Clarke Mountain


Forest Service Trail #601

Why? Arguably the best views of Pot Mountain

Season: July through September.

Ease: Strenuous. It’s 3.7 miles and about 3,000 feet uphill.

If you’ve got a lot of energy and are into checking out Pot Mountain, this is your trail. Though I’ve seen Pot from near and far too many times to count, until I saw it from Clarke, I hadn’t really anymore than seen that rocky massif and noted it.

Pot really is a lovely place, at least its southern exposure is. The dry rocky open buttresses that rise up out of the North Fork fade into acres and acres of green trees, broken only by huge rock outcrops and Jackknife Meadows. Trees surround the ridge that tops Pot, from Chateau Rock to Buckingham Point to the Pot Mountain peak itself. It’s really quite impressive and lovely, and I’m sure that anyone else who’s hiked that ridge as I have will especially appreciate seeing it in this way, in an overall perspective that’s not as up close and personal as when on that trail itself.

There also are nice views of neighboring Elk Mountain and of some of the Mallard Larkins peaks as well as down into the North Fork. However, the high country from northeast to east is hidden by Pot and Junction Mountains. When I hiked it, smoke also obscured any possible long views from the southeast to south. I have a feeling that the Selway Crags might usually be visible, but I can’t say for sure.

What else you see is largely green or formerly green. As you sweep the horizon, you’ll easily note the difference between recently used and not so recently used land. You’ll also note, if you didn’t realize it on the way up, that most of the land around here is very steep. Makes you wonder how trees ever get a roothold on bare soil here. Or why anyone sane would want to hike in the area.

Name Note: Clarke Mountain is named for Jimmy Clarke, a lookout here during the 1920s.

Trail Notes: The trail starts closer to the 250 Road along Orogrande Creek than the USGS map indicates. There’s a low rectangular cement structure at what I assume is the USGS map trailhead – it might be the water tank noted on that map.

The trail is pretty evenly graded until the last few yards up to the old lookout. It’s open to two wheeled vehicles.

Directions: Coming from Pierce on the 250 Road over French Mountain, take a left immediately before the bridge over Orogrande Creek, which is just before the road crosses the North Fork Clearwater River.

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

Map: USGS Clarke Mountain, Idaho.