Find Hiking Paradise Near Riggins

One of Idaho's best-kept secrets

| May 22, 2013
Feeling trapped by urbanity? Venture to Riggins.
- Scott Marchant
Feeling trapped by urbanity? Venture to Riggins.

Trailhead directions: From New Meadows, drive north on Hwy. 95 to Riggins. Turn right on Salmon River Road. Follow the paved road (it eventually turns into a well-graded gravel road) 18.4 miles to a T-junction, just beyond French Creek. Turn left and follow the road an additional five miles to the Wind River Pack Bridge and signed trailhead.

Want to find a spring hiking paradise: stunning views, wildflowers, intriguing rock formations, a boulder-lined river and zero crowds? Look no further than the Wind River in the 206,000-acre Gospel Hump Wilderness.

The trailhead is situated in the southern section of the wilderness, which abuts the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and the Main Fork of the Salmon River. Located just 23 miles east of Riggins, this beautiful and "off the beaten path" trail is one of the area's best-kept secrets. The scenic drive to the trailhead from Riggins is a gorgeous bonus.

From the trailhead, cross the Wind River Pack Bridge spanning the Salmon River. Once across, hikers arrive at a signed junction. The trail to the left switches back steeply for 2.5 miles to the Bullion Mine and continues north. The Wind River, trial is to the right, entering the Gospel Hump Wilderness. The trail turns north, passing lichen-covered boulders under a canopy of pines. The Wind River is only a few yards away.

After a mile, the trail's grade steepens and switches back 600 feet on an open hillside to a saddle. In late April and May, arrowleaf balsamroot, Indian paintbrush, larkspur and other wildflowers add color to the grassy hills set below the steep canyon walls. Make sure to indulge in the vistas, which extend south to the Frank Church area. From the saddle, descend 200 feet through forest to the bridge spanning the Wind River. This destination makes for a stunning four-mile out-and-back hike.

For spectacular views of this remarkable country, including the Salmon River Canyon, the Seven Devils Mountains and the Salmon River Mountains, cross the bridge and ascend another 600 feet to a signed junction. Continue east toward Sheep Creek. With the help of 10 switchbacks, the trail gains 1,000 feet over the next 1.5 miles to the top of a high ridge.

The views are sensational from this 4,300-foot perch. Total out-and-back distance is 9.5 miles and nearly 2,500 feet of total gain. The trail continues another 20 miles to Moore's Station.

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