Hikes in Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests

Region in Idaho, United States

The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests is a jointly administered forest encompassing 4 million acres of beautifully diverse land in north-central Idaho. A visit to this incredible natural sanctuary provides the perfect opportunity to unplug and relax. Enjoy the region's beauty, or immerse yourself in the wilderness via one of the many great hiking trails carving through the forests.

Abundant with flora and fauna, this topographically varied landscape offers unmatched adventure opportunities. Characterized by deep canyons, lush sub-alpine forests, rivers, and highlands, the hiking routes are plentiful and diverse. Upland treks tend to be more arduous and usually include exploring trails in the Salmon River Mountains, the Seven Devils Mountains, the Bitterroot Mountains, and more. Those seeking more tranquil, easy-going excursions will enjoy enchanting, forested strolls through cedar groves or a short hike to the Weir Creek Hot Springs.

No matter the type of adventure you seek, you will likely find a hike to satisfy your craving in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. This luxuriant swathe of rugged and wild environments beckons your exploration, and the next time you find yourself in the state, a trip to the forests is worth adding to your itinerary.

10 Incredible Hiking Routes in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests

While it was no easy feat, we curated a list of our favorite hikes in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. These forests offer great hiking trails that boast spectacular scenery, from family-friendly meanders to technical treks and everything in between.

  1. Potlatch Canyon Trail - Those seeking a wonderful day of hiking will enjoy the Potlatch Canyon Trail. Family-friendly and easy-going, this beautiful route wanders through cedar forests and scenic meadows along the peaceful Potlatch River.
  2. Walton Lakes Trail - There is something special about a lakeside stroll, don’t you think? The Walton Lakes Trail exceeds all expectations, boasting spellbinding scenery of the towering Bitterroot Mountains that encompass the basin decorated with the crystalline Walton Lakes.
  3. Weir Creek Hot Springs Trail - Soak in a natural hot tub on the Weir Creek Hot Springs Trail. This lovely path explores lush woodlands before culminating at the idyllic pool along the creek. Though you may be in the company of others, there is nothing more relaxing than luxuriating in a natural hot spring overlooking the unspoiled wilderness.
  4. Elk Creek Falls Hike - Enjoy views of Idaho’s tallest waterfall along the Elk Creek Falls Hike. This fun family adventure boasts incredible views of the collection of cascades that adorn the rugged canyon. Note there are some steep drop-offs off the trail, so keep an eye on children and maintain the marked route.
  5. Lower Cannon Lakes Hike - The Lower Cannon Lakes Hike explores a basin nestled amongst the Seven Devils Mountains. Meander through montane meadows and granite gardens up to the shimmering lake anchored by rugged granite ridges.
  6. Camp Howard Trail - Those seeking a demanding day hike in the National Forests are often drawn to the Camp Howard Trail. This lovely trail straddles the border between Oregon and Idaho, boasting great views of the mountainous landscape and dramatic canyons.
  7. Sheep Lake Shortcut Trail - The Sheep Lake Shortcut Trail is a leg-burner of a hike. This arduous trail demands careful footing as hikers navigate rocky steep terrain up to the charming alpine pool hidden amongst the soaring peaks of the Seven Devils Mountains.
  8. McRea Cabin Hike - Enjoy a hike through the Rapid River Canyon on the McRea Cabin Trail. This extensive day hike explores a variety of environments before ultimately arriving at the historic McRea Cabin. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen—most of this trail is exposed!
  9. Warm Springs Creek Falls Hike - Enjoy a natural spa treatment in one of Mother Nature’s natural hot tubs on the Warm Springs Creek Falls Hike. This circuit trail not only offers a relaxing soak in the Jerry Johnson Hot Springs, but it boasts a beautiful waterfall framed by the lush woodlands.
  10. Five Lakes Butte Hike - What’s better than one lake? Two? How about five? The Five Lakes Butte Hike is a gorgeous expedition into Idaho’s mountains. While the hike is sweat-inducing, the crystalline lakes and impressive scenery is worth the effort.

When is the Best Time to Visit the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests?

The topographical diversity and geographical location of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests enable year-round exploration. No matter the season, it isn’t hard to find adventure! The summers are undoubtedly the busiest and favored time to visit as the high-altitude crests are clear of snow and the woodlands and meadows are vibrant. Winter adventures are plentiful, but it is important to note that campgrounds are closed, and many Forest Service Roads are subject to seasonal closure.

