Wapshilla Ridge on Craig Mountain


Why? Great views, solitude

Season: June through October, give or take.

Ease: Moderate. It’s about 4 ½ miles till the trail starts to descend, with about 1,000 feet up and down each way.

I have very fine memories of my first hike out Wapshilla Ridge. I was pretty new to hiking, and definitely new to hiking alone. And hiking alone out that ridge really felt like alone to me.

I’d walked maybe 3 miles or a bit more. The views toward the Snake River and the Blue Mountains were wonderful. The wildflowers were great, fields of them. It was the first time I’d ever seen paintbrush in any color but red, and I saw a whole spectrum that day, from red to peach to yellow to almost white.

I came around the corner into a new side drainage and stopped. Below me was a black bear. Way below, admittedly. But a bear of any kind to a newly transplanted suburban lady is pretty exciting.

I watched that bear for 15 minutes, give or take, totally rooted to the ground. He wandered the drainage below, looking for I don't know what. Sometimes he stopped a bit, as though he'd found it.

He never knew I was there, so I assume his behavior was completely natural. And he didn't have to waste any energy running from a human.

I went back around the corner, figuring I’d hiked far enough that day. And that’s when I learned just how exciting an experience that bear had been. My heart was beating at way over normal speed. And my mouth was so dry I could have, as they say in old cowboy movies, spit dust.

Walking both ways, to and from the bear, I enjoyed the views. Of the breaks, the Blues, sometimes even the Snake River. On other hikes out the ridge, I’ve also been fortunate to see cactus in bloom. It’s a hike well worth the drive.

Name Note: Craig Mountain is named for Colonel William Craig, the first permanent white settler in Idaho. Wapshilla Creek was named for a Nez Perce family that lived on the creek for many years.

Trail Notes: The trail actually is an old road and easy to follow. It splits not far from the trailhead. The left fork heads down about 4 miles to the Salmon River along Wapshilla Creek and connects with the road along the river at Wapshilla Rapids. I’ve hiked both ends of this trail. The other end is off the road along the Salmon that’s reached from the Eagle Creek Road. The right fork is this trail. It spends most all its distance in the open and there’s no water available along the way.

Directions: Take the road to Waha. If you set your odometer to zero at the Lewiston Roundup Grounds (Ketch Pen entrance), go right at 14.1 miles in, when Flat Iron Road goes left. You'll be on County Road 540, and stay on it until you reach the Craig Mountain Area sign at Black Pine Corners, 19.6 miles in. The gravel road changes to dirt at 28.6 miles and is not maintained. Depending on the season, this may mean it’s only passable for 4-wheel-drive vehicles. At about 37 miles in, the road ends at a gate that’s the trailhead.

Information: Idaho Fish and Game in Lewiston, (208)-799-5010.

Maps: USGS Wapshilla Creek, Idaho.

Connections: As mentioned in the trail notes, you can hike down to the Salmon River – or up from it – on the trail along Wapshilla Creek.