Scurvy Mountain Lookout


Forest Service Trail #524

Why? For the views

Season: July through September.

Ease: Strenuous. It’s 3.8 miles and about 2,000 feet uphill.

If you’re going to hike up to a lookout in the North Fork Clearwater area, hike to the one at Scurvy Mountain. Though the trail is open to motors and you might not be alone if you hike it on a weekend, the views are well worth the possibility of dust and company.

It’s probably no surprise that there are views in all directions, cause that’s what lookouts are for, so to speak. The most immediate is to the north, of the Moose Creek Buttes and Moose Mountain. They sit just 3 or so miles away across Kelly Creek and are definitely in your face. From afar, they have a pink cast. Up close, it’s more varied, with a coral tan the most predominate. Whatever the color, they’re the only things around of that shade, plus they’re as rugged and steep as all get out.

If you rotate counterclockwise, you’ll note the sloped peaks between Moose and Pot Mountain, one of which surely is Cold Springs Peak. Pot is all granitey, and the Junction Mountain lookout is on a direct line between it and Scurvy. Oddly, from here Pot doesn’t look as big as it usually does, probably because Moose is so much closer.

As you look southwest, Cook and then Lookout Mountains come into view. And in the distance beyond them, somewhat of a surprise for me: Chimney Peak and the Selway Crags. I don’t know why I was surprised to see them since they’re visible from most all high spots around, but I was.

To the southeast, there’s Grave Peak with its old lookout. Closer to hand, there’s Toboggan Hill and its ridge – an undulating hump of forest green. Beyond Grave there are a few of the bare peaks of the Bitterroot Divide, then a lot of green as you look more toward the east, until you see Shale Mountain and Rhodes Peak on the Bitterroot Divide.

For those who are as fond of the hike up Kelly Creek as I am, you can trace the creek’s path below the ridges and see the divides that separate it into its various sources. Kelly’s Thumb is obvious, marking the confluence of Bear and Kelly Creek.

And for sure, no matter which way you look, there are a lot of green treed acres in the foreground.

Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of views on the hike up. As a substitute on the day I hiked, the dusty roadbed that’s the trail was a perfect medium for prints. It provided definite proof of multiple use: four-wheelers, bikes, boots, moose, elk, deer, a variety of rodents down to those with prints of less than ½ inch, birds, and a small feline. I learned later that the crew working on the lookout had been there just the previous week – hence the four-wheeler tracks and huge amount of dust.

The only disappointment of whole hike for me was that I couldn’t see Paradise: Paradise Meadows to the southwest of Scurvy, a spot I saw and loved when I hiked the Junction Mountain Circle (hike 24).

Name Note: Scurvy Mountain, Creek, Lake and Saddle are named for an incident that occurred in the area in 1907. Two men who lived in the area are believed to have died from scurvy.

Directions: Drive the 250 Road up the North Fork Clearwater River to Kelly Forks, then stay straight along Kelly Creek on the 255 Road. Turn right at the old Kelly Work Center on the 581 Road. Drive 4.3 miles past the bridge over Kelly Creek to East Saddle. The trailhead is clearly marked on the right.

Information: North Fork Ranger District, CWNF, (208) 476 4541

Maps: USGS Scurvy Mountain and Gorman Hill, Idaho. Be sure to take a CWNF map if you want to identify what you see. Even if you don’t, you’ll appreciate the neat stuff you see anyway.