Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
2,176.00 ft (663.24 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
13.20 mi (21.24 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.

Tomahawk, Island, and Thumb Lakes are a string of high alpine lakes located in the Silas Basin. While Upper and Lower Silas Lakes are without doubt the gem of the Fiddler’s Lake Trailhead, the region’s lesser-known lakes are worthy contenders. In fact, given the lesser traffic to these three lakes, I prefer going to them over their more renowned sister lakes any day.

The hike to these lakes begins along the Silas Lakes Trail, and in fact, shares the trail for 4 miles to Upper Silas Lake. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow. The only two directional points to bear in mind up to this point are 1) a fork with the Lake Christina trail 1.6 miles in where you’ll go right, following the sign toward Silas) and 2) the split to lower Silas 4.5 miles in. Again, follow the sign right toward Upper Silas. 

Just before you reach and beautiful shores of Upper Silas Lake, be on the lookout for a moderately worn trail into the woods departing from your left. This is the unsigned trail to Tomahawk Lake, almost exactly 4 miles from your starting point. If following the GPX track recorded here, go just beyond the tracks that go there; I jumped the gun and bushwhacked the short distance through the forest, only learning later of the trail).

Tomahawk Lake is a mere skip from the trail, but it’s surprisingly quiet and untrafficked. For that reason alone, it’s a worthy detour, especially for the avid fisherman. Brookies and Cutthroat Trout galore can be found in Tomahawk Lake and they’ll readily bite on just about anything, even in later, post-spawn season.

To get further from the crowds, continue to the far end of Upper Silas Lake, following any one of the many criss-crossing trails along its south shore. By the end of the lake, start paying attention, because you’ll need to find the trail that leads into the back valley. Easier said than done when there are many trails, most of which lead to nowhere. My first hike here, I definitely got a little turned around, but I learned if you find yourself crossing to the north side of Silas Creek, you’re off track. The real trail (which is easy enough to follow once you’re on it) stays on the south side of the creek, completely avoiding the boulder scramble one of the trails leads you to. From Upper Silas, it is 1.3 miles to Island Lake and 2 miles to Thumb Lake.

This circuit can easily be made in a day hike, but I recommend backpacking it to really enjoy the solitude that Thumb and Island Lakes provide. Island Lake has better camping, with few established spots in some really beautiful places, and in general, better recreating. This is because Island Lake is shaped into various lobes with a semi-island in the middle. This leads to all sorts of unique features, deep water swimming holes, and more.

Both of these lakes also have large trout, though in my experience, Thumb Lake fishing is better, so set up camp at Island and make the short trek up to Thumb for dinner!

Fun fact: If you look to the steep walls just north of Thumb, the Leg Lake cirque sits just on the other side. 

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

No

Open from

May 29 to October 01

Days

2

Pros

Much less traffic than either Silas Lakes. Excellent fishing. Swimming and packrafting opportunities. Quiet camping.

Cons

Tricky trail finding leaving Upper Silas Lake. Bugs. Various stream crossing that can be dicey in early summer.

Trailhead Elevation

9,400.00 ft (2,865.12 m)

Highest point

11,055.00 ft (3,369.56 m)

Features

Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Wildlife
Fishing
Horseback riding
Big Game Watching
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Bird watching

Typically multi-day

Yes

Suitable for

Horseback

Permit required

No

Location

Comments

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