A short, scenic trail to a very pretty alpine lake on the Montana side of the northern Bitterroot divide.
From the parking area, cross the bridge over the outlet and start to climb above Diamond Lake’s northern shore. Soon the terrain opens up with nice views of Diamond Lake down and to your left, and the open slopes of this nice little basin up ahead and above to your right. The trail enters the trees again as it climbs up to the next shelf containing Cliff Lake.
When we did this hike July 4, 2008, there were flowers at the beginning of the hike, but we ran into snow once the trail entered the trees below our destination. Luckily it was firm enough to make for fairly easy hiking. Cliff Lake was still covered in ice - the only open water formed a small ring along the shoreline. We saw a lone bull elk high in the basin that day on our way out.
The trail follows the left shoreline. We eventually ended up on a large snowfield and found a big boulder that could accommodate the eight of us for a chilly but pleasant lunch. Broken trees told us an avalanche had moved through this area that winter.
The ratio of reward to effort is very high for this trail. Like many trails that get you up near the divide with little effort, this is a long drive, but I think it’s well worth the time.
From Missoula drive 57 miles west on I-90, exit at Superior, go back under the highway, then turn right on to the frontage road. I must admit I didn’t pay attention to driving distances, but I think it is 6 or 7 miles until you turn left on forest road 342, then 15 - 20 miles to Diamond Lake (you must turn on to 7843 a few miles before the lake, looking at the map). There are campsites at the lake, an outhouse, and a pretty little waterfall below the footbridge at the parking area.