Upper Basin Interpretive Trail


Forest Service Trail #747

Why? Easy loop trail with a fine meadow.

Season: Mid-June through October

Ease: Easy to moderate. It’s 4+ miles with a 400-foot elevation change for the loop.

The direction you head when you hike this trail might well depend on whether you’re the kind of person who likes to eat dessert last or eat it first. The dessert, or what I think is the best part of the hike, is a large open meadow that sits in the headwaters of the West Fork of Elk Creek. It’s a symphony in greens with a meandering creek – a perfect setting for deer or elk. I’ve not seen either in the meadow, but then I’ve never really hiked it at the right time of day.

If you hike counter-clockwise, you get dessert first. If you hike clockwise, as I did, it comes near the end. Either way starts on an old railroad grade, and either way you’ll find largely gentle grades throughout.

Heading clockwise, the sides of the trail are tree lined. Early in the season, you can expect the ground below the trees to be sprinkled with anemones, trillium, yellow violets and sunlight. I also found fresh deer tracks, hoping for but not seeing the animal that made them.

Once the trail leaves the old railroad grade and narrows, it travels along the sunny side of a hill, above the 382 Road the trailhead is on, then crosses a shady cedar saddle with a trail sign. While the day I hiked wasn’t hot, it was still warm enough for me to appreciate this cool spot. On other trails, especially exposed ones on hot days, these areas are true lifesavers. They feel many degrees cooler than their surrounds, probably for the same reason there’s no underbrush to speak of in a cedar woods: essentially no sunlight reaches the ground.

The trail totals about 3 miles along the hillside, including the saddle. At points there are views of the small, forested mountains near Elk River and the forested valleys between the trail and them. Then the trail reaches the meadow.

This is definitely a good place for children to hike, especially if you’re planning an out and back hike from the other direction. The grade is gentle both in the meadow and between it and the mile or so to the trailhead, and there were plenty of other flowers to see besides those mentioned above. If you get there early, maybe you’ll catch the deer that made those tracks.

There is a handout about this trail that’s available at the trailhead. It tells a bit of the logging history of the area and makes a good hiking companion for the trail.

Directions: Continue on Highway 8 past Deary and Bovil toward the town of Elk River. When you reach Elk River, go straight instead of right when the highway turns toward Huckleberry Heaven. When this road dead-ends one block later, turn left onto Road 1705. Road 382 is the left fork 0.6 miles later, and the trail is signed on the left 7.8 miles from there. There is a small camping spot at the trailhead, but no water except for the creek.

Information: Palouse Ranger District, CWNF, (208) 875-1131

Maps: This trail is not yet on USGS maps but it is on the CWNF visitor map.