Idaho's Hiking Trails
Are you a hiker? Do you want to try hiking? Looking for hiking trails? Do you want to learn more about Idaho's hiking opportunities? If so, the hundreds of trails in Idaho might become your home away from home.
The state offers hiking trails in BIG numbers. Like over 19,000 miles of terrain for hiking, mountain and road biking, horseback riding, Nordic skiing and snowmobiling! Here's just about everything you need!
But when it comes to travel by foot, Idaho has everything from short, easy paths to major, hiking tests. Idaho has everything for the novice hiker on his first, easy stroll, to exhausting trials for the veteran hiker.
There are many trails perfect for family hiking. One of my family's favorite hiking areas is located in central Idaho's White Cloud Peaks. For more information on these family-friendly trails,
takes look at this.
For a practical tool to help you plan hikes on the trails of Idaho, take a look at Ralph and Jackie Johnson Maughan's resourceful book, HIKING IDAHO. It is available here from AMAZON:
The granddaddy of all of them is the famed Idaho State Centennial Trail. This hiking trail extends about 1,200 miles from the State of Nevada to the Canadian border. That’s a big walk!
The Centennial Trail winds though mile after mile of some of the most remote country Idaho or any state has to offer. Across sagebrush flats, forbidding river canyons, rain drenched forests, alpine meadows teeming with wildflowers, next to dazzling highland lakes and over the daunting mountain ranges.
Hiking Idaho's Boulder Mountains
Photo Courtesy of Idaho Travel Council
Along the way you'll view geological formations, outcroppings, caves and hot springs. You’ll view early Idaho: abandoned homesteads, cabins, mines and logging camps. This hiking trail crosses two historic routes; the Lewis and Clark Trail hard along the Clearwater-Lochsa divide and the Oregon Trail on the Snake River plains.
The trail passes through 11 of the 12 national forests either completely or partially located in Idaho. And, it meanders across the largest contiguous wilderness in the lower 48 states, guiding the trekker through the stunning beauty of the state.
The Trail provides every recreation seeker with a variety of great options depending on the trail's conditions, regulations and laws. In addition to hiking, parts of the trail are open to the likes of snowmobiling, horseback riding, mountain biking, motorized trailbiking, Nordic skiing and, where the hiking trail is actually a "road", to conventional motor vehicles.
All of this can be found along the twelve hundred miles of the Idaho State Centennial Trail. A hiking trail to remember!
Another lengthy and very popular trail is The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes. This 73-mile long freshly-paved trail spans the Idaho panhandle between Mullan and Plummer. It's one of the most spectacular trails in the western United States. And, it's PAVED!
Because of it's smooth surface and gentle grades, the trail is perfect for casual hikers, inline skaters and road bikers. No ATVs, electric golf carts, electric or gas powered bicycles, four-wheel drive vehicles or any motorized vehicles are allowed on the trail, shoulder of the trail or within the trail corridor.
The trail has 20 developed trailheads, 17 scenic waysides with benches and picnic tables. The trail begins off Interstate Route 90 near Mullan, then follows the Coeur d'Alene River, past Lake Coeur d'Alene and through farmlands to the town of Plummer.
Or, you might decide to hike all or part of the historic Lewis and Clark expedition passage across Idaho. For complete details on hiking the trail, consider HIKE LEWIS AND CLARK'S IDAHO available here from AMAZON:
These extensive hiking trails are a cooperative undertaking by state and federal organizations, indian tribes and private and public land managers who allow users to cross their property. Idaho's Department of Parks and Recreation handles overall coordination. For maps, and for additional information
then click on "Recreation", then click on "Hiking".
For more information, contact the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0065. Phone: (208) 334-4199, or log on to www.idahoparks.org for inquiries.
