Frank Church-River Of No Return Wilderness

Idaho, United States
 (3 votes, 3 reviews)
The Frank Church—River of No Return Wilderness Area is a protected wilderness area in Idaho. It was created in 1980 by the United States Congress and renamed in 1984 as the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area in honor of U.S. Senator Frank Church.
At 2.367 million acres (9,580 km2), it is the second largest protected wilderness in the contiguous United States, after Death Valley. The wilderness protects several mountain ranges, extensive wildlife, and a popular whitewater rafting river: the Salmon River.
Description
Together with the adjacent Gospel Hump Wilderness and surrounding unprotected roadless Forest Service land, it is the core of a 3.3 million acre (13,000 km²) roadless area. It is separated from the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, to the north, by a single dirt road (the Magruder Corridor). The wilderness contains parts of several mountain ranges, including the Salmon River Mountains, the Clearwater Mountains, and the Bighorn Crags. The ranges are split by steep canyons of the Middle and Main forks of the Salmon River. The Salmon River is a popular destination for whitewater rafting, and is colloquially known as the "River of No Return" for its swift current which makes upstream travel difficult. Most of the area is covered by coniferous forests, with dry, open land along the rivers at lower elevations.

While designation as a Wilderness Area in the United States generally requires the prohibition of any motorized machinery, the use of jetboats (On the Main Fork of the Salmon River) and several airstrips are permitted in this wilderness as grandfathered existing uses before the wilderness was designated.
Wildlife
Because of its size the wilderness area provides a secluded habitat for a wide variety of mammal species, including some rare, vulnerable species. The wilderness is inhabited by a large population of mountain lions and grey wolves that visit the area. Populations of black bears, as well as: lynx, coyote, and red fox are scattered throughout the area. Other observable ruminant wildlife within the wilderness include: bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elk, moose, mule deer, and white tail deer. While this area has been deemed as one of the few remaining areas in the contiguous states with suitable habitat for grizzly bears, no established populations are known to exist. The wilderness also offers some of the most critical habitat for wolverines in the lower 48 states.
Access
A network of 296 maintained trails (approximately 2,616 miles worth) provides access to this seemingly endless area, crossing rivers and streams on 114 bridges. This is a paradise for horsepackers. Thirty-two Forest Service Roads lead to 66 trailheads. Despite the extensive trail system, an amazing 1.5 million acres remains trail-free.

Trails

Summary
Difficulty
Distance
Pony Meadows-Bear Lake
ATV/High Clearance Vehicle Trip from Burgdorf, Idaho through Warren and Pony Meadows, to Bear Lake and return.
Easy
63 mi/
101 km
Warren - South Fork Salmon River - Pilot Peak Lookout, Idaho
ATV ride from Warren, Idaho to the Pilot Peak Lookout. Much of the ride is along the scenic S.F.of the Salmon River.
Easy
65 mi/
105 km
Smith Knob - Hettinger Ranch
From the Burgdorf, Idaho "Y" to Warren, Smith Knob, and then to the pictoglyphs on the South Fork of the Salmon River.
Easy
89 mi/
143 km
Loon Lake Loop
A popular hiking, mountain biking, horse backing, and dirt bike trail from Chinook Campground-Loon Lake-Ruby Meadows TH.
Moderate
29 mi/
47 km
Dredge Ponds
ATV ride from Burgdorf, Chimney Rock Rd., Schlissler Creek Trail, fording Warren Creek, and visiting the mining dredge.
Moderate
44 mi/
70 km
Guides
Pony Meadows-Bear Lake
Pony Meadows-Bear Lake
McCall, Idaho, United States
 
Easy: 63 miles, Full day
ATV/High Clearance Vehicle Trip from Burgdorf, Idaho through Warren and Pony Meadows, to Bear Lake and return.
Warren - South Fork Salmon River - Pilot Peak Lookout, Idaho
Easy: 65 miles, Full day
ATV ride from Warren, Idaho to the Pilot Peak Lookout. Much of the ride is along the scenic S.F.of the Salmon River.
Dredge Ponds
Dredge Ponds
Warren, Idaho, United States
 
