Trails of the Middle Fork Ranger District

Trails of the Middle Fork Ranger District

The Middle Fork Ranger District  (MFRD) office is located in Challis, Idaho, and is one of six districts on the Salmon-Challis National Forest. The Middle Fork District administers and oversees overone million acres of land, including over 900,000 acres of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness (FC-RONRW) area, one of the last intact wild places in the lower 48 states.

A land of steep mountains, deep canyons, and wild rivers, the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness is the second largest Wilderness in the lower 48 states at 2.4 million acres. The FC-RONRW provides outstanding opportunities for primitive recreation experiences, with over 2600 miles of trails linking the various airfields, rivers, trailheads and perimeter access roads. The condition of these access roads varies significantly; some are not suitable for trailers, others are passable only to high-clearance, 4-wheel-drive vehicles or ATVs. The best opportunities for solitude are in the trailless areas, which total 1.5 million acres in the Wilderness. Maintenance of this large, remote wilderness trail system is challenging. Large fires, short field seasons, limited access, and Mother Nature (wind, rain, slides, etc.) all contribute to the difficulties of keeping these trails open. Most of the trails were built before 1930; many are steep, rocky, eroded, poorly located and poorly drained. Numerous trails are in primitive condition.

The Middle Fork also manages the newly designated Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness.

Visit the Special Places section for more information about these two Wilderness areas.

Lake Creek drainage and Herd Lake, July 2017

Above: Lake Creek drainage and Herd Lake, July 2017


Trail Condition Report - 2017

Some trails do not receive regular maintenance and may be difficult to navigate or find. Note the date last maintained when reviewing the last known conditions, then read the Notes to see if the entire trail was maintained or just a portion.

Designation of a road, trail, or area should not be interpreted as an implication that the road, trail, or area is passable, actively maintained, or safe for travel. Seasonal weather conditions and natural events may render designated roads, trails, and areas impassable for extended periods. Some trails have been significantly affected by fire and natural events and may no longer exist or be extremely difficult to find. Maintenance of designated roads, trails, and areas will depend on available resources, and many may receive little maintenance.

Forest visitors should carry a saw and a shovel, as wind or other weather events may cause trees to block roads and/or trails at any time. Appropriate clothing and additional food and water are also advised.

Allowed uses of trails within the wilderness are limited to pedestrian and stock use. The use of bicycles, game carts, motorbikes, ATVs, UTVs, etc., is not allowed within wilderness. Drones may not be operated within the wilderness.


2017 Trail Work Notes

Herd Lake Patrol, July 18-20, 2017

Evening at Herd Lake, July 2017 

Middle Fork Wilderness Ranger Ian Woodruff did a patrol with BLM park ranger Nathan Bryan, hiking past Herd Lake (above photo) and up the ridge dividing Lake Creek and the East Fork of Herd Creek. They collected GPS data and inventoried campsites, structures and trails. Click Herd Lake Patrol to read his report.

Jerry Peak view of the Lost River Range, July 2017

Photo above was taken by Ian from Jerry Peak, looking at the Lost River Range, July 2017.


Working on the upper Middle Fork Trail, 2017

The Middle Fork Trail Crew worked with the Selway-Bitterroot-Frank Church Foundation on Marsh Creek and the Upper Middle Fork Trail. Photo below shows the crosscut saw work on a very large tree above Ramshorn Rapid and managed to keep it from rolling into the river.

2017 - Crosscut work on very large tree

They also moved some large rocks; before and after photos below.

2017 - Before  2017 - After

By early July, the Marsh Creek trail was clear to a half-mile below Big Hole. The Middle Fork Trail was clear from the high water section (a half-mile below Big Hole) to Dagger Falls and from Dagger Falls to one mile above Trail Flat. The trail above Dagger Falls was not recommended for stock at that time.

2017 Big Rock


Working in the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness, June 17, 2017

Pioneer Mountains from Toolbox Creek, June 2017

Wildflowers near Herd Peak, June 2017 Middle Fork Wilderness Ranger Ian Woodruff did a patrol from Toolbox Trailhead on Saturday. Ian constructed a water bar, collected GPS data, and visited with a hunter scouting for elk. Click Toolbox to Herd Creek to read his report.

Looking West on Trail #4015 toward Boulder Mtns, June 2017

Looking west on Trail #4015 toward the Boulder Mountains in the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness, June 17, 2017.



Crosscut Saw Training on Marsh Creek Trail, June 15

Crosscut saw training on Marsh Creek Trail, June 15, 2017

Above: Lynn, Raina, Dave, Bryan, Ian, Eric and Elise.

Below: Elise and Ian working the crosscut.

Crosscut saw work, June 15, 2017




Maintaining the Indian Creek Airstrip; clearing and repairing portions of the Middle Fork Trail #4001, May 2017

Grading the Indian Creek Airstrip, May 2017

Wilderness crews cleared trail from Meyers Cove to Indian Creek to bring stock in for airstrip maintenance and grading. Once they arrived at Indian Creek, they were joined by firefighters, river rangers and volunteer aviators to complete a variety of maintenance tasks in, on and around the airstrip.

The next project, repairing a failing section of the Middle Fork Trail near Lake Creek, was tackled by a six-person crew. Blasting was required before a rock wall could be constructed (see photo below).

Click Indian Creek Airstrip and Middle Fork Trail maintenance for the details about this complex, month-long hitch, the people and logistics involved.

Middle Fork Trail near Lake Creek, May 2017


Regulations and Hints for Hikers and Stock Users

  • Travel in small groups. The maximum group size is 20.
  • Stay on the trails; do not cut switchbacks.
  • Select campsites that are out of sight of, and at least 200 feet from, lakes, streams, trails. Along the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, this is not always possible due to topography. Campsites along the Middle Fork are assigned to boating parties, and hikers or stock users should expect to share sites in this heavily-used area.
  • Keep soap and detergent out of water sources (hot springs, lakes, streams, rivers). Use biodegradable soap and be careful it does not get into the water (use/dispose at least 200 feet from water).
  • Pack out all trash. Pick up any garbage left by others.
  • Fires: Within the Middle Fork’s ¼-mile Wild and Scenic River corridor, all fires must be contained within a fire pan and ashes must be packed out. Outside the river corridor, this is recommended, but not required.
  • Toilet talk: Within the Middle Fork’s ¼-mile Wild and Scenic River corridor, human waste must be packed out and urine should go in the river. Outside the river corridor, human waste should be packed out or buried, and urine should be kept well away from the camp or small water sources.
  • Do not build structures; hitching rails, bough beds, gear racks, etc.
  • Stock Users: All feed must be certified weed-seed weed-free, and should be fed to stock for several days prior to entering the National Forests.
  • Stock must be ridden or led, not permitted to run loose on trails.
  • Stock should not be tied to trees for more than an hour or two; use a highline system to avoid damage to roots and soil.
  • Before leaving an area where manure has accumulated, scatter it with a stick to speed up decomposition.

The open trails, roads and areas are identified on the District’s Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs), which are available at the local Forest Service offices and can be printed from the Maps & Publications page of the Salmon-Challis National Forest website.


To see notes and photos from previous years, visit the Trail Maintenance News from Previous Years page.


List of Trails Maintained in 2016

Annual Wilderness and Trails Reports: 2016 2015 2014

Trail Work done in: 2013  2012   2011