Our Trail Spotlight highlights day trips to multi-day hikes across Idaho. Trail conditions can change quickly- swollen rivers can become impassable, windstorms can knock trees down across trails, and snow can come earlier than expected. Please take these recommendations as a jumping off place and do additional research to understand current conditions and  keep yourself safe if you choose to hike this trail. Physical guidebooks and maps are always good to have or check out some online resources like Alltrails.com for updated trail reports. If your trip is as awesome as you hope it will be, please share photos and feedback!

photo by Liz Bridges

Recommended by: Elizabeth Bridges, ITA Advisory Board Member and Crew Leader

Duration: Multi-Day

Area: Selway-Bitterroot National Forest

Difficulty Rating: 2 out of 5- the trail follows the Wild and Scenic Selway River for 43 miles. The trail can get brushy in parts. Mud in the spring and higher river levels affect the tread. The grade gets steep in places, especially when rounding the headlands that rise above the river.

Road Considerations: From the east, the #468 road to the trailhead at Paradise Campground is a long dirt road just past the West Fork Ranger Station, just south of Darby, Montana. It is unplowed in the winter and snow can fall at almost any time over Nez Perce Pass. Bring a good spare and be prepared for a 2-hour drive for the last 50 miles to the trailhead. From the west, the trail is accessed at the Race Creek Campground at the end of Selway River Road #23, just east of Kooskia, Idaho. The shuttle drive takes about 6 hours and should be done via Highway 12 and NOT using the Magruder Corridor Road.

Total hiking miles: 50 miles

The Hike: The Selway River Trail follows one of the nation’s first designated Wild and Scenic Rivers. The hike is through a pristine roadless and wilderness area and offers spectacular views of this national treasure.  White water boaters are limited in number and the season is short, so most of the hike you will experience the privacy and quietude of one of our great wilderness areas. The trail wends its way along the river corridor, occasionally rising over a headland and then descending back to the babbling and rushing river. Wildflowers abound, many identified by Lewis and Clark as their expedition traveled through the traditional lands of the Nez Perce people. Butterflies use the open water of the river as a summer corridor, and bird watching requires only sitting in a quiet spot and waiting. The forests range from Western cedar to Douglas fir, mixed with headlands of sage. Huckleberries provide welcome gifts, if you are in the right spot at the right time.

Places to camp along the way: Camp spots along the trail abound, increasing as the river level drops. Beaches can be sandy or cobbled, so pick your spot and bring a hammock!

Things to consider: Water is plentiful along the entire trail. A good water filter is highly recommended. Snakes and rattlesnakes can be seen and heard especially when crossing the hotter and drier headlands. Give the snakes a chance to move, give them wide berth, and you will appreciate why the rattlers are often called “gentlemen snakes” as they tend to give you ample warning of their presence. “Gentlemen”, in this case, is a gender inclusive adjective! You will see pack trains on the trail as the corridor provides access to some of the most remote country in the lower 48 states. Move to the downhill side of the trail, if possible, and speak to the horses and mules in a quiet and reassuring manner. Remember to thank the Forest Service personnel and mule team drivers for keeping our national forests and trails healthy!

Fun places to visit on your way in or out: If traveling to the eastern trailhead from the south, stop in beautiful Salmon, Idaho, the birthplace of Sacajawea, and enjoy the delicious hamburgers and local beers at the Junkyard Bistro, have a cocktail at the Shady Nook and see where the locals go to relax, or buy yourself the perfect straw river hat from Jaxonbilt Hats, talk to the owner, and ask for a little cowboy poetry from one of the Cowboy Poetry Festival founders. Traveling from the west, visit Selway Falls and bring a fishing pole for great catch and release fishing! Along the trail, stop by the historic Moose Creek Ranger Station and watch backcountry pilots navigate the grass airstrip. Be sure to say hello to the volunteer at the ranger station.

More info about this hike: AllTrails review discusses the trail as an “out and back”.

photo by Liz Bridges