Great late spring hike with abundant wildflowers, pretty creek views, and some interesting history
Distance: 8.5 miles roundtrip to Obia Cabin
Type: out and back
Difficulty: moderate with 700′ elevation gain
Best season: late spring – early summer *watch for ticks!
By May, the weather in the Inland Northwest is typically gorgeous and we are ready to really amp up our hiking schedule. The problem is, most everything in the mountains is still snowed in. We are always seeking out lower elevation trails that can get us into the timberline as soon as possible after a long winter. Fish Creek is a great option and one that we’ve hiked three different times over the years.
Fish Creek, a tributary of Idaho’s wild and scenic Lochsa River, is one of the few trails off the Lochsa that doesn’t gain significant elevation. As such, it is one of the first trails in the Clearwater National Forest to be snow free each spring. It is also one of the few trails in the Clearwater to be accessed off a paved highway, another huge benefit for accessibility.
For history buffs, there is also some nice history associated with this trail. The trail leads to historic Obia Cabin at the confluence of Fish and Hungery creeks. This cabin was built in 1935 and has served many groups over the years. More significantly, this is Lewis and Clark country. The expedition camped up Hungery Creek during their nearly devastating Bitterroot Mountains crossing in September 1805. Lewis described this area as “the most horrible mountains”. The terrain was exceptionally difficult to navigate and early season snows buried the high country forcing game to lower elevations. The party was starving. On the night of September 18th, Clark proceeded ahead of the main party with six hunters in a desperate attempt to find deer or elk. They saw no signs of game and spent a night camped on a creek with nothing to eat. They named the creek Hungery Creek (Clark’s spelling included the “e”).
Fish Creek Trail #2240 starts at a well-marked trailhead off scenic highway 12 along the Lochsa River.
The trail stays in view of Fish Creek for much of the hike with the most scenic viewpoints coming in the first mile. The creek flows are especially impressive in late spring as the snow melt reaches its peak.
There is one small creek crossing early on that you have to rock hop. Even in the wet spring season, this is an easy crossing.
At three miles the trail crosses Willow Creek, a major tributary of Fish. The Forest Service has constructed an impressive footbridge here using a large boulder as the primary support.
Obia Cabin is reached at 4.5 miles from the trailhead. There is a nice grassy area around the cabin that would make a fine resting spot, but we like to continue a few yards further and cross the sturdy bridge over Hungery Creek. Just on the other side of the creek are some large flat rocks that make an excellent waterfront recliner. Hungery Creek joins Fish creek a short distance past the bridge.
For all three of our visits to Fish Creek, the trail was in excellent condition and we’ve been grateful for the impressive bridges over Willow and Hungery creeks. May is a great time to visit when there are a multitude of wildflowers in bloom. Most striking are the white and purple trillium which we have seen in more abundance on this trail than any other.
If you hike this trail in mid-late spring, be advised that you will encounter ticks—and likely more than just a couple. On each of our hikes, we’ve been plagued by the blood sucking ectoparasites. I recommend wearing light colored clothing, tucking your pants into your socks, and carefully searching yourself at the end of your hike. Each of our hikes has ended with the discovery of multiple ticks on each of us. If you catch them early, they are easy to remove.
Directions to the trailhead: heading east from Kooskia, Idaho on highway 12, travel 24 miles to the confluence of the Selway and Lochsa Rivers. Continue along highway 12 to between milepost 120-121. Turn left onto signed Fish Creek Road and travel one mile to the trailhead at the end of the road. A pit toilet is available here.
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3 Replies to “North Central Idaho’s Fish Creek”
I loved all the pictures except the TICK! Beautiful scenery!
Thanks for this detailed report! It has inspired us to go with our teens camping in this area. So helpful to have such complete information and beautiful photos.
Thank you Melissa and have a wonderful trip!