Idaho Hiking, Nature May 03, 2017
The One Hike In Idaho That’s Sure To Leave You Feeling Accomplished
Idaho is a hiker’s paradise; and, if you hike long enough, your endurance and bravery increase. But there’s only one trail in Idaho that combines the entire length of the state and delves deep into places previously only accessible by river raft or private aircraft: the Idaho Centennial Trail.
This is no ordinary hike.
This is nearly 1000 miles of rough and rugged backcountry travel. Stretching from Nevada to Canada, this cross-state trail winds through some of the most isolated locations in the Lower 48, from the desolate sagebrush desert of the Snake River Plain to the rich Western forests and world-class rivers of the North. Guaranteed, the ICT will show you all there is to love about Idaho while seriously challenging your navigation skills in the process – nearly 90,000 feet of elevation, 9 wild and scenic rivers, and over 4 million acres of wilderness stand between you and a daring feat that only a handful of people have accomplished. Are you up to the challenge?
For convenience, this nationally-recognized trail is broken into seven sections that traverse the majority of the state, each encompassing a unique landscape of Idaho.
Mile 0: Murphy Hot Springs, Owyhee Desert
At the edge of the most isolated spot in the Lower 48, a single orange pole marks the line between Idaho and Nevada. Here, the tiny village of Murphy Hot Springs - which is home to little more than an old-school payphone and a few cabins - marks the starting point for exploring the Owyhees.
This extremely remote corner of Idaho is as rugged, dangerous, and intimidating as they come. Sheer canyons, soaring temperatures, and extreme lack of shade and resources makes for quite possibly the most dangerous leg of your journey. However, despite the barren, sagebrush expanse, this is a truly remarkable landscape of hidden creeks, fantastic canyon overlooks, and unique desert wildlife - as well as the clearest, darkest skies in the state.
The Bruneau Canyon Overlook is the most accessible canyon in the region - an overlooked gem that is all-too often forgotten in favor of the larger canyons closer to Twin Falls.
Here, you will hear and see jets from the nearby Mountain Home Air Force Base flying in formation overhead.
Mile 223: The Sawtooths
As the trail moves north, you'll pass through Idaho City, the gorgeous Grandjean Campground - often considered a wilderness gateway - and on up to the crown jewel of Idaho: the jagged, photogenic, magnificent Sawtooths. This young and wild mountain range is a bucket list destination on its own, featuring dozens of alpine lakes, remote trails, and wilderness rock climbing opportunities.
But the itty bitty town of Stanley just might be the highlight of this leg of your journey.
A dip in Boat Box Hot Springs, a visit to the family-favorite Redfish Lake, or a breathtaking hidden journey to Lily Lake is only the start of the beauty and solitude you'll find here.
Mile 243: The Frank Church Wilderness
Idaho's largest wilderness at 3.2 million acres is not only roadless, isolated, and incredible, it's also the largest chunk of wilderness in the Lower 48. Leaving civilization far behind, the raging "River of No Return," the Salmon River, makes its appearance here, carving a dizzying whitewater trail. Pristine wilderness beauty in its most untouched, natural form creates an idyllic panorama.
Multiple primitive and historic fire lookouts dot the areas that the ICT passes through, but the Sheep Hill Lookout is an ideal shelter.
Mile 424: Selway-Bitterror Wilderness
A lone road separates this wilderness expanse from the Frank Church. Framed by the pristine Lochsa and Selway Rivers and is home to incredibly diverse wildlife. The ICT passes through areas seldom visited so you can expect to have the wilderness to yourself.
You'll also travel the beautifully rugged Magruder Corridor to the Burnt Knob Lookout to start this leg of your journey, often called the "wildest road in the Lower 48."
You can read more information about the Magruder Corridor
Mile 524: The Clearwater
Overlooked and underrated, this lush region is one you'll find easy to fall in love with. Tiny towns - Kooskia, Kamiah, and Syringa to start - dot the landscape around the merging Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers.
Miles north, the Shadowy St. Joe is one glorious river to behold
Mullan has its own history to explore: the rugged Mullan Road, pristine hidden lakes, and small town charm.
Lone Lake and the Willow Creek Meadow offer rich, green beauty and expansive lush panoramas unlike anywhere else in the Panhandle. And, just a few miles north, Wallace's own gateway to the Pulaski Tunnel Trail, Route of the Hiawatha, and even to Stevens Lake each offer magnificent destinations are perfect immersion into the beauty of North Idaho.
More info and directions
Mile 685: Coeur d'Alene
It might seem strange for Coeur d'Alene to get its own section of the ICT, but you'll absolutely love this stretch of paved, waterfront trail. Other places vary from seldom used single track to well traveled service roads. A slight variation on this path - which officially dips into Montana - is to take the North Idaho Centennial Trail to the Washington border.
Pear Lake and Blossom Lake offer excellent primitive camping at multiple backcountry sites along the lake. At Thompson Pass, the old stage coach route to the mining towns of Murray and Pritchard, the trail continues north along the ridge line towards Clark Fork, ID.
Mile 888: The Panhandle
Idaho's northernmost stretch is full of remarkable, unrivaled Idaho beauty. Upper and Lower Priest Lakes form the heart of the region, whole more remote lakes and natural features - like Hidden Lake, the Green Monarchs, Maiden Creek, and even Castle Peak - all form a world of adventure, idyllic views, and more beaches and waterfront overlooks than can be explored in a lifetime. It's a fitting end for this challenging cross-state trail.
Wow! The Idaho Centennial Trail may be quite the epic journey, but fortunately, it’s easy to break into pieces and tackle over time. Or, go for gold for the hike of your life! While we’ve listed the trail from south to north, the majority of adventures start in the Panhandle to avoid the summer heat of the Owyhees. Tailor this extended trail to your liking, and don’t forget to explore off the beaten path!
For full maps, stops, mile markers, and accommodation suggestions, check out the official
Idaho Centennial Trail website.
OnlyInYourState may earn compensation through affiliate links in this article.