Special Places

Special Areas have been established to protect and manage for public use and enjoyment, special recreation areas with scenic, geological, botanical, zoological, paleontological, archaeological, or with other special characteristics or unique values.

High Uintas Wilderness on the Ashley National Forest

Within the 456,705 acres of High Uintas Wilderness, cold, clear rivers plunge into deep canyons that form the headwaters of Utah's major rivers. Park- like meadows, lush wetlands, and alpine lakes edged by dense conifer forests are common. Above the treeline rock outcrops or rounded “bollies,” sparsely covered with tundra plant communities, rise to meet the skyline. Elk, mule deer, moose, mountain goat, black bear, bighorn sheep, ptarmigan, river otter, pine marten, and cougar frequent the Wilderness.


The High Uintas Wilderness was designated by Congress in 1984 as a place where its primeval character is protected. It is managed to preserve its “wildness” while providing visitors with opportunities for solitude or primitive recreation.

Shafer Butte on the Boise National Forest

Photo of a river bend at Shafer ButteWant a quick trip to the mountains? Take the forest highway from Boise towards Bogus Basin Ski Resort, and within 16 miles you’ll transition from a hot, dry, desert environment to a cool, forested landscape. In the winter, downhill and cross-country ski facilities are available. In the spring, summer, and fall numerous hiking trails, such as the Shafer Butte trail, portions of the Ridge-to-Rivers Trail system, and even a newly created mountain bike trail system await your exploration.

Snake River Canyon on the Bridger-Teton National Forest

The spine of North America twists and turns along the mountains on the east side of the Forest. You can cross the Continental Divide at Togwotee Pass (east of Grand Teton National Park) and the Sweetwater River near South Pass (south end of the Wind River Range), as well as along many backcountry trails. The Continental Divide Trail Association works hard to bring grants and volunteers to the area to maintain and improve the trail.

Each summer from the June to August, the portion of the Snake River between South Park Bridge and Sheep Gulch hosts over 200,000 visitors. This is an extremely crowded and sought after section of the Snake River. In an effort to alleviate some of the crowding, special use permits for non-commercial groups over 15 people and for institutional outfitters are required. There are several river access points and campgrounds along the river. If launching a boat, you are required to use the existing boat ramp facilities at the access points. 

The Snake River Canyon is located south of Jackson and runs along Highway 89 to Alpine, Wyoming. At Hoback Junction turn right at the fork in the road and travel across the bridge over the Snake River and onward. Visit the Snake River Canyon page on the Bridger-Teton National Forest web site to learn more about seasonal and safety information.

Big Springs on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest

Big Springs Campground and Group Area is located 25 miles south of West Yellowstone, Montana in beautiful Island Park, Idaho at an elevation of 6400 feet. Big Spring Campground is in a wooded area with new growth lodgepole pine and summer wildflowers dot the landscape. Big Springs is nearby, making up the headwaters of Henry's Fork of the Snake River. A short trail leads to the springs, one of the countrys largest. ATV trails are abundant in the Big Springs area. The charming and historic John Sack Cabin is nearby, noted for its unique location, construction and furnishings. This campground has 15 single units, 1 group site and 2 picnic areas. Restrooms and water are available. Hikers can enjoy the many trails here.

Red Canyon on the Dixie National Forest

Located along 5 miles of the All American Road (Highway 12). Red Canyon is lined with stark spires and ghostly hoodoos eroded out of the red limestone and sandstone. In 1925, tunnels were dug though the lijestone fins to impress dignitaries and provide a gateway to the splandor of Bryce Canyon National park.

A paved bike road runs parallel to Highway 12 for bikers to safely ride from Red Canyon to the East Fork of the Sevier River. In addition, trails leaving from the valley invite the hiker, biker OHV user, and equestrian to explore further.

Old Spanish Trail on the Fishlake National Forest

Spanish TrailBetween 1829 and 1848, the Old Spanish Trail was the “longest, crookedest, most arduous pack trail in the history of America.” For 1,200 miles, it wound from Santa Fe to the Ciudad de Los Angeles or the City of Angels. The trail, although used for communication and slaving, was foremost a commercial trade route. In New Mexico wool from the churro sheep was woven into goods that were packed to California. Ordinarily, a horse could be procured for 1-2 blankets while mules considered more valuable than horses, would cost 3-5 blankets.

