Hikes in Salmon-Challis National Forest

Region in Idaho, United States

The Salmon-Challis National Forest is an outdoor enthusiast’s haven in east-central Idaho. A swathe of wilderness characterized by craggy vaulted peaks, countless alpine lakes, wild waterways, deep ravines, montane meadows, and forested foothills; this natural sanctuary is unparalleled in its beauty. While there are several adventure opportunities to indulge in, hiking is the greatest and most immersive way to experience the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

Encompassing 4.3million acres of land, the Salmon-Challis National Forest is one of the largest forests in the lower 48 States, and it is home to the highest mountain in the Gem State—Borah Peak. So famously distinguished by its mountainous landscape, the rock-climbing, scrambling, and trekking pursuits are abundant. Intrepid adventurers can explore the mountain flora and fauna as they tackle an arduous ascent up to the summit of an Idaho 12er.

We realize that not all enthusiasts seek a taxing trek, so do not fret; the Salmon-Challis National Park yields extensive hiking routes, from technical climbs to easy-going riverside strolls. Let’s not forget to mention the trails to idyllic hot springs! Boasting a diversity of recreational pursuits and backcountry trails, a trip to the Salmon-Challis National Forest is chock full of wonderment. What are you waiting for? An unforgettable experience awaits you.

10 Wonderful Hiking Routes in the Salmon-Challis National Forest

From family-friendly strolls to class 2 scrambles and everything in between, there is an adventure to suit you in the Salmon-Challis National Forest. Lucky for you, we compiled a list of the ten greatest hikes that occupy this pristine piece of land—enjoy!

  1. Shower Bath Hot Springs Hike - Immerse yourself deep into the unspoiled wilderness and enjoy scenery and seclusion on the Shower Bath Hot Springs Hike. This challenging adventure demands river fording, off-trail navigation, and hiking through overgrowth—though the hidden, hot springs are well worth the effort.
  2. Bear Creek Lake Trail - The Bear Creek Lake Trail is a truly memorable hike that leads intermediate adventurers and families with older children to an idyllic glacial pool bound by ridges anchored by the Lost River Range. Those seeking a moderate day-hike will surely enjoy this stunning trail.
  3. Copper Basin via Lake Creek Trail - Hike high into a mountain basin on the Copper Basin via Lake Creek Trail. This lovely path explores montane meadows and lush woodlands before escaping into a cirque occupied by shimmering alpine lakes and soaring granite crests. This trek is undoubtedly one of the most scenic trails in the national forest.
  4. Summit Creek Hike - Explore the Pioneer Mountains and indulge in the beauty and grandeur of Idaho’s mountainous landscape on the Summit Creek Trail. This lovely path explores a remote area of the national forest, offering tranquility as you progress through the untouched backcountry.
  5. East Pass Creek Trail - The East Pass Creek Trail is another intermediate day hike in the Salmon-Challis National Forest that tours Idaho’s Boulder Mountains, offering wonderful views and a great workout! Don’t forget your camera; the scenery is picture-perfect.
  6. Middle Canyon Trail - Enjoy distant views of the East Idaho Snake River Plain from the Middle Canyon Trail. Explore the craggy canyon and revel in the uniqueness of the surrounding geological formations. While this route is family-friendly, it is worth noting that the terrain is extremely rocky and unmarked, so using the trail GPS is wise.
  7. Kane Lake Trail - Discover a hidden oasis on the Kane Lake Trail. This unforgettable adventure travels through a mountain-bound canyon bisected by a meandering stream before ultimately culminating at an idyllic glacial lake framed by dramatic peaks.
  8. Broad Canyon Trail #61 - Explore not one, not two, but several gorgeous alpine lakes on the Broad Canyon Trail #61. This stimulating trek travels through a variety of landscapes, looping around a mountain cirque decorated with crystalline pools ideal for swimming and fishing.
  9. Stanley Lake to Bridal Veil Falls Trail - Hike to a mesmerizing waterfall on the Stanley Lake to Bridal Veil Falls Trail. This intermediate day hike travels through the craggy Sawtooth Mountains over loose scree and uneven terrain to a beautiful waterfall cascading over a sheer rock face.
  10. Middle Fork River Trail - The Middle Fork River Trail is a pleasant one-way hike that traces the curves of the Middle Fork Salmon River. Enjoy the sounds of the running water and the scenes of paddlers as you progress through aspen groves, areas of fire burn, and flowering meadows amongst the Salmon River Mountains.

When is the Best Time to Visit the Salmon-Challis National Forest?

The Salmon-Challis National Forest boasts year-round outdoor pursuits—perfect for eager explorers like yourself! The ideal climate, topographic range, and well-maintained trail systems enable adventure in the sun or snow. The mountain slopes blossom with vibrant wildflowers in the spring, the streams and rivers rage with snowmelt, and the peaks remain snow-dusted. The high-altitude areas become free of snow in the summer, and the alpine lakes warm just enough to make a plunge bearable—but you will likely be in the company of like-minded outdoor enthusiasts. In the autumn, the foliage changes, the air becomes cool, and the crowds thin. While adventure pursuits are limited in the winter months, the snow-cloaked terrain is enchanting, and the seclusion is quite enjoyable.

