Best Hikes in Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests (ID)

Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests Overview

Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests is located in central Idaho near the Montana state line. It is bordered by Payette National Forest to the south and the Idaho Panhandle National Forests to the north. Originally established as two separate forests, the Nez Perce National Forest and the Clearwater National Forest were administratively combined in 2012. The Forest is best known for its wild character; nearly half of the Forest is designated wilderness. Most of the trails in the forest are extremely remote and do not receive many visitors. The best hikes in Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests described below are still pretty secluded but get a little more foot traffic.

Nearest Metro AreaMissoula, MT
Area Size3,905,654 acres
EstablishedJuly 1, 1908
Hiking Trails2,000+ miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests

(*** = best hikes in Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests)

Crystal Lake Trail #299 – 13.6 miles out and back

From the trailhead at Wildhorse campground, the trail heads west, gaining 900 feet in its first 1.5 miles, then continues west along a ridge to just below North Pole. From North Pole the trail switchbacks steeply down to a mine ruin and into a small valley. It crosses a ridge and drops into a large cirque basin dominated by Crystal Lake. Continuing south around the lake, the main trail climbs out of the basin for one mile, at first steeply and finally leveling out. At mile 6, the trail passes Hump Lake, nestled below Buffalo Hump. This is the highest peak in the Red River District with an elevation of 8938 feet. The trail ends on the south end of Hump Lake at its junction with Hump Trail #313.

Elk Creek Falls National Recreation Trail*** – 2.4 miles out and back
upper falls
Upper Falls, Photo by Amy Ross

Just 50 miles east of Moscow, Idaho, visitors will find The Elk Creek Falls Recreation Area, home to the Elk Creek Falls National Recreation Trail, possessing the tallest waterfall in the state of Idaho. Three separate waterfalls totaling over 140 feet carve a beautiful canyon filled with mesmerizing columnar basaltic formations

Warm Springs Trail to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs – 3.0 miles out and back
Pool, Photo by Amy Ross

This area is known for its panoramic views of the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness and spectacular wildflower displays, and is a perfect spot for horseback riding, hiking and hot spring enjoyment. 

Featured Image: Lochsa River in Clearwater National Forest, Photo by Forest Service Northern Region

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