On the edge of “Hell”: Rapid River Wild and Scenic River and Trail

The nationally designated wild and scenic, Rapid river, flows out of one of Idaho, U.S.A’s most impressive wilderness mountain ranges, the Seven Devils. Once the edge of the Pacific ocean, these ancient mountains now sit high above the Pacific Northwest river country they surround. The highest peaks tower nearly 10,000 feet above the Hells Canyon, of the Snake river on its West side, and nearly as high above the Salmon river(s) on its East side. Spring is arguably the best time of year, in the mountains of West Central Idaho to enjoy the Rapid River trail. It is a special treat for us folk up in McCall at 5000 ft., still thawing out from winter. It is a short 45 minute drive to the trail head from McCall, and more than 2000 feet below. The trails surrounding McCall, in the Salmon River mountains are still locked in snow, so one needs to drop down a few thousand feet, into the deep canyons below in the Salmon river country, to get out of the snow, and mud, where you will find spring in full effect. The South facing higher terrain is generally snow free in Spring as well. The Rapid River trail is just up canyon from the Little Salmon, and main Salmon rivers, near Idaho’s “white water capitol” town, of Riggins. The lower trail is well maintained, and includes impressive river, and ancient glacial carved canyon walls, a beautiful mix of wildflowers, and plenty of interesting insects, arachnids, mammals, amphibians, fish, and birds. It also has a little known, or used, upper trail section, that forms the Rapid River Trail Loop, and offers up a real challenge for advanced hikers. Orienteering skills are a must, the trail is non-existent in sections, being over-taken by the elk, deer, and cows up there, and water is sparse up high. Despite the challenges, it was a pleasure completing the 15+ mile loop last week, and my legs are still reminding  me of the good times.

 

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