Frank Church-River of No Return Area Hikes

Big Baldy-Indian Creek Loop
Distance: 52 mile loop
Climb: steep
Difficulty: very difficult
Usage: very light
Location: Drive 1 mile north of Cascade on State Highway 55, bearing east (right) onto Warm Lake Road. Proceed 37 miles, pass Landmark Ranger Station, and locate a four-way junction. Turn right onto Forest Road (FR) 447 (Burntlog Road) and drive 14.3 miles to the Buck Creek Trailhead, staying to the left at all times.

For experienced, conditioned backpackers, this trek leads to some of the most beautiful views of Idaho’s mountains, rivers, canyons, old-growth forests, and wilderness areas. Beginning on Trail 090 (Buck Creek Trail) climb 0.7 miles and turn left onto Trail 088 (Summit Trail). After passing Chilcoot Pass, locate a jeep road at the 3.5-mile mark and turn right. At the 4.2-mile mark, hike left along the signed “hiking trail” and reach the junction for Trail 227 (Baldy Ridge Trail). Bearing right onto Trail 227, wind through pine trees, passing Buck Lake and reaching a side trail leading to the Big Baldy Mountain lookout at the 16 mile mark. Continue on the main trail to a left fork with Trail 226. Proceed on Trail 226 until reaching the Grays Peak Trail at the 22.5-mile mark. Bear left onto Grays Peak Trail and cross Indian Creek. After this crossing, proceed left onto Trail 225 (Indian Creek Trail). This trail leads to Kwiskwis Creek, Kwiskwis Hot Springs, through forested gorges, and eventually to Kiwah Meadows. At the 39-mile mark, hikers will reach a junction with Trail 224 (Big Chief Trail). However, hikers should stay to the left on Trail 225 (Indian Creek Trail) and wind along the faint trail through some deadfall. At the 46.5-mile mark, hikers will reach Pistol Spring and should merge back onto Trail 088 (Summit Trail). Continue to the Trail 227 (Baldy Ridge Trail) junction, where hikers should take Trail 227 and retrace their steps the last 5 miles to the trailhead. Best months for hiking are July through September.

Rainbow Lake and Shell Rock Lake
Distance: 5 miles roundtrip to Rainbow Lake; 9 miles roundtrip to both Rainbow Lake and Shell Rock Lake
Climb: moderate
Difficulty: moderate
Usage: light
Location: Drive 1 mile north of Cascade on State Highway 55, bearing east (right) onto Warm Lake Road. Proceed 35.5 miles and turn left onto Forest Road (FR) 413, continuing another 15 miles. Directly south of Halfway Ranger Station, bear left onto FR 410 and follow this road 11 miles to the trailhead. This route does require a four-wheel drive vehicle.

Located in the Salmon River Mountains, this trail is an excellent choice for beginning backpackers interested in wildlife viewing opportunities and scenic subalpine lakes surrounded by wildflowers and old-growth fir, spruce, and pine. Following Trail 094, hike 0.4 mile through logged forest and locate the marked Rainbow Lake Trail leading uphill. Continue straight ahead another 2.1 miles to arrive at Rainbow Lake. To reach Shell Rock Lake, backtrack 0.6 miles from Rainbow Lake to an unmarked trail leading to the west. Proceeding on this trail, ascend towards the bench on Shell Rock Peak’s north side. On top of the bench, continue on this faint trail through trees and huckleberry bushes and descend steeply south into Shell Rock Lake, located 4.5 miles from the trailhead. Shell Rock Lake is situated in a granite cirque, and despite its beauty, is rarely visited. Best months for visiting are late June to late September.

Snowshoe Summit to Pistol Lake
Distance: 11 miles roundtrip
Climb: moderate
Difficulty: moderate
Usage: moderate
Location: South of Landmark, turn onto Forest Road (FR) 447. This road is also known as Mud Lake Road and Artillery Dome Road. After crossing Johnson Creek, stay to the right at the road junction. Keeping to the left at Sand Creek Road, proceed past Mud Lake and turn right onto FR 447E (Artillery Dome Road). Continue 3 miles along this steep road to Summit Trail 008 located at Summit Trail Trailhead.

Following the ridgeline above Pistol Creek, this trail takes hikers across scenic mountain saddles and subalpine meadows before dropping into a cirque containing Pistol Lake, marshes, and waterfalls. Follow Summit Trail 008 through the dense forest and climb up to the saddle of Little Baldy. Continue on this trail, and at the 4.8-mile mark, locate a trail to the right leading over the top of another ridge. This trail, which is faint at times, descends steeply into Pistol Lake. Best months for hiking are mid-July to mid-August.

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