Recreation

Photo taking while looking down the canyon through the arch.

The Salmon-Challis National Forest is a land of rugged mountains split by untamed rivers. Escape into the backcountry in the Lemhi, Bitterroot, Pioneer, or Lost River Mountain Ranges. Visit the Bighorn Crags within the legendary Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness and see a fantastic collection of granite peaks and alpine lakes. Raft the Wild & Scenic Rivers. Climb Idaho’s highest peak, Mount Borah. Relax at one of our campgrounds, or fish for trout or steelhead in our many lakes and streams. Enjoy miles of scenery while driving along Scenic Byways.


The forest is rich with America’s heritage. Historic cabins, ranger stations, lookouts, mining ghost towns, and the Lewis & Clark and the Nez Perce National Historic Trails link today’s visitor with the past. Visit the ghost town of Custer and tour the Yankee Fork Gold Dredge while travelling the Custer Motorway. Visit the Mackay Mine Hill to see a glimpse of the area’s copper mining legacy.

For more information about recreation activities, select one of the AREAS (divided into six Ranger Districts), or one of the RECREATION ACTIVITIES you want to do from the tool bar on the left, then view the opportunities within each of the Districts.

Heading out to go camping this weekend?

Thousands of bears live in our forests and mountains.

Hot Springs:  The Salmon-Challis National Forest has many hotspring across the Forest.  The water and pools associated with the springs may be near or above the boiling temperature and can cause severe, possibly even fatal, burns.  PLEASE BE CAUTIOUS AND TEST THE WATER TEMPERATURE BEFORE YOU ENTER!!

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information

Recreation Conditions Report

 Area Name Status Area Conditions
Challis-Yankee Fork Ranger District Open to Visitor Office hours: Monday-Friday, 8 am to 4:30 pm
Leadore Ranger District Open to Visitor Office hours: Monday-Friday, 8 am to 4:30 pm.
Lost River Ranger District Open to Visitor Office hours: Monday-Friday, 8 am to 4:30 pm.
Middle Fork Ranger District Open to Visitor Office hours: Mon-Fri, 8 am to 4:30 pm
Middle Fork of the Salmon River   
North Fork Ranger District Open to Visitor Office hours: Monday-Friday, 8 am to 4:30 pm.

Spotlights

Middle Fork of the Salmon River

Welcome to the remote and rugged mountains and rivers of Central Idaho. Each year, approximately 10,000 people float the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. The Middle Fork is a 104-mile free-flowing river in the heart of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, originating 20 miles northwest of Stanley, Idaho, at the confluence of Bear Valley and Marsh Creeks.

It was one of the original eight rivers in the nation designated as Wild and Scenic on October 2, 1968. The river moves through a variety of climates and land types; from alpine forest to high mountain desert to sheer, rock-walled canyon, the third deepest in North America.

The Middle Fork is administered under a permit system to protect it from excessive human impacts. Part of that protection asks you, the user, to learn and practice Leave No Trace ethics. Because of its remote location, man's presence in the area was somewhat limited, leaving it in the condition we see today.

Only a few trails, landing strips, private ranches and Forest Service stations are evidence of man's intrusion. The Middle Fork is now an internationally recognized whitewater/wilderness float trip, known for its scenic beauty and crystal clear whitewater. It is a non-motorized floating experience with many technical rapids. These class III and IV+ rapids offer boating excitement for both families and experienced adventurers.

Hiking from the river campsites offers a taste of the wilderness experience and visitors may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of how past inhabitants lived.

The Middle Fork of the Salmon River is usually not floated November 1 to March 31 due to winter conditions, low water levels and access difficulties. Ice and snow bridges are to be expected on the river and its tributaries during this time.

In the spring, road access to the Middle Fork is usually limited by snowdrifts and trees across the road. Depending on the amount of snow, spring weather and temperatures, the road to Boundary Creek may not open until sometime in mid-June. High water levels are also a concern once the runoff begins.

Areas & Activities
Middle Fork Trail Management Zones

Middle Fork District Trails & Recreation by Area Link opens in a new window