Crooked River Trail
- Distance: 10.6 miles out-and-back
- Total Elevation Gain: 1,000 feet
- Difficulty: Strenuous
- Elevation Range: 4,800 feet to 5,050 feet
- Topographic Map: Bear River
- Time: 3 hours 30 minutes to 5 hours
- Season: June through mid-November
- Water Availability: Crooked River, several side streams
- Cautionary Advice: None
- Information: Boise National Forest, Idaho City Ranger District (208) 392-6681
- Restroom: No. One is available at the Edna Creek
- Campground at the intersection of Hwy. 21 and FR 384.
- Coordinates: Trailhead: 43d 57’ 31” N 115d 36’ 33” W
This hike is posted by the suggested month to go on from Scott Marchant’s 2016 Idaho Wilderness Calender. This is just a general guideline however as many of the hikes can be utilized outside of the specific month.
If beautiful rock outcroppings, tranquil views, dark forest, wildflowers and a boulder-lined river is your reality check, look no further than the Crooked River. Until 2009, before a bridge was constructed, hikers had to ford the river about a mile into the hike. This ford was dangerous until midsummer, and by this time many hikers bypassed this jewel for the high country. The new bridge has given hikers early season access to many miles of the Crooked River.
There are a multitude of fine destinations along the river’s banks. Car-sized boulders create a number of crystal-clear swimming holes and fine perches to bask in the sun. The further you venture down the river, the more frequent you encounter white, sandy beaches. Along much of the route, you will find
towering rock formations and dark gray canyon walls contrasting with the translucent water and green forest. Most hikers and anglers stop within the first two miles; those who venture further will find solitude. Fishing is excellent for cutthroat, brook, rainbow and even the endangered brook trout. Backpackers will find many fabulous settings to pitch a tent, especially at 3.7 and 5.3 miles. The first few miles of trail are generally flat and travel through lodgepole pine forest. The lower sections cross many ridges which add to the elevation gain. Tree cover is mainly Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine. As you venture further south, the canyon walls are occasionally marred with gray snags from fires in the 1990’s. Don’t hesitate though; this is rugged, lonely and inspiring country
From Idaho City, drive north on Hwy. 21 for 17.5 miles and turn right onto FR 384. Drive 1.1 miles on the dirt road, passing the Edna Creek
Campground, and look to your right for the signed trailhead. Parking is available along the road in several pullouts. Excellent camping is available at the Edna Creek Campground (nine sites) or further up FR 384 where you will find several dispersed sites next to the Crooked River.
The hike starts on the west side of the river in dense forest. At 0.4 mile, you reach a signed junction with the Lamar Creek Trail. Continue straight and cross Lamar Creek where an overused campsite is found. Hillside granite formations add to the trail’s allure at 1.0 mile. At 1.3 miles, cross the new bridge to the east side of the river. The bridge crossing is a great destination and turnaround spot for those with young children or who are out for a shorter hike.
Beyond the bridge, the canyon narrows and can be magical if you can hike here when the morning sun creeps over the high ridge. Continue south and reach a 15 foot white sandy beach at 2.0 miles. The route continues south along the riverbank. You soon pass a few sections of burned forest and arrive at a flat area with another sandy beach at 3.7 miles. This is a good choice for overnighters and a great turnaround spot for a 7.4 mile hike. Beyond this point, the route is more rugged and the up-and-down fluctuations of the trail increases its difficulty.
The trail rises again through partially burned forest. The canyon walls are steeper here and the views up and down river are certainly memorable. Continue south on the narrow trail and at 4.5 miles pass above a sharp bend in the river which is bordered on both sides by white sandy beaches. Continue over another ridge, gaining 150 feet, and drop to Sunset Creek (the creek meets with the Crooked River from the west side of the river) at 5.3 miles. Ponderosa pines and a wide creek bank make this a fine destination for a backpack trip. Beyond this point, the trail continues on to FS Road 327, but lack of maintenance makes it difficult to follow.