Moderate: 44 miles, Full day
ATV ride from Burgdorf, Chimney Rock Rd., Schlissler Creek Trail, fording Warren Creek, and visiting the mining dredge.
Smith Knob - Hettinger Ranch
Smith Knob - Hettinger Ranch
Warren, Idaho, United States
 
Easy: 89 miles, Multiple days
From the Burgdorf, Idaho "Y" to Warren, Smith Knob, and then to the pictoglyphs on the South Fork of the Salmon River.
Loon Lake Loop
Loon Lake Loop
Burgdorf, Idaho, United States
 
Moderate: 29 miles, Full day
A popular hiking, mountain biking, horse backing, and dirt bike trail from Chinook Campground-Loon Lake-Ruby Meadows TH.
Community Trips
Ruby Meadows Video
Murder Cabin Photo
Murder Cabin Photo
RubyMeadows_0139.JPG Photo
Ruby Meadows
by bedobe on Jul 23, 2010
McCall, Idaho, United States
13.7 miles
So many times when I'm out exploring and come upon an old homestead or cabin I wonder:  Who lived here?  What brought them to this place?  Where did they go?  Why did they leave?   What happened to them?  What is their story?Many have passed by this old dilapidated cabin without so much as giving it a second thought or look.  I dare say many may not have even noticed its existence....
Cinnabar Mine  Photo
Cinnabar Mine Photo
Cinnabar Mine Photo
Cinnabar Mine Photo
Cinnabar Mine/Mill
by kennymill on Sep 03, 2011
Landmark, Idaho, United States
88 miles
The mine is approximately 14 miles east of Yellow Pine. This is welll worth the ride, but plan on spending a few hours there exploring. Most of the buildings are still there, some standing in a fashion and others collapsed. The old mill still stands but the roof structure is falling down all over. There are many, many Kodak shots, the possiblilty of getting that great photo is good odds here.Cinnabar was...
Trail head from camp Photo
Frank Church River of no Return Wilderness Area Photo
Frank Church River of no Return Wilderness Area Photo
Snowshoe Summit Photo
Lucky Lad Mine
by kennymill on Sep 02, 2011
Landmark, Idaho, United States
61 miles
The Lucky Lad Mine is within the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness area, but can be reached by the Artillery Dome road on an all-terrain vehicle. The mine is approximately 28 miles from Landmark, Idaho Two properties in the Pistol Creek Ridge area (the Lucky Lad Mine and the Cougar Mine) produced ore between 1935 and 1941. The mine straddles the border of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area, but the workings that produced ore are within...
South Fork Switchbacks Video
South Fork of the Salmon River Video
 Photo
 Photo
Big Creek
by Elindio42 on Sep 30, 2010
Warren, Idaho, United States
80 miles
Gary and I trailered our ATVs to Warren, Idaho, off-loaded, and headed for the South Fork of the Salmon River. We switch backed down to the South Fork and looked for a geocache near the Shiefer Campground on the South Fork. We did not find it. There was bear sign all over the campground area.We continued upriver, crossed Elk Creek, and Gary found a geocache near the Elk Creek Cemetery. Following Elk...
 Photo
 Photo
 Photo
 Photo
Cougar & Lucky Lad Mines
by Elindio42 on Jul 22, 2013
Cascade, Idaho, United States
69 miles
I departed camp on my ATV and the first stop was the road leading to the Burnt Log Trail Head. The road was logged up before the trail head.Continuing on, I headed for the Cougar and Lucky Lad Mines on the corridor through the Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness. On the way I could see the smoke from two forest fires in the wilderness.Arriving at the Cougar Mine, I...
 Photo
 Photo
 Photo
 Photo
War Eagle Lookout
by Elindio42 on Jul 25, 2010
McCall, Idaho, United States
44 miles
Gary, Chuck, Lanny, and I departed our camp at the Ruby Meadows Trail Head in the Payette National Forest near Burgdorf, Idaho. We traveled on the Warren Wagon Road to Grouse Creek Road and then to the War Eagle Lookout.In route to the lookout, a mule deer buck (a fork horn) was disturbed from his resting place in the road. A little further on, a blue grouse hen was observed in the...
Road Junction Photo
Warning Sign Photo
Mine building Photo
Mine tunnel entrance Photo
Pony Meadows-Bear Lake
by Elindio42 on Sep 23, 2010
Warren, Idaho, United States
63 miles
Gary and I trailered to the Burgdorf Campground to meet Chuck, but discovered he wasn't home. We unloaded our ATVs and drove through Warren, Idaho and turned right on the Pony Meadows Road.We passed a mine and some mining claims and Gary found a geocache at Keystone Meadows. Continuing on we went by Little Pony Meadows, Pony Meadows, and arrived at the Bear Lake and Steamboat Ridge Trail Head. At the trail...
Gold Fork-1.jpg Photo
Gold Fork-2.jpg Photo
Gold Fork-3.jpg Photo
Gold Fork-4.jpg Photo
Gold Fork Forest Fire Lookout
by gbraach on Jul 29, 2011
Cascade, Idaho, United States
23 miles
Spent a few days visiting forest fire lookouts.  The Gold Fork was first used as a lookout site beginning in the 1920's.  In 1955 a L-4 cab was constructed.  By 1988, the lookout had been dismantled and moved from the premises.  Today all that remains are the concrete foundations of the lookout and surrounding outbuildings.On my return trip I explored some of the side trails off of the main route into the...
Thunder Mountain Road Trailhead Photo
Trapper Creek Bridge Photo
 Photo
Trapper Creek - Upstream Photo
Riordan Lake
by Elindio42 on Jul 18, 2013
Cascade, Idaho, United States
53 miles
Buzz, on his FatCat, and I on my ATV, drove to Riordan Lake. The road/trail was almost clear, with only one tree down on the ATV trail (#097) near Riordan Lake. We cut it out of the way.The last part of the road leading down to the ATV trail is narrow, steep, and has some loose gravel in places. It might present a challenge for a full size vehicle.The road from the...
Stibnite Photo
Stibnite Photo
Stibnite Photo
Stibnite - Midas Gold Photo
Stibnite, Fern Mine, & Meadow Creek Lookout
by Elindio42 on Aug 03, 2013
Yellow Pine, Idaho, United States
77 miles
Departing camp, I traveled north along the scenic Johnson Creek to Yellow Pine, Idaho and then east following the equally scenic East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River.Arriving at the old Stibnite Mine, now being developed by Midas Gold, I took photos from the observation platform overlooking the "Glory Hole". Just east of the mine are informative signboards at the site of the abandoned town of Stibnite. About the...