As mentioned, the Centennial Trail is huge, but it isn’t a hiker’s only option in Idaho. Not by a long shot! Here’s just a few of the more popular hiking trail experiences in Idaho, rated from “Easy” to “Moderate” to “Difficult”, depending on elevation changes and trail conditions:
- Clear Creek Trail, Boise National Forest. Trailhead above the Lowman Ranger Station, off the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway. 2 miles through Douglas fir forests, crosses streams and ends at mountain overlook. Good walk for children. 1,300 foot elevation increase.
- Island Pond Wildlife Trail, Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge. Trailhead just west of Bonners Ferry off District Road. Easy 1½ mile interpretive trail looping around Island Pond. Best to view wildlife early morning or evening.
- Snake River National Recreation Trail, Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. Trailhead at Pittsburgh Landing. The hiking trail follows the Snake River south to Hells Canyon Dam. NOTE: This is easy to traverse and follow, but this hike is 30 miles long! Be prepared.
- Snow Creek Falls, Kaniksu National Forest. North from Sandpoint, Idaho on U.S. Route 95 to Naples, Idaho. Then, left on old highway 95 for about 5 miles and turn left at the brown Forest Service sign. Follow the road to the “Y” and take Forest Road 402 up the hill for about 2 miles. Park at the pull-out near the trailhead. Under 1 mile, roundtrip, fairly easy hike to the lower falls. Don’t miss the short jaunt to the upper falls. Great views, best in late spring/early summer during runoff.
- Anderson Butte National Recreation Trail, Nez Perce National Forest. 15 miles. Trailhead off State Route 14 just north of Elk City. Trail follows creeks to Anderson Butte (6,847 feet). Continues to American River - Selway Road. Elevation gain: 350 feet.
- Caribou Ridge National Recreation Trail, Idaho Panhandle National Forests. 4½ mile hike linking two recreation areas. Trailhead at Beauty Creek Campground off State Route 97, south of the city of Coeur d’Alene. Great views of mountain and Lake Coeur d’Alene. Trail ends at Mt. Coeur d’Alene picnic area.
- Mike Harris Trail, Caribou-Targhee National Forest Trailhead at Mike Harris Campground off State Route 33, just south of Victor. Trail leads to the top of Oliver Peak (9,000 feet). Awesome view of the Teton and Snake River Mountain Ranges. 4 miles with steep sections, but last mile easier.
- Borah Peak, Salmon-Challis National Forest 6 miles. Trailhead on Birch Springs Road just south of Dickey. Trail unimproved. Steep climb of 5,440 feet up Borah’s west ridge. Peak is highest point in Idaho (12,655 feet). Difficult, scrambling hike.
- Pettit-Toxaway Loop, Sawtooth Wilderness. Popular hiking trail that begins at Tin Cup Campground at Pettit Lake. Tin Cup is off State Route 75, just north of Sawtooth City. Strenuous hike with elevation gain of 2,500 feet. Passes several high lakes. Spectacular mountain views. 17 miles.
- Seven Devils Loop Trail, Hells Canyon Wilderness. 27 mile hike around Seven Devils Mountains. Trailhead at Windy Saddle Campground off U. S. Route 95 west of Riggins on Seven Devils Road. Passes several lakes and has incredible views of Hells Canyon. Strenuous hike.
For any day hike lasting more than a few hours, a backpack should be carried by each hiker with the following items, at a minimum:
- A compass
- An area map
- Snacks (such as trail mix, high protein bars, fresh fruit)
- Sturdy water bottle and water
- Matches in waterproof container
- First aid kit
- Strong rope
- Flashlight, headlamp or lantern
- Extra clothing for layering
- A permit, if required
I make up batches of trail mix myself. The snack is loaded with salt replacement, protein and carbohydrates - a snack that gives that lift needed while hiking. I call it "Idaho Trail Mix".
My Idaho Trail Mix
- 1/2 cup dry-roasted, salted peanuts
- 1/2 cup dry-roasted, salted sun flower kernels
- 1 cup M & M candies
- 1 cup dried raisins
- 1-1/2 cups dried apricots or dried mixed fruits
One ounce of this trail mix has about 150 calories and 9 grams of fat.