Giant White Pine


Forest Service Trails #224, #224A and #224B

Why? Pleasant woods hike close to home

Season: Year-round if you also snowshoe

Ease: Easy to moderate, with about 600 feet of elevation gain over the 3 miles of trail in the “circle,” and the same amount of loss

Although there are about 30 miles of hiking trails at or near Giant White Pine, it’s fair to say that most of us hike only the 3-mile circle out of the parking lot. That’s certainly true for me, and it’s always been worth the drive. Those 3 miles make a good short outing with some aerobic aspects, plus the wildflowers and mushrooms, in season, always delight.

My favorite place at Giant White Pine is about 1-1/2 miles in, by Meadow Creek on trail #224B. It's an area that's been left to nature. There are many downed trees in many stages of decomposition. As you walk in and among them you feel a sense of how the forest works, that trees have functions after they die. I like the almost level, log-shaped mounds formed by trees that are now essentially earth.

Though you will be aware you're not in an old growth forest and that the area has been used for timber, you'll still feel like you're in the woods. There are a good many large old cedar, larch, hemlock, pine and fir scattered among the younger trees, either singly or in groups. There's also the Giant White Pine.

When I first hiked this trail, the 400+ year-old giant white pine stood tall – 188 feet tall – and was 6 feet in diameter. Unfortunately, it later was discovered that the tree was dead. In order to prevent an inadvertent fall, the tree was cut down. The trail passes through a cut made in its trunk.

The trails at Giant White Pine provide more solitude and quiet than you might expect in an easy-to-reach area adjacent to a state highway. Foliage and duff absorb a lot of noise, so you don't hear other hikers or, most of the time, the traffic on the highway. And you can't see either because of underbrush and frequent turns in the trail.

However, Giant White Pine isn't a place for those who demand views, unless they are willing to hike another trail to the top of Bald or Sand Mountain. For the most part there are no scenic vistas, just glimpses of distant hills through the branches.

Directions: Drive 19 miles past Potlatch on State Highway 6, the White Pine Scenic Drive. The campground and trailhead are on the right. The latter has a map of the area hiking trails. Information: Palouse Ranger District, CWNF, (208) 875-1133.

Maps: USGS West Dennis, Idaho.

Connections: Trail #224 bisects the circle at the ridgeline and could be used to make a shorter circle hike. Trail #26 north to the North South ski area ends at the #224A trail on the ridgeline. The trail to Bald Mountain takes off along the East Fork Meadow Creek. It’s an uphill hike of 9 miles. However there are better ways to get to the top of Bald Mountain. Trail #319 from Laird Park is only 4 miles long. Or you can drive there on Forest Service roads.

If you cross the highway, you can pick up the 1 ½ mile connector to the Sampson Trail #221 that travels the ridge between Mannering and Blakes Fork Creeks. The connector is uphill, the Sampson relatively level. The Sampson connects to or is part of the cross country ski trails on that side of the highway, and much of it is in the open. Interestingly, it was the first attempt to maintain a large scale signed transport system in Idaho. It was built as an advertising medium by Charles Sampson, owner of a Boise music company, and by 1933 it stretched from Southern Idaho to the Canadian border, a distance of 2,000 miles or more.