Explore the most popular backpacking trails in Salmon National Forest with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

29 days ago

This was our first ever mountain climb. Summited on Aug 21 2017 the morning of the total solar eclipse. There are no words to describe how surreal the experience was. We also got engaged on top of the summit before totality. All around amazing experience. A lot harder than planned but mostly due to the altitude, give yourself time to adjust.

8 months ago

Surprised by our solitude--this weekend we were alone up there; but given that school just started and the distance from population centers, maybe not so surprising. Good fishing, great weather. Bear Valley Lake is scenically dramatic; Buck Lake just plain beautiful. It is a steady uphill pull the whole way, but water sources are good.

rock climbing
8 months ago

BRUTAL. 'Nuff said.

One of my favorite hikes in the area. Not only is it a rigorous uphill battle with some nice exposed class 3 scrambling, at the end you find yourself at the highest point in the state!

I'd recommend going in August, and starting at the trailhead early in the morning before daybreak. If you can make it to the tree line in time, you'll see the shadow of Borah creeping across the valley below. Also, an early start will get you to the top before the heat of the day arrives in full force, and give you time to get off the top before any afternoon thunderstorms arrive.

Chicken Out Ridge isn't as bad as it sounds. As you ascend the ridge, travel up through the obvious notch, after which you can traverse around the right side until you reach the transition between the brown rock and the grey rock. At that point, stick to the top of the ridge (avoid the temptation to try and traverse around the ridge on the right side). The downclimb to the snow crossing is simple, as the holds are obvious and bomb proof. There will be a well beaten path across the snow by August. Earlier in the season an ice axe and maybe crampons would be advisable.

The last push to the summit involves some mild scrambling, and there's a lot of loose material - so watch for rocks dislodged by anyone ahead of you.

9 months ago

Kicked my butt, but loved every minute of it!! So worth it!

My father and I did this hike last year in early-mud August. It's an incredible hike and incredibly rewarding. The trail kicks your butt right from the get go, so definitely stretch out before embarking on a summit attempt. This site has the round trip mileage listed at 7.5, but that's only one way. It is 7.5 miles to the summit and 7.5 grueling miles back to your car. Start early, bring lots of water and snacks. we stayed the night at the trail head and then started climbing in the dark around 6 am and returned to our car at roughly 4pm. It's a trek to get to the top. I would not recommend it to people who have not climbed/hiked in this area or similar terrain before.

9 months ago

It was an amazing time spending 6 days out there. Well groomed trail amazing camping spots. They hike was rough getting in a lot of hills and packing for 6 days made it difficult but well worth it

Hard hike for sure, but worth it! Leave early to beat the heat and potential storms that can come in the afternoons.

Roads to trail head are gated. No access.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Amazing scenery the whole time. Fishing is decent, Not for beginners.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Start early

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Bighorn Crags are hands down the most beautiful place I've ever been. Its been 4 months since our trip and i still think about everyday.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Amazing hike and views. Do not pass up the opportunity to take this hike. some of the most beautiful and diverse scenery in the state. Great fishing in every lake we tried too.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Nice hike up to several high lakes. We were at buck lakes and bear valley and only saw some people on the hike out. Beautiful lakes and excellent fishing.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

We camped about half way up on the saddle and it was great. Kinda had a natural block from the wind so no issues there. The climb was pretty rough and the stretch right before Chicken Out Ridge got me. I think if I was tied in I wouldn't have minded as much but the climb with pretty sheer drops had me pretty nervous. If you don't like heights you probably don't climb peaks and I'd stick with that motto here but if danger is your thing this is a nice peak.

trail running
Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Good semi technical trail to a few different lakes. Horses have it a little beat up and saw some dirt bike tracks. Not sure if those are allowed or not up there.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Super fun! Start early so your hike is in the cooler temperatures of the morning. Also, have good boots/shoes because the downhill was the worst part for me!

Monday, April 18, 2016

First things first. Make sure you have a spare, there is a lot of dirt road to the TH. We needed it. It is a rough go the last 10 miles or so in the car.

On to the hike.
Possibly the best backpacking tip yet. I did this hike with a few other guys ranging in age from upper 30s to low 50s.
We took 2 days in and 2 days out, setting up a base camp at Bill bird and Gentian lakes. We had a very late start at the TH (starting sometime after midnight, due to car, and tire issues).

