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Salmon-Challis National Forest

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General Information

Description - The Salmon-Challis National Forest covers over 4.3 million acres, of which, about 1.3 million acres lies within the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. With its adjacent National Forests and Bureau of Land Management lands, the Salmon-Challis is part of a huge area of public and wild lands in central Idaho. Rugged and remote, this country offers adventure, solitude, and breathtaking scenery. Panoramic vistas highlight travel atop the Continental Divide; northwest-southeast trending mountain ranges culminate in the jagged heights of Mt. Borah, Idaho's tallest peak; the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork and Salmon Rivers plunge through the shadowy depths of immense canyons; and sagebrush slopes are blanketed with colorful displays of wildflowers in spring.

There are several scenic drives. On the Custer Motorway Loop #070 and State Hwy 75, you can explore the Salmon River Mountains and historic mining towns of Custer, Bayhorse, and Crystal. The Lewis and Clark Backcountry Byway and Adventure Road #185, takes you from Tendoy to the crest of the Continental Divide, with interpretive stops along the way. Starting at North Fork, Idaho, the Salmon River Road #030 winds along the scenic Salmon River.

Recreation - Camping is available in 34 developed campgrounds. Dispersed or backcountry camping is permitted in most areas of the Forest. Campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-served basis and can fill quickly on summer holiday weekends. There are also five A-frame and cabin rentals available on the Salmon-Challis. For cabin rentals, call (208) 756-5100.

The Salmon and Middle Fork Rivers are known as the "Whitewater Capital of the World". Trips can be arranged privately or through a liscenced outfitter.

2,054 miles of trails traverse the Forest, almost half of which are in Wilderness. Hiking season is usually between April and October, with elevations above 7,500 feet usually clear of snow by early July. Many non-wilderness trails are designated for motorized use.

Most streams and lakes on the Forest are home to trout. Mackay Reservoir offers good fishing for kokanee salmon.

Lost Trail Ski Area, located 46 miles north of Salmon, provides opportunities for downhill skiers and snowboarders. Williams Creek Summit offers 22 miles of moderate to difficult cross-country ski trails. Gentler groomed cross-country trails are located at Chief Joseph Pass, on the Idaho-Montana border. Groomed snowmobile trails are available on the Ridge Road to the Stanley-Landmark Snowmobile Trail system.

Climate - Weather on the Caribou National Forest varies with elevation. Summers tend to bring clear days, with afternoon thunderstorms possible. Daytime highs are normally warm to moderate, with relatively cool to cold nights, depending on elevation. Winter can bring cold temperatures with heavy snows, especially at the high elevations. Sunny days are common between winter storms.

Location - The Salmon-Challis is located in central and eastern Idaho. It stretches from the Beaverhead National Forest on the Montana border, westward to the Bitterroot, Payette, Boise and Sawtooth National Forests. The Forest Headquarters is located in the town of Salmon, with District Offices also in North Fork, Leadore, Challis, Mackay, and Clayton. U.S. Highway 93 and State Highways 75 and 28 provide the primary paved access through the area.

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More Information

Additional Information:
Central Idaho -
Idaho National Forests -

Challis National Forest - Official agency website.


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