Other Outdoor Activities in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests

The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests encompass a beautiful and diverse piece of land. Home to sections of several mountain ranges that border serrated canyons carved by roaring rivers, hiking isn’t the only activity in the wilderness. Rafting and kayaking down the Selway, Salmon, or Lochsa Rivers is a beloved adventure reserved for daring spirits! Bikers and off-roaders are drawn into the lush cedar forests and high plains in the warmer months. While winter recreation is more limited, many hiking trails transform into enchanting cross-country skiing or snowshoeing routes, and there are snowmobile tracks to enjoy.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests

How big are the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests?

The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests encompass 4 million acres of land in Idaho.

Where are the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests?

The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests are located in north-central Idaho.

Epic Adventure Tours in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests

Unfortunately, we have yet to curate any adventure tours in the state of Idaho but keep checking back as we are constantly adding new expeditions. Until we create a Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests tour, we encourage you to check out our epic adventure tours in the United States.

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Best Hikes in Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests

Showing 1 to 20 of 28
    Open details for Potlatch Canyon Trail

    Potlatch Canyon Trail

    Easy
    8.9 km
    176 m
    2-3h

    The Potlatch Canyon Trail is a lovely day hike in the Clearwater National Forest that affords hikers of all skill levels and ages a great time. This pleasant trail winds through open meadows sometimes decorated with grazing cattle and through mixed woodlands that border the peaceful Potlatch River.

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    Open details for Walton Lakes Hike

    Walton Lakes Hike

    Moderate
    7.9 km
    407 m
    2.5-3.5h

    Somehow the Walton Lakes Hike has remained relatively undiscovered. A hidden gem in the Clearwater National Forest, this beautiful trail plunges through mixed woodlands and lush vegetation into the granite basin adorned with crystalline lakes. This adventure is at the top of our ranks, and once you experience it for yourself, you will understand why.

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    Open details for Weir Creek Hot Springs Trail

    Weir Creek Hot Springs Trail

    Very Easy
    1.1 km
    21 m
    0.5h

    Indulge yourself in one of Mother Nature’s hot tubs hidden amongst the Idaho mountains. The Weir Creek Hot Springs Trail is a short hike into the wilderness, where a natural hot spring sits, beckoning your visit. Bring a swimsuit and soak in the idyllic pool along Weir Creek.

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    Open details for Elk Creek Falls Hike

    Elk Creek Falls Hike

    Easy
    4.2 km
    199 m
    1.5-2h

    The Elk Creek Falls Hike is a breathtaking adventure that offers spellbinding views of not one, but three mesmerizing cascades—one of which being the tallest cascade in the state. Hidden amongst Idaho’s mountains, this natural sanctuary is worth a visit.

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    Open details for Lower Cannon Lake Hike

    Lower Cannon Lake Hike

    Moderate
    12.9 km
    470 m
    3.5-5h

    Immerse yourself in the Rocky Mountains along the Lower Cannon Lake Hike. This beautiful adventure explores the alpine, featuring wildflowers, montane meadows, mixed woodlands, and spellbinding views of the Seven Devils Mountains.

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    Open details for Camp Howard Trail

    Camp Howard Trail

    Moderate
    10.3 km
    666 m
    3.5-5h

    The Camp Howard Trail is a beautiful adventure along the grassy crests of the Seven Devils Mountains. Straddling the border between Idaho and Oregon, the vistas from atop the ridges are unlike no other. While this trek demands some effort, the payoff is well worth it!

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    Open details for Sheep Lake Shortcut Trail

    Sheep Lake Shortcut Trail

    Hard
    6.9 km
    525 m
    2.5-3.5h

    Immerse yourself amongst the Seven Devils Mountains on the Sheep Lake Shortcut. While this hike is challenging, it rewards its conquerors with a picturesque alpine lake that boasts spellbinding scenery from the shoreline.

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    Open details for McRea Cabin Hike

    McRea Cabin Hike

    Hard
    24.9 km
    952 m
    7-10h

    Immerse yourself in the Rapid River Valley along the McRea Cabin Hike. This demanding adventure through the Nez Perce National Forest exhibits a diversity of flora and fauna and offers spellbinding views of the Seven Devils Mountains rising above.

