Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area

Coolwater to Selway Crags
Distance: 7 miles to Louse Lake and 10 miles to Selway Crags, one way
Climb: moderate
Difficulty: moderate
Location: Drive east on US Highway 12 114 miles from Lewiston to Lowell. At Lowell, proceed 0.3 miles east on Forest Road (FR) 223 (also called Selway River Road. After passing Three Rivers Resort, turn left onto FR 317 (Coolwater Mountain Road) and continue 8 miles. At the top of Coolwater Ridge, drive past the road leading to Idaho Point and proceed 4.7 miles to the undeveloped trailhead at Remount. Four-wheel drive on FR 317 is highly recommended, as the road is slippery when wet and extremely rocky.

Following a trail that is vulnerable to severe summer afternoon thunderstorms, hikers will experience incredible views of mountain peaks, forests, and meadows throughout this ridgeline trek. During the second mile, the trail steers left of Point 6,761 and this is often a point of confusion as the old, unmaintained trail appears to the right. After bearing left around this point, hikers will cross the old trail and should keep to the right. If you head into a heavy forest, backtrack as you are now on the wrong trail. Despite this potentially confusing area, this trail is well-worth its effort as it leads hikers to Ghost Mountain, Louse Lake, and the Gateway to the Selway Crags. Best months for hiking are mid-July through mid-September.

Lower Selway River
Distance: 12 miles roundtrip
Climb: gentle
Difficulty: easy
Usage: moderate
Location: Drive 114 miles east on US Highway 12 from Lewiston to Lowell. At Lowell, continue east across the Clearwater River onto Forest Road (FR) 223 (Selway River Road). Proceed 18 miles past Selway Falls to the trailhead at Race Creek Campground.

Sparkling with mica, this trail winds through a granite canyon along the north side of the Selway River. The trail offers several resting opportunities along the numerous sand beaches and under the large pine and cedar trees, so it is an appropriate trail for families. However, children should be watched as the trail does follow cliff ledges in some areas. Proceeding six miles, hikers will reach their destination at the beach and rapids of Cupboard Creek. Cupboard Creek abounds with a variety of fish, and area wildlife includes moose, elk, deer, otters, beavers, black bears, and wolves. Best month for hiking is September due to colorful foliage; however, the trail can easily be accessed from the beginning of June.

Optional Hikes: At Cupboard Creek, the unmarked Big Fog Saddle Trail (Trail 710) exits the river trail. Involving a difficult climb, hikers will pass the Big Fog Saddle and end at Fog Mountain Road. Several backpackers choose to enter the Selway Crags from Fog Mountain. Best months for hiking are mid-July to mid-September.

Another difficult, multi-day hike takes backpackers further into the Selway Wilderness. From Cupboard Creek, continue upstream along the river trail. Hikers will eventually reach the Selway River crossing at Magruder’s Road and locate the river’s headwaters in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

Selway Crags via Big Fog and Legend Lakes
Distance: 8.5 mile loop
Climb: steep
Difficulty: difficult
Usage: light
Location: Drive east from Lewiston 114 miles to Lowell on US Highway 12. At Lowell, proceed 17 miles east on Forest Road (FR) 223 (Selway River Road). After crossing Gedney Creek, turn onto FR 319 (Fog Mountain Road). FR 319 is extremely steep, rocky, and narrow, so four-wheel drive is highly recommended. Continue 14 miles on FR 319 to the multiple trail trailhead at Big Fog Saddle. Follow Fog Mountain Trail 343.

Panoramic views, glacier-carved valleys, alpine lakes, and wildlife await hikers on this ridgeline trail winding deep into the rugged Selway Crags. After hiking 1.5 miles to Big Fog Mountain, bear left onto Trail 363 that leads north through both marshes and rocky areas to the cirques where Big Fog Lake and Legend Lake lie. Trail 363 is faint at times, but getting lost is hard as the ridgeline is steep on both the east and west sides. Bushwhacking is required to reach Big Fog Lake from the east side of Legend Lake. Topographic maps are highly suggested, and best months for hiking are July through mid-October.

Optional Hikes: After reaching Big Fog Mountain, continue east and follow Trail 693 to join the South Three Links Lakes Trail. Upon reaching these lakes at an elevation of 6,780 feet, climb over Jesse Pass and descend towards Cove Lakes. Cove Lakes is one of the most popular destinations in the area, and Cove Lakes Trail will return hikers to the Big Fog Saddle trailhead. This is an extremely difficult hike, and best months for hiking are July through mid-October.

White Cap Creek
Distance: 43 miles roundtrip
Climb: moderate
Difficulty: difficult
Usage: light
Location: From Grangeville, follow State Highway 13 9 miles west to State Highway 14. Bearing right, proceed towards Elk City on Highway 14. Nearing Elk City, exit onto Forest Road (FR) 222 and drive to the Red River Ranger Station. 0.5 miles past this station is FR 468 (also known as Montana Road and Magruder Corridor). Bear left onto this road and follow the road signs leading to Paradise Ranger Station and White Cap Creek. The trailhead for Trail 24 begins at the ranger station near an outfitter’s camp.

Winding through a narrow canyon near White Cap Creek, hikers will soon find themselves deep within the wilderness where rattlesnakes and black bears are a common occurrence. Requiring a multi-day trip, the following are suggested camping stops on the first leg of the trip: Day 1 – 7 mile hike from the trailhead to Cooper Flat; Day 2 – 7 mile hike from Cooper Flat to Cliff Creek; Day 3 – 7.5 miles from Cliff Creek to Triple Lakes. After passing Cliff Creek, hikers will view Patzy Ann Falls and reach a trail junction for Trail 701. Continue on Trail 24, ascending 2,000 feet to the fabulous fishing afforded at Triple Lakes. Trail 701 leads hikers another strenuous 5 miles to White Cap Creek Lakes over a rough, and sometimes faint, path. All backpackers should be prepared for several difficult creek crossings. Best month for hiking is August due to significant runoff in early summer months.

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