Ship island lake was like a post card, the pictures don't do it justice. We crossed paths with one couple on their way out from the end of Ship Island, as we broke camp near the trail split to Cathedral lake. One of them looked just beat, and the other just tired. That is a long haul if you are not in shape. My group set up a base camp near Bill Bird, and Gentian. We then did day hikes out to different basins Ship Island was the favorite trip due to the view, and the fishing in Ship Island, an Airplane lake which we hit on the way back to camp. Another day we hiked over to Big Clear lake and several others in that area.Fish were caught in all lakes, using flies, spinners, spoons, or jigs. Ship Island was the best fishing, and likely held larger fish, although we did not catch much over 10-12 inches. Still alot of fun though. We chose not to hike to the end of Ship island to view the cascade into the Salmon river, but were told that it is phenomenal. Maybe next time. on the way back out we stopped near Cathedral again, and fished there. It is a bog, full of mosquitoes, and only fair fishing.

We met beautiful weather for the most part, only slight sprinkles during the day on occasion. On night we did have severe winds, thunder, lightning, and decent rain fall you could hear the wind gushing down the mountain side, and then it would hit you several seconds later. Spending the first night in my hammock and tarp during a storm of such size was a little nerve wracking.

My trip was late July, and we encountered a fairly large patch of snow that needed to be crossed while descending the switchbacks near Harbor and Wilson lakes, going toward Bill Bird.

I would recommend this trip. Just know that you are going to be doing a lot of smaller elevation changes along the way. We also met 2 groups of forest service rangers while on the trip who were there to make sure the camp sites and trails were being maintained. They said that aluminum foil was the biggest problem typically, so please pack it out.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Awesome hike truly. Unfortunately I hiked it this year when there was tons of smoke so the views at the top were somewhat limited, but still amazing. Definitely the most strenuous hike I did this summer. There is a lot of climbing involved. I saw no mention of it anywhere, but right before chicken out ridge you climb up this narrow crevice and then there is a rather intimidating point where you have to get past an almost sheer wall to get on this pathway above. There is one foothold that is pretty far out, and below you is a long fall with a lot of sharp rocks. I found this to be the sketchiest part of the hike.

Chicken out ridge had me worried but truly isn't that bad. Everyone says staying on top is the best course of action, but there is essentially a trail that goes along the left side that isn't hard to traverse at all. The only downside to this route is it required us to climb up most of chicken out ridge, but at the very end of this trail when you come to the area with the snowfall, there's a clear and easy climbing path to get back on top of the ridge. It is strenuous but I never felt in danger at that point.

Additionally after chicken out ridge there is a huge last stretch to climb me and my buddies called "Heartbreak hill." It is an incredibly steep portion that gains 1000 feet of elevation extremely quickly, and is a complete scramble. There is no trail and you are going almost straight up on the loose rock. This part is extremely physically taxing.

But the feeling of accomplishment at reaching the summit and the flag up there provides a truly great experience. And the golf club on top allows for some fun if you bring some golf balls.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Arrived at the trailhead at 6:00 am and got done just after noon. This is a hard hike, which is exactly what I was looking for. The elevation gains sap your energy and seem to never end. Chicken Out Ridge is extremely intimidating, until you just face it and get it over with. Once you're actually on the ridge it's not as bad as it looked. Saw one guy on our way out who was just standing at the bottom of chicken out ridge, unable to go on. The views were spectacular, not just at the top, but along the way as well.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