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    Open details for Warm Springs Creek Falls Hike

    Warm Springs Creek Falls Hike

    Moderate
    14.6 km
    405 m
    3.5-5h

    The Warm Springs Creek Falls Hike boasts an enchanting experience. This pleasant trail explores lush woodlands and meanders along Warm Springs Creek, which is adorned with an idyllic hot spring and mesmerizing cascades.

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    Open details for Five Lakes Butte Hike

    Five Lakes Butte Hike

    Moderate
    12.1 km
    498 m
    3.5-5h

    The Five Lakes Butte Hike is a gorgeous adventure in the Clearwater National Forest that boasts unrivaled scenery of the mountainous landscape and adorning lakes. While this route is no walk in the park, the beauty negates the sweat.

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    Open details for Kelly Creek Hike

    Kelly Creek Hike

    Moderate
    12.1 km
    307 m
    3-4h

    The Kelly Creek Hike is a beautiful trail in the Clearwater National Forest that offers a pleasant experience. Popular amongst fishermen, this route traces the banks of Kelly Creek which is a popular fly fishing destination. Whether fish or not, the beautiful scenery is worth this route’s exploration.

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    Open details for Hanover Ridge Hike

    Hanover Ridge Hike

    Moderate
    17.4 km
    697 m
    5-7h

    Explore the untouched backcountry on the Hanover Ridge Trail. This dynamic adventure explores a diversity of environments, offering breathtaking views of the Salmon River Mountains after a sweat-inducing climb up to the summit of Hanover Mountain.

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    Open details for Feather Creek Short Loop Hike

    Feather Creek Short Loop Hike

    Easy
    7.4 km
    133 m
    1.5-2.5h

    The Feather Creek Short Loop Hike is a fun family adventure that provides the ideal wildlife viewing and birding opportunities. Explore the wild and rugged wilderness occupied by lush woodlands, scenic meadows, and meandering streams.

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    Open details for Pete Ott Lake Trail

    Pete Ott Lake Trail

    Easy
    6.6 km
    242 m
    2-2.5h

    The Pete Ott Lake Trail beckons the exploration of high-country enthusiasts. Hike amongst the impressive Clearwater Mountains and the complementing forests to the idyllic lake. Hidden amongst the peaks, the shimmering lake is a little slice of heaven in Idaho.

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    Open details for Centennial Trail

    Centennial Trail

    Hard
    17.2 km
    1,196 m
    6.5-9h

    The Centennial Trail is no walk in the park, demanding an arduous up the exposed walls of the Salmon River Canyon. While taxing, this adventure boasts wonderful panoramas of the Salmon River Mountains and that negates the sweat.

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    Open details for Colgate Licks Loop Hike

    Colgate Licks Loop Hike

    Very Easy
    1.3 km
    45 m
    0.5h

    The Colgate Licks Loop is a short, but scenic adventure in the Clearwater National Forest that the whole family can enjoy. Explore a variety of environments and learn all about the area’s ecology and the importance and impact of naturally occurring wildfires.

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    Open details for Feather Creek Long Loop Hike

    Feather Creek Long Loop Hike

    Moderate
    18.5 km
    451 m
    4.5-6.5h

    Hiking the Feather Creek Long Loop boasts a pleasant experience. This beautiful circuit explores a swathe of wilderness occupied by old-growth forests and a meandering creek. Don’t forget your camera—the enchanting scenery is quite photogenic.

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    Open details for Blacktail Connection Trail

    Blacktail Connection Trail

    Moderate
    5.5 km
    435 m
    2-3h

    The Blacktail Connection Trail is a lesser-known route in the Nez Perce National Forest. Hike through the open tree canopy of towering pines along the primitive unmarked route often enveloped in overgrowth. While rustic, the seclusion and scenery along the wooded path are unmatched.

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    Open details for Jerry Johnson Hot Springs Hike

    Jerry Johnson Hot Springs Hike

    Very Easy
    4.2 km
    81 m
    1-1.5h

    The Jerry Johnson Hot Springs Hike is a popular adventure in the Clearwater National Forest that the whole family enjoys, year-round. Explore the lush woodlands bisected by Warm Springs Creek before taking a soak in the relaxing hot tub nestled in the wilderness.

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    Open details for Fish Creek Trail

    Fish Creek Trail

    Hard
    12.4 km
    388 m
    3.5-4.5h

    The Fish Creek Trail would make an excellent addition to your Clearwater National Forest hiking itinerary. This beautiful adventure explores shaded woodlands and wildflower blossoming meadows that line the banks of the rushing creek.

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