Reviews
Elindio42
I have visited this area several times in the last three years. It is definitely back country and anything you need better come with you.

I always enjoy my visits, but I don't enjoy the smoke from the almost continual fires burning in the wilderness. Forest fires in the wilderness are allowed to burn themselves out which doesn't usually happen until snow falls in the winter.

An ATV is my choice of transportation to the area, but a good reliable 4X4 high clearance vehicle is suitable. A SPOT is a standard piece of equipment as cell phone service is non-existent.

Visited on Oct 07, 2012

by Elindio42 on Oct 22, 2012
kennymill
Beautiful views for as far as the eye can see.
Visited on Sep 03, 2011

by kennymill on Sep 10, 2011
Elindio42
Just getting to the trail heads is an adventure. The whole area is scenic and beautiful. You should be in a good, high clearance, preferably 4X4 vehicle and be prepared to deal with any unexpected or emergency situation. There will be no telephone service within 20 or 30 miles. A SPOT could be a life saver. The access to the trail heads will probably be from around July 1 until October 1 annually, depending on the snow. Check with the US Forest Service McCall,Idaho for road conditions before going. Have fun!
Visited on Sep 30, 2010

by Elindio42 on May 06, 2011

Who's Been There


Elindio42 is the Guru of Frank Church-River Of No Return Wilderness

EveryTrail Rangers

Favorite Destination

What people are saying...

Idaho, Frank Church-River Of No Return Wilderness, cottontail point, pictoglyphs, Wallis Cabin, South Fork Ranch, Shiefer Campground, Yellow Pine, Warren Summit, Warren Wagon Road, Ruby Meadows, South Fork Salmon River, Payette National Forest, Polaris 550 XP, ATV, landmark, Warren, johnson creek, Hettinger Ranch, Valley County

3 Day Forecast

Extended Forecast
How To Get There
Get directions from: