The Best Hikes on Idaho’s Main Salmon River
Idaho’s Main Salmon River is known for big sandy beaches, fun whitewater, and profligate wildlife. People don’t come here for the hiking. But the Main Salmon does have several worthy diversions of foot, and they come in a variety of flavors. Short walks lead to points of historical interest, trails follow lush tributary creeks, and steep footpaths climb canyon slopes. The luxurious river is sometimes hard to leave, but a little hiking can reveal a different side of the Salmon. Below are some favorites.
One of the most popular campsites on a Main Salmon River rafting trip is Magpie Creek, where the north-facing drainage produces a lush forest. While this dense cloak limits exploration from camp, there is a great hike nearby. Directly across the river from Magpie Camp is a trail to the old Crofoot Ranch. It leads incessantly uphill while Rattlesnake Creek rumbles nosily below. After about a mile of climbing, the trail levels onto a large meadow of wildflowers and mature pines. Up here, you’ll be surrounded by the soaring Salmon River Mountains, and a new perspective.
The Pacific Yew is a special species. Besides containing taxol, a cancer fighting chemical, most yews possess an interesting twisted shape, with marbled red and yellow peeling bark. One of the finest groves of yew trees anywhere is found in a shady glen along Indian Creek. A half-hour walk will have you in Yew Town.
Below the confluence of the Salmon’s South Fork, the Main Salmon runs due west beneath slopes of surreal granite formations. Pick any suitable landing on river right in the few miles below the South Fork, and scramble into the rock maze. There is no trail, but hiking into this exposed piece of Idaho Batholith can be a rewarding exploration, and definitely a taste of something different.
Jim Moore’s Place
At the start of the 1900s, this was a hub of central Idaho. Nearby Campbell’s Ferry provided a route across the mighty Salmon, linking the town of Grangeville with the booming Thunder Mountain Mine to the south. Craftsman Jim Moore built a series of cabins here, and thrived off the traffic. Today his structures still stand, offering a glimpse into history. Fruit from remaining apple trees litter the grounds in late summer, attracting black bears from the surrounding slopes.
One of the larger streams along the Main Salmon, Bargamin Creek comes at the Main’s northern apex, where rich forests have replaced the sparse mahogany laced crags of upstream. A hike along the Bargamin Creek Trail leads through pine and fir forest, always with the clear tumbling creek nearby. Fishermen will be keen on the clear trout-filled waters. Dreamers will entertain thoughts of hiking all the way to the Magruder Road at the head of the drainage.