Total distance: 27 km
Total elevation gain: 1000 m
Trailhead to Floe Lake (one way): 10.7 km, 690 m
Floe Lake to Numa Pass (one way): 2.7 km, 310 mView mapDownload GPS track
This is a long dayhike or easy backpacking trip into prime larch territory. Thankfully, the length of the hike combined with the general fitness level of tourists keeps most of the larch tree sightseers away, making this a wonderful fall hike.
The trail starts at - where else - the Floe Lake trailhead off highway 93S. Initially the trail heads southwest, crosses the bridged Vermillion River, then curves to the northwest. After crossing Floe Creek (bridged) and ascending moderately the trail turns to the southwest, contouring around the southern side of Numa Mountain and gently ascending alongside Floe Creek. This entire area was burned in 2003, but lush vegetation that changes to a variety of intense fall colors has since taken over. The slope is in the sun for most of the day as well, so any early snow should melt off quickly.
After about 9 km of relatively easy hiking encounter the headwall guarding Floe Lake. This switchbacked climb next to a loud cascade ascends 400 m over a very short distance and is certainly the most difficult part of the trip. The trail is well graded and the actual distance is short, however, and once reaching the top Floe Lake is just a few hundred meters further.
Floe Lake campground is wonderful and is located on the north side of Floe Lake; a warden campground lies just to the west of the campground. If backpacking, the first two campsites you encounter are by far the best. The lake is stunning and several larch trees dot the treed shoreline and campground, but a full 98% of the larches lie just north of the campground en route to Numa Pass. While it is 2.7 km distant and 300 m higher, the elevation gain is gradual and nearly 1.5 km of the distance is through full larch forest. When we were there the larches and light were making everything appear yellow! Numa Pass itself is broad and treeless and there are many small peaks/bumps nearby that are worth ascending.