Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness
The largest wilderness area in the continental United States. Over 2.3 million acres in size, the heart of Central Idaho is a land of topographical extremes and wild rivers. Backpacking this unique landscape is for the brave few who are insane enough to make it this deep into the wilderness. Few trails exist and trail maintenance is hit and miss. Huge wildfires are left to burn and earthquakes are not uncommon. Hundreds of acres of blowdowns and burnt forest make the trail conditions ever changing. It is highly recommended to carry a GPS beacon of some sort.
Following the Middle Fork of the Salmon River
The river lies as the centerpiece of this wilderness area. Highly popular with whitewater rafters and kayakers, the Idaho Centennial Trail follows the middle fork for three days. During this section, trail maintenance is common and there are ample opportunities for interaction with rafters. Trail magic is not uncommon and the atmosphere of this part of trail stands in contrast to the rest of the Idaho Centennial Trail.
This section is historically the area where attrition on the Idaho Centennial Trail begins. The trail follows Marble Creek up-stream, away from the Salmon River and into the rugged interior of the Frank Church Wilderness. Recent years have seen more trail crews attempt to open the route but hard winters and its remote location makes for intense bushwacking. Hikers will have to cross the stream at least 34 times in the course of 20 miles.
Thick brush and steep canyon walls make hiking slow going for many miles. It is easier to stay in the water than to use dry land. Large amounts of beaver create flooded ponds and increase the hiking difficulty.
Perhaps the best example of what makes the Idaho Centennial Trail one of the world’s premier backpacking experiences. 360-degree views present themselves as the hike crosses through the center of the wilderness. Mountains stretch like angry waves to the horizon. Steep-sided mountains stretching over 6,000 feet high make it is easy to see why this region of America has been undeveloped since the beginning of time. There is no cell-phone reception, power lines, or roads as far as the eye can see. A true remote experience.
Re-Supply For the Idaho Centennial Trail
The remote location of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness makes resupply a different challenge than most long-distance hiking trails. Different but not necessarily hard. The USPS flies mail into ranches once a week during the summer months.
- Campbells Ferry, Idaho
A private ranch located in the Salmon River Canyon. Friendly to hikers, this is the recommended resupply location. Mailing a package is easy. You can contact the Cascade, Idaho post office for address and timetables.
Wild West Trail Notes
The Frank Church Wilderness is a land of extremes. Resupply is easier than you think and trail conditions range from maintained pack trails to absolutely nothing. Overall, compared to the rest of the state, the hiking in the Frank is relatively easy. The views are spectacular and the few people you will run across in the wilderness are extraordinarily friendly.
!Big Creek Warning!
There is a river named Big Creek. Crossing it is extremely dangerous and not recommended for solo-hikers or people who are on the shorter side of height. Take the alternate route which leads to a bridge. Even if you are in a group, if you are hitting the stream during the spring when waters are high, be extremely careful.