My brother in law and I had a friend drive us up to the Crags Campground (around 3 hour drive from Salmon) and we left our vehicle down near the Salmon River, (where Clear Creek runs into Panther Creek). Our first choice of trails near all of the lakes in the Bighorn Crags was closed because of some forest fires in the area, so we ended up taking the Gant Ridge Trail instead. The first 10 miles or so was very scenic and we passed a few mountain lakes and ended up seeing the sunset over the top of the Bighorn Crags which was an unbeatable site. Once we left the "Bighorn Crags" and got into the National Forest, the trail got pretty rough and looked like it hadn't seen much use. A lot of the lower area was burned out a few years ago and now there are dead trees everywhere, including over the trail, making this a very difficult trail. Add that to the fact that you sometimes go 10 miles or so between any water source, and it can be very difficult if you are not prepared. We saw lots of Wolf and Bear tracks and killed a rattlesnake. The last five miles or so of the hike we dropped around 3,000 feet on knee busting switchbacks. Definitely an amazing workout, but not a trail for the casual hiker.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Classic hike and lake in the Idaho Bighorn Crags. One day for the the stout. Two days for the more casual cruiser. Carry plenty of water. There is a camp host and a water pump at Crags CG. You will be ridge hopping for the first 7 miles until you get to Genitan and Bird Bill Lakes. Dead Horse pass at Fish Fish Ridge has a set of harry switchbacks. The 2nd half is easy up and mostly down hiking. Airplane lake is a large beautiful lake on the way. Ship Island Lake is a 1.5 mile tarn lake surrounded by steep crags with goat slides. Ship Island Creek literally "dumps" into the Salmon River (Impassable). Really fun 6-8' erratic cubelike boulders sitting on a large, slick, striated granite dome at the outlet. Waterfall too. Fly fishing was superb! Rainbows, Cut Throat and California Goldens! I didn't land any fish of real size, probably due to high altitude and rocky bottomed glacier lake (not to say that they aren't in there). Yet, I caught all the pan sized fish you could want. I carry a backpacker's float tube and super light fins. The fish were nearly jumping in my tube. Goldens really put up a good fight. Camping is on the right. There were boy scouts at Airplane Lake but we saw no others for two days until a group of horse packers came in. I was amazed that they actually rode their horses down the switchbacks at dead horse pass. The wife of the group had enough sense to walk hers down:). There are some short day hikes to smaller lakes. It would be easy to set up a 5 to 10 day trip to a lot of gorgeous high mountain lakes in the immediate area. On the way out we skipped over to Harbor Lake. Make sure your tires are in good shape. We popped a tire on the way out on the granite based dirt roads that go for 55 miles.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Strenuous hike until you hit chicken out ridge. Then the rock climbing starts for the remainder of the ascent. Stay on the top of the ridge as best you can. The last 1000ft scramble after the saddle will test you if your conditioning is not up to snuff. The view at the top is amazing. Search for Borah Peak, Idaho 2014 on YouTube I have about 7 videos that I filmed with my go pro camera on this climb. When you climb don't forget gloves!

Thursday, October 02, 2014

When is it to late to hike Mt. Borah? Thinking of hiking it this weekend or next?

Monday, September 01, 2014

My son and I camped the first night at the trail head and than hiked 3 miles into buck lake. It was an awesome hike and we had a really good time. The first buck lake was beautiful. The reason I give this a 3 star rating is because when we got to the first lake and camp ground we encountered a boyscout troop leaving, and when we got to the actual campground they had left the place trashed and their fires were still burning. They burned trash and plastic everywhere and damaged a bunch of trees. My son and I spent all day trying to put their fires out and clean up. It sucked. When we finally started to settle down a group of people on horseback with there dogs showed up and started trashing the place all over again. It was a real bummer. I chose this location because I thought it was remote enough to avoid all of the regular trappings of close to city camping. Guess I was wrong

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I did this hike 3 days overnight late June. There are quite a few lakes up this trail but the signs telling you how far a lake is from a junction can be misleading and generally refer to how far away the next milage sign. the main bear valley lake was probably an extra 2 miles or more than indicated. there were spots to camp up at the main lake but there was so much rain and snow run off that it was flooded. I would recommend making a base camp 3 miles from the trailhead (the spot has a fire ring and the only flat tentable ground till you get to the lake.) and then explore the lakes when you have all day to see a few of them. I wouldn't say its a hard hike but to get to the lake and back in a day you would have to be in decent shape as you gain over 2000 feet over 8 miles and the terrain is fairly rocky. 5 stars for low trail usage (i didnt see anyone for the 3days i was there) and the gorgeous lake!

Monday, December 02, 2013

Great hike. all ages can do it. had 8 year Olds in our group and they made it just fine. definitely better mountains close by that are a way better hike/climb in my opinion though

Sunday, March 24, 2013

one of the hardest hikes i have done but once you get to top the view is unbelievable. getting past chicken out ridge is a little tricky :)

Sunday, July 08, 2012

This is a gorgeous hike! Going over chicken out ridge it was not bad climbing up, although it's kinda hard to tell which was you are supposed to go. There's not a defined trail so you are pretty much just Rock climbing and scaling the mountain side. Be prepared to rock climb and DO NOT go if you are afraid of heights! Also be careful when crossing the snow, it's slippery and kinda scary! The worst part on the way up is after chicken out ridge on the last part up borah! It is very steep and my legs were burning! The view at the tops amazing! The way down was long and very strenuous! It's hard to go down the rocks and going down chicken out ridge was SCARY! If you slip and fall you are going to fall thousands of feet down...so be careful! Also my toes were killing so you would be better off wearing boots than tennis shoes! Don't forget to being LOTS of water, I drank almost 4 liters! Good luck! :)

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