Other Outdoor Activities in the Salmon-Challis National Forest

While hiking is our chosen way to explore the unspoiled wilderness, the Salmon-Challis National Forest offers a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities to indulge in! Explore the backcountry via mountain bike or horseback and take to the rugged forest roads with an off-roading vehicle. Home to a variety of impressive peaks in various mountain ranges, the rock-climbing and scrambling opportunities are abundant—though they are reserved for experienced and intrepid explorers!

Additionally, the rugged waterways and countless alpine lakes boast excellent water recreation. Rafters and paddlers are drawn to the Wild and Scenic Salmon River and Middle Fork Salmon River. Those seeking a more relaxing experience head into the high country to fish, swim, or camp along the shoreline of the crystalline alpine lakes. While the summer is the best season to visit the Salmon-Challis National Forest, winter exportation includes snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and alpine skiing!

Frequently Asked Questions About the Salmon-Challis National Forest

Where is the Salmon-Challis National Forest?

The Salmon-Challis National Forest is located in east-central Idaho.

Can you hunt in the Salmon-Challis National Forest?

Yes, hunting and fishing are permitted in the Salmon-Challis National Forest, refer to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for hunting rules and regulations.

Epic Adventure Tours in the Salmon-Challis National Forest

Unfortunately, we don’t have any adventure tours in Idaho at the moment, though we are always working on adding more tours to our extensive repertoire. Until then, we encourage you to check out our other amazing tours in the United States!

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Best Hikes in Salmon-Challis National Forest

Open details for Shower Bath Hot Springs Hike

Shower Bath Hot Springs Hike

18.2 km
792 m

Discover a little slice of heaven hidden in the Salmon-Challis National Forest on the Shower Bath Hot Springs Hike. This incredibly scenic adventure explores a forested valley nestled amongst the Salmon River Mountains, culminating at a collection of hot springs showered by warm water tumbling over a precipitous rockface.

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Open details for Bear Creek Lake Hike

Bear Creek Lake Hike

8.7 km
553 m

Get lost in the Lost River Mountain Range and discover an idyllic lake hidden in the wilderness on the Bear Creek Lake Hike. This excellent adventure exhibits the topographic range, in addition to the variety of flora and fauna that occupy the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

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Open details for Copper Basin via Lake Creek Trail

Copper Basin via Lake Creek Trail

17.7 km
523 m

Immerse yourself amongst the Pioneer and White Knob Mountains on the Copper Basin via Lake Creek Trail. This pleasant day hike explores scenic montane meadows abundant with flora and fauna before culminating in the lake-adorned basin. This amazing adventure has earned a place on our list of the Salmon-Challis National Forest’s greatest hikes, and it will likely be added to your greatest’s hikes too!

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Open details for Summit Creek Hike

Summit Creek Hike

14.6 km
722 m

The Summit Creek Hike is a wonderful adventure that explores a remote area of the Pioneer Mountains, boasting a scenic and secluded experience. Immerse yourself in the unspoiled wilderness and indulge in the majesty of Idaho’s mountains.

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Open details for East Pass Creek Trail

East Pass Creek Trail

8.2 km
429 m

Sweeping mountain views await you on the East Pass Creek Trail. This demanding day hike is well-worth adding to your adventure itinerary, trust us. The unrivaled beauty of the landscape and panoramic vistas are unmatched.

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Open details for Middle Canyon Trail

Middle Canyon Trail

1.3 km
115 m

The Middle Canyon Trail is a hidden gem in the Gem State. This incredible hike explores a remote area of the Salmon-Challis National Forest, providing those who venture it with tranquility. Immerse yourself in the preserved wilderness and revel in the unique geology.

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Open details for Kane Lake Trail

Kane Lake Trail

13.7 km
544 m

Soaring crests, waterfalls, alpine lakes, wildlife, and wildflowers, need we say more? The Kane Lake Trail is an amazing day hike into the Pioneer Mountains that you won’t soon forget. Bring your camera, the scenery is quite photogenic.

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Open details for Broad Canyon Trail #61

Broad Canyon Trail #61

20.0 km
902 m

Sweeping mountain views and crystalline glacial lakes await you on the Broad Canyon Trail #61. This incredible expedition into the Pioneer Mountains is no walk in the park, but the scenery is well worth the sweat—trust us.

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Open details for Stanley Lake to Bridal Veil Falls Trail

Stanley Lake to Bridal Veil Falls Trail

12.7 km
251 m

Hiking the Stanley Lake to Bridal Veil Falls Trail is a memorable experience. This beautiful trail in the Sawtooth Mountains explores scenic forests, flowering meadows, and meandering creeks framed by the craggy peaks, ultimately culminating at a mesmerizing cascade.

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Open details for Middle Fork River Trail

Middle Fork River Trail

22.0 km
552 m

The Middle Fork River Trail is a beautiful adventure through the Salmon River Canyon near Stanley, Idaho. Hike amongst the towering bluffs of the Salmon River Mountains through pine stands, flowering meadows, and areas of fire scar.

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