You have an adventurous side and enjoy lakeside solitude, but you don’t want to be too far from your comfort zone. Time to meet Margaret! Tucked just north of Kirkwood and just off Highway 88, Margaret Lake is an alpine oasis reached via a 4.8-mile (round-trip) hike. The trail’s shorter distance makes it a good day hike or beginner-friendly yet adventurous backpacking trip. Yes, you will have to cross giant fallen trees, traverse some boulders, and wander through meadows. Ready?
From the trailhead the path descends into rocky terrain before transitioning to red fir forest passing by marshy ponds, babbling creeks, and even some gentle waterfalls. Not a quarter of a mile passes without the terrain giving way to new scenery. Three streams cross the trail, with downed trees acting as bridges (and a good balance test). At 2.2 miles you’re getting very close to your destination, and the trail reaches a granite slab that you have to scramble up.
Once you’ve reached the other side you’re only a few hundred yards from the lake, where the trail diverges into two. To the right are giant boulders. To the left you’ll find secluded campsites and tranquil fishing spots.
Margaret Lake calls out for a swim (heed water levels; don’t go cannonballing). Explore several rock islands in the middle of the lake and later, back on land, find granite heights for gorgeous views of the rugged wilds.
Park at the Margaret Lake Trailhead off of Hwy 88. The trail can draw crowds on the weekends, so get there early to have your pick of campsites. There are ten campsites around the lake. Margaret Lake is dog-friendly (but not all dogs want to cross the logs or creeks). Fire permits required for gas stoves and campfires.