The Old Spanish Trail had three main routes and several cut-offs or shortcuts. The “Fish Lake Cut Off” was travel in 1848 by Kit Carson, a famous army scout. So the story is told though interpretive displays at Red Creek near Zedd’s Meadow and at the Doctor Creek Trailhead at the south end of the lake.

Table Mountain Wilderness on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest

Photo of a man on horseback leading a pack horse at the top of a canyon.

Table Mountain is located along the Table Mountain Range, east of Alta Toquima Wilderness and north of the McKinney Mountains of Central Nevada. With an average elevation just over 10,000 feet Table Mountain Wilderness offers much more than the high altitude found in the neighboring Wilderness Areas.

Over ten miles long and several miles wide, the Wilderness Area contains one of Nevada’s largest continuous stands of Aspen. After the initial climb to the top of the mountain, backpackers and stock users stroll across miles of trails that connect most of the Wilderness Area. Several springs give relatively easy access to water in many areas. Supported by the unique environment large species such as elk and deer make this mountain oasis home. Riparian areas support a wide variety of plants and animals. With relatively easy access from all sides, this Wilderness Area allows visitors many options for multi-day adventures.

Open spaces and breath taking scenery make Table Mountain Wilderness Area one of Central Nevada’s most desirable destinations.

Stuart Guard Station on the Manti-La Sal National Forest

Stuart CabinSee exhibits explaining the founding of the Manti-La Sal National Forest, in this restored guard station in Huntington Canyon. A restored shop shows the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s and the boys' contribution to the infrastructure and conservation of the Forest. Open weekends and holidays during the summer.

Sheep Rock on the Payette National Forest

Sheep RockThe Sheep Rock area provides for spectacular mountain scenery as well as down into Hells Canyon Scenic Area and the Hells Canyon Nation Recreation Area. Several trails originate from the Sheep Rock Parking lot. Horse Mountain and Sheep Rock can be reached from Council via Forest Road #002. At the town of Bear continue on Forest Road #002 to the old mining town of Cuprum. 2 miles beyond Cuprum take Forest Road #106 approximately 3 miles to the Horse Mountain Road junction. Road #108 will take you to Horse Mountain Lookout, while Road #106 take you to Sheep Rock (5 miles). You have two options for returning to Council: down Kleinschmidt Grade and south along Hells Canyon and Highway 71 to Cambridge and north on Highway 95 to Council (120 miles round-trip, 5-6 hours), or return back on Forest road #002. (110 miles round-trip, 5 hours).

Cape Horn Guard Station on the Salmon-Challis National Forest

Photo of a white building with green trim and a fence around it, pine trees are in the background.

Cape Horn Winter Rental is located in beautiful Elk Meadow approximately 16 miles northwest of Stanley, Idaho, situated in a stand of lodgepole pines at an elevation of 6,660 feet. On clear days, the guard station's front porch affords breathtaking views of the rugged Sawtooth Mountain Range to the south. The Cape Horn area offers unlimited cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling opportunities in the surrounding meadows, and telemark skiing is available on the slopes behind the station.

The guard station is open for reservations at Recreation.gov from December 15 through March 15.

Mt. Harrison on the Sawtooth National Forest

Photo of a meadow with conifers in the background.The Mount Harrison BSIA was established in 2003 by the USDA Forest Service for its unique alpine and subalpine habitats and rare species. The area provides protection for the remaining portion of Christ’s Indian paintbrush population not included in the Minidoka RNA. In addition, Mount Harrison has one of two Davis’ wavewing populations and two of the largest intact tall forb communities remaining in Idaho.

Mirror Lake Scenic Byway on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest

Mt. Timpanogas, Pleasant Grove Ranger DistrictHeading east from Kamas through the national forest, Mirror Lake Highway is one of the most popular mountain routes in the state.  The road winds through farm and ranch lands and rises to heavily forested, mountain terrain, accented by meadows and rugged peaks.  There are numerous access points into the High Uinta Wilderness along this byway.