Hikes in Salmon-Challis National Forest
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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
Find Other Amazing Hiking Regions in Idaho
Best Hikes in Salmon-Challis National Forest
Shower Bath Hot Springs Hike
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.
Bear Creek Lake Hike
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.
Copper Basin via Lake Creek Trail
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!
Summit Creek Hike
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.
East Pass Creek Trail
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.
Middle Canyon Trail
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.
Kane Lake Trail
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.
Broad Canyon Trail #61
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.
Stanley Lake to Bridal Veil Falls Trail
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.
Middle Fork River Trail
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.
Right Fork Fall Creek Hike
Discover an idyllic lake hidden in the Pioneer Mountains on the Right Fork Fall Creek Hike. This scenic expedition into Idaho’s high-country travels through golden aspen groves, alpine firs, and lush meadows up into the alpine basin.
Iron Bog Lake Trail
Discover a hidden oasis on the Iron Bog Lake Trail. Ranked high on our list of best hikes in the Salmon-Challis National Forest, this adventure features a relentless climb, ever-changing scenery, breathtaking mountain views, and an idyllic lake, what more could you possibly ask for?
Langer Lake Trail
Enjoy sweeping views of Idaho’s dramatic mountain ranges on the Langer Lake Trail. This epic high-country expedition explores the Salmon River Mountains, climbing into a basin adorned with several idyllic lakes.
Alpine Lakes Trail to Lake 8609
Breathtaking mountain views and idyllic alpine lakes await you on the Alpine Lakes Trail to Lake 8609. Packed with wonderment and elevation gain, this incredible high-country hike explores a variety of landscapes, exhibiting a diversity of flora and fauna that occupy the alpine environment.
Lower Cedar Creek Falls Hike
A beautiful waterfall awaits you on the Lower Cedar Creek Falls Hike. This family-friendly adventure near MacKay, Idaho boasts the ideal opportunity to get outside into the fresh mountain air while exploring a historic dam site and old wooden flumes.
Merriam Lake Hike
Spellbinding mountain views await you on the Merriam Lake Hike. This incredible adventure into the Lost River Mountains is not one you will soon forget! Explore Idaho’s alpine and discover an idyllic lake hidden in the preserved wilderness.
North Fork Lake Trail
Explore Idaho’s Boulder Mountains and enjoy a refreshing swim in an idyllic alpine pool on the North Fork Lake Trail. This hidden treasure in the Salmon-Challis National Forest offers a scenic and secluded experience that boasts unrivaled alpine vistas.
Elk Mountain Trail
Breathtaking views of the Sawtooth Mountain Range await you on the Elk Mountain Trail. This popular mountain biking and hiking circuit in the Salmon-Challis National Forest offers spellbinding vistas of the craggy snow-capped mountain range without having to tackle a taxing trek.
Burnt Aspen Trail
The Burnt Aspen Trail is a scenic hike that demands a relentless climb through the forested foothills of the Pioneer Mountains. Get a great workout in and indulge in the topographic range of Idaho’s landscape.
Boulder Lake via Boulder Creek Trail
Explore a rugged and remote area of the Salmon-Challis National Forest on Boulder Lake via Boulder Creek Trail. This pleasant adventure demands a sweat, but the stunning scene of the alpine lake framed by the dramatic Pioneer Mountains is well worth the effort.
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