Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

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By Griffen Smith
Pathfinder 

Upper Holland and Sapphire Lakes - Trail No. 415

Hikers Hideout 2

 

View up Upper Holland Lake from the start of the Sapphire Lake trail. Photos taken June 28.

Length: 7 miles (5.5 to Upper Holland, 1.5 to Sapphire) 14 miles roundtrip

Elevation gain: 3,100 feet (2,100 to Upper Holland, 1,000 to Sapphire)

Services: The trailhead is located near Holland Lake Lodge and has a large parking lot as well as a pit toilet. Lot is mainly used for the Holland Falls trail (416)

Directions: Turn east off Highway 83 near mile marker 35 onto Holland Lake Road. Stay to the left at all road junctions. After passing the Day Use Area and Campground, the road comes to a dead end at the trailhead, about four miles from the highway.

Difficulty: Advanced

The hike: 

Starting off at the parking lot, the trail turns left onto Trail No. 415. The pathway meanders on the northside of Holland Lake and reaches low-lying foothills. A series of switchbacks greets hikers as they slowly ascend above the main lake. Two miles in, the trail branches off into two paths, Upper Holland Lake continues right on the 415 Trail. After another half mile, there is another fork in the trail, go to the right to reach Upper Holland Lake. 

At this point, hikers are already hundreds of feet above the valley floor and after some more incline, the path reaches the Swan front. The trail then cuts right along the cliffside of the range, and hikers will be able to see a grand view of the Mission Mountains with Holland Lake below.

The trail follows a narrow and steep path into the mouth of Holland Creek, which it sticks with for most of the way to the Upper Lake. Hikers take long series of switchbacks accentuated by sudden breaks in brush to see stunning waterfalls and cliff faces.

While meandering through the paths, there are two creek crossings, each with a bridge. Some areas of the trail will have moderate to light runoff through the path, though none of the crossings stopped hikers from making it to the lake.

Griffen Smith, Pathfinder

The trail to Sapphire Lake leads hikers through a rocky alpine landscape.

The trail switchbacks up the northside of the creek and finally deposits at the base of the Upper Holland Lake, which sits at 6,100 feet in elevation. Backpackers are common in the area, but most people are spread out and keep to themselves. 

Mosquitoes aggressively pester people throughout the trail. It is recommended hikers bring bug spray, or have a speedy reaction time.

At the base of the lake, a pathway to the left leading north meets the Sapphire Lake trail. This trek immediately starts climbing up the northwest corner of Upper Holland, and offers spectacular views of Carmine Peak to the south and Waldbillig Mountain to the east. 

The switchbacks eventually arrive at an upper plateau with thinning alpine trees and bare rock. The trail, which can have snow in June and into early July, curves into the Sapphire Lake area arriving at a final elevation of 7,100 feet. 

 

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