junction. From the trail you are on take the second trail. The sign says Birch Lake. Do not take the Switchback Trail which heads off below the trail you just walked.
Walk on Alpine Trail #7 to Birch Lake. While en-route Martha Lake can be seen below the trail and Point 6948 (Birch Peak) can be seen above Martha Lake.
Upon reaching Birch Lake take a quick break and enjoy the views. Continue on an obvious hikers/fishing trail around the north side of the lake crossing a small feeder stream that flows down off of Aeneas. There is also an outhose there if the urge to purge hits.
Off Trail Directions:
Eventually you will want to look for a logical point to start the climb through the alpine areas between Birch lake and the summit ridge of Aeneas. There is no established trail here. Be cautious of loose rock and also try to avoid any fragile alpine areas.
The distance to the summit or ridge is not great and there are some somewhat enjoyable cliffs/scree slope to scramble through if so desired.
Return to Camp Misery via the established trails. A nice loop would be to take the Picnic Lakes route back to Picnic Notch. Make sure that you find the correct trail to return to the notch. When Picnic Lakes are reached the trail travels BETWEEN the lakes and the Aeneas Ridge. If you miss this trail an additional mile is needed to return to Picnic Notch as well as additional elevation gain and loss.
Essential GearMap, water, bear deterrent spray, boots and a sense of adventure are all worthy to have along on this easy scramble.
The rock in Northwestern Montana is widely varied and it is not unusual to find several different types of rock on any given route. Know your rocks and be certain of your safety. J. Gordon Edwards has an excellent section in his guidebook, A Climber's Guide To Glacier National Park, on rock and climbing safety. Be safe and know your limitations as well as those who are climbing with you. Also refer to the following links for further details: GNP Rock and Grading System and the GMS Climbing Guidelines.
Maps and Other InformationVisit Montana
Map of the Jewel Basin
Fishing article by John Fraley of MTFWP
Flathead County Search and Rescue
USFS official Jewel Basin Site