A Salmon RIver Explotation Loop
I had been eyeing this route through the Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness as expansive tour of the mountain ridge of Hunchback Mountain and Devils Peak and the the Salmon River.
In total it ended up being just under 40 miles and 5600 feet of elevation gain along trails, some pavement and dirt forest service roads, and a short stretch of challenging (thick with brush) off-trail travel. Starting from the Hunchback Mountain Trailhead behind the Zig Zag Ranger Station, which rises almost 2000 feet in the two miles to some great viewpoints along the ridgeline.
There’s another 1300 feet to gain until Hunchback Mountain at around 4.9 miles and more and more ridgeline until the forest opens at the Devils Peak Fire Lookout at 5036 and about 8 miles. It’s great to not have to out and back the ridgeline, and having made nearly all the elevation gains for the day, I began the descent down to Forest Road 2613 where the trailhead above Kinzel Lake begins. The forest road here hugs just below the ridgeline, rising, then descending, then rising around Wolf Camp Butte before dropping back down to the Veda Lake Trailhead. South of the trail there, the Dry Fir trail begins in the old campground and switchbacks downhill.
Seeing the transition from the more lush forest closer to rhododendron to the drier and rockier forest south here was interesting. Just before the trail connected with Road, I cut directly south, following Fir Tree Creek through dense undergrowth of Rhododendrons, weaving about for my slowest 0.6 of a mile till I emerged onto the Salmon River trail right where the Dry Fir Trail splits off. From here the rest of my journey would follow the course of the Salmon River. The upper extents of the trail are more remote, and there was a copious amount of blowdown to crawl over out here, but the popular lower reaches of the trail were clear. There are some great camping spots along the river and great open views on the meadows up above the river. When I arrived at the Salmon River West Trailhead I continued on the Old Salmon River Trail as it paralleled the road north, then 2.7 miles on East Salmon River Road before a short leg along 26 to return back to the Zig Zag Ranger Station. A great run, this route could also be a fun 2-3 day backpacking route.