Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
1,530.00 ft (466.34 m)
Trail type
6.00 mi (9.66 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Of all lakes in the Jewel Basin, Martha Lake is likely the least trafficked. Why? Because there is no actual trail that leads to the shores of this small but lovely lake. Nestled in a small bowl below the popular Birch Lake, to reach it requires descending a deceptively steep slope of loose screen and sharp bushes. In fact, the elevation of Martha Lake is lower than the trailhead elevation.

And if you think going down it tough, just wait for the trek back up.

Like just about everything in the Jewel Basin area, this hike begins at the Camp Misery Ranger Station, at the top of Jewel Basin Road. There are two main trails that depart from this trailhead. You want to take the south trail that goes behind the gate (as opposed to the east trail which takes off right next to the ranger cabin). Follow this trail up the steady, rocky switchbacks until a 5-trail junction with Alpine Trail No 7 and the Mt. Aeneas Trail. Follow the rightmost Alpine Trail No. 7, heading toward Birch Lake. If the trail starts to climb dramatically, you’ve accidentally gone one trail too far left and taken the Mt. Aeneas/Jewel Basin Loop Trail.

For the most part, Alpine Trail No. 7 is an easy to moderate trail with a few very short sections of steeper grade. Keep your eyes peeled on your right until Martha Lake appears in the southwest valley below you.

You’ll be able to see the lake for quite a while, but be patient when choosing to actually descend to it. Much of the slope will leave cliffed out if you descend too early. The best point to approach is a narrow scree gully. It’s 2.6 miles from the trailhead, GPS coordinates 48.14596, -113.92828. This approach is also located right after one of the steepest grades on the trail.

Descent the gully carefully (a distance of about 400 yards). You will likely find yourself sliding down the scree, but the angle of inclination isn’t really steep enough to get too out of control. The closer you get to the lake, you’ll find the scree turning into sharp underbrush. If going later in the summer, the trained eye will recognize all of these bushes as huckleberry bushes. Another fabulous reason to be one of the few to trek to Martha Lake: your own near-private huckleberry patch.

Berry picking aside, Martha Lake is simply an interesting shoreline to explore. Travel counterclockwise around the shore, enjoying the fun boulder hopping on the south side and a beautiful waterfall (and yet more berry bushes) on the east side.

There are some suitable campsites along Lake Martha, but given the small size of the bowl and steep walls and boulder fields, not many.

To reach the trail back out, ascend the same way you descended, taking small careful steps up the loose scree up top (or else risk losing any ground you gain!).

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round


Open from

June 20 to October 01


Virtually no traffic at the lake itself. Short mileage given the remote location. Huckleberry picking.


Steep approach to and from the lake. Not many good camping opportunities.

Trailhead Elevation

5,749.00 ft (1,752.30 m)

Highest point

6,398.00 ft (1,950.11 m)


Near lake or river
Big vistas
Backcountry camping

Typically multi-day


Permit required



Nearby Adventures


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