Central Lemhi Range Loop

MODERATE 1 reviews
#20 of 25 trails in

Central Lemhi Range Loop is a 45 mile loop trail located near Challis, Idaho. The trail is rated as moderate and primarily used for hiking.

45.0 miles 10300 feet Loop


1 year ago

This is a terrific hike, packed full of amazing views above timberline and lots of quiet hiking in pine, fir, and spruce forests. Be prepared to cross creeks. I hiked this trail in mid-to-late August and the creek crossings were not a problem at all.
I saw lots of mountain goats and elk, including a herd of elk feeding along the shores of Yellow Lake, near my camp, one gorgeous morning. There are also plenty of bears, but they seemed to be plenty skittish. So keep a clean camp and hang your food and you should be fine.
There is very little or no water from Yellow Lake to Big Timber Creek and from the top of Cabin Creek to Redrock, so make sure you carry enough.
The trail up North Fork Big Creek is in sore need of maintenance. There are many dead lodgepole pines crossing the trail and some sections above Park Fork are faint and easy to lose. But the canyon is narrow and there are blazes on the trees. The trail is very slick (a thin layer of loose sand or gravel over hard packed rock/soil) on the very first stretch coming down from nearly every single pass (Yellow Pass is an exception and the pass coming down into S. Fk. Big Creek is the extreme - very bad, there).
The trail has been re-routed from: the top of Big Eightmile to Yellow Lake; around the top of Park Fork's canyon; and from the big ridge beyond Cabin Creek down to Redrock Creek. These sections are now pretty good trails and easy to find/follow, but I don't think any maps have been updated yet to reflect the new routes (I drew pictures on my website).
I had cell service at the parking area and in only one pass - nowhere else. I saw and heard some ATVs above Big Eightmile and saw two motorcycles above Yellow Lake. I also saw some packhorses down by Big Timber / Cabin Creeks. There was a family at the Big Creek Campground. Otherwise, I saw no people.
I spent 7 days enjoying this section of beautiful mountains. I camped in 4 spots, hiking on 5 days. My GPS said I traveled 47 miles. This is a moderate to hard backpacking trip. My advise would be to NOT go alone (although I did - and probably would again). I definitely would not take kids or even young teenagers unless we had horses to pack their gear.
I don't see a description of this trail, so I will describe the route I took. Beginning at the camping area above Big Creek Campground, I hiked up North Fork Big Creek for about 9 miles to my first camp in Devil's Basin. The trail then leaves Devil's Basin and goes over a pass, down to a trail that comes up from Big Eightmile. (From this point to Iron Creek, the trail is open to ATVs so sometimes the trail is rocky and sometimes it is steep with no switchbacks. But it is very easy to follow.) The trail then goes uphill again, over another pass into the pretty basin wherein lies Yellow Lake. My second camp was just below the lake. Devil's Basin to Yellow Lake is about 5 miles.
Leaving Yellow Lake, the trail climbs over another pass, circles the headwaters of Park Creek, climbs over Yellow Pass, then follows down Big Timber Creek as far as Cabin Creek, where I made my third camp. Yellow Lake to Cabin Creek is about 10 miles. It then turns up Cabin Creek, climbing 1700 to a pass, climbs the ridge to the west, then follows a long ridge going south, at first along the crest, then dropping off to the east down into Redrock Creek. From Redrock, the trail goes up and down over ridges and small canyons until Iron Creek, where it turns straight uphill and climbs over the pass into the top of South Fork Big Creek. You are now about 12 miles from Cabin Creek. It then follows the South Fork 7-8 miles (my fourth camp was only a mile down S. Fk. Big Creek) before crossing the creek and climbing the south wall for the remaining 3-4 miles to the parking area.
I've included much more information on my website at www.greatoutdoorstories.com