After crossing the Magruder Corridor, the trail conditions only deteriorate. At first, the trail follows forest service roads on the western edge of the wilderness area. Once the hike leaves the dirt roads, the trail all but disappears. Be prepared for bushwacking through blowdowns, beaver dams, and brush. What makes this section more difficult than any previous segment is the steep terrain. Bushwacking up-hill becomes an everyday occurrence.
The trail around this part is actually well maintained but it’s not due to the forest service. An outfitter runs hunting services in this section of the forest and clear swaths of the Idaho Centennial Trail. There is also a hot spring less than a mile from the initial ascent of Patrol Ridge, the trail is of course cleared. Enjoy spectacular views thanks to recent forest fires clearing most of the trees from the ridgeline.
A meadow/valley that looks relatively short and flat on the topo map. BEWARE. Thousands of blowdowns make this section one of the toughest in Idaho. Forward progress demands climbing over and under trees for miles on end. Beaver dams flood any flat areas of the trail which makes finding solid footing nearly impossible. I fell into ponds multiple times. The trail itself is almost nonexistent and it’s better to follow the map than to look for a hiking path.
The bushwacking only gets worse. After bushwacking long prairie, you will have to bushwack up to Moose Ridge. Once on top, the bushwack continues. Blowdowns, brush, and recent fire scars make this section exhausting and tedious. There are insane views of the Bitterroot Mountains and once you get on top, it makes it all worth it.
Old Growth Cedar Tree Grove
Leaving the Moose Creek Ranger station behind, the trail slowly descends into a bushwack once more. Almost immediately upon crossing the Selway River, the ecosystem begins to change from a dry, Lodge Pole Pine dominated climate to a wetter Fir and Cedar tree landscape. In this section, the trail traverses an ancient Cedar Grove with trees over 500 years old. Spared from logging operations and forest fires, these giants make up one of the most special places in Idaho.
Wild West Trail Notes
Backpacking the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness is perhaps the hardest section of hiking on the Idaho Centennial Trail. The terrible trail conditions combined with the exhaustion from completing the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness turn this segment into more of a march than a hike. When I hiked it, I didn’t have a resupply until the other side of the Wilderness. However, if you can get a hold of the Forest Service and organize a resupply at Moose Creek Ranger Station, I would recommend it.
When you are in doubt, keep pushing forward. There will be small sections of trail to find. If not, know you are not lost. Large mountain ranges and rivers will keep you walking in the right direction.
Tip: Look for Morel Mushrooms in recent burn areas. They are quite common during the month of June.