Wheelbarrow Mine Trail


Forest Service Trail #215

Why? Close to home, with history and some nice views

Season: June through October.

Ease: Moderate. It’s about 4 miles to Hoteling Creek, with about 1,000 feet of elevation gain and some loss.

If you like a bit of history with your hikes and don’t want to travel far from home, then this is a good trail for you. It’s a surprisingly nice hike, especially the first 2 miles or so.

Those first 2 miles are mostly the width of a narrow road, making it a good place to walk if you’re with someone you want to chat with. They travel some nice sections of woods, with cedar and fir predominating above and thimbleberry below. In the open, logged-over areas there are brief views, including an unusual one of Kamiak Butte. It’s from end-on rather than the side, and makes the butte look more like a mountain peak than a butte.

Note the dirt pile on the right shortly before this trail junctions with trail #763, an alternate but somewhat less pleasant route up to this point. It’s mine debris, presumably close to the site of the Wheelbarrow Mine.

A second open area on a long, steep uphill is a good spot for enjoying views of Mary Minerva McCrosky Park, Steptoe Butte and a large chunk of the Palouse.

Unfortunately, a major portion of the rest of roughly 4 miles of trail is thinly disguised as gravel road. There are some good views east and north, of Bald and Little Bald Mountains and even all the way to the Freezeout area near Clarkia. I’m sure that one of the lighter colored peaks must be Lookout Mountain, one of my favorite hiking destinations, but
the viewing angle is different, making it hard to be sure.
In between the trail and the distant vistas, there’s a lot of the Palouse district of the Clearwater National Forest on view.

I’ve walked this trail as far as the trail down Hoteling Creek, which is about where it ends. A quick check a short way down that trail revealed large cedar, suggesting that it might be worth hiking one day. Unfortunately, the other end of that trail is hard to find.

Note: According to Idaho Place Names, Hoteling Creek was named for a prospector who made a gold discovery in Hoodoo Gulch in 1860, before the Orofino strike. He prospected in various locations until 1863, when he left the area for newer strikes. Gold Hill was named after the obvious.

Trail Notes: After the steep uphill, trail #215 comes out on road which appears to go either right or sort of straight on. Go straight. The trail almost immediately heads off to the right through the trees and up another steep section. Go left when that trail ends on a road. When you come to another junction with roads left and right and a wide trail up the hill in the middle, take the left. You’ll again have views to Freezeout from this road. Stay on it until you find another real trail, not a road. It will be on the right on a curve, after a longish downhill. The trail sign for Hoteling Ck. is about 100 yards up that trail, leaning against a snag.

Directions: Turn left off Highway 8 just before the town of Potlatch and onto the road to Onaway. Go straight through Onaway. The road changes to gravel in 2.3 miles. Turn right 1.3 miles later on Road 770. The #763 trail up East Fork Creek is 4.5 miles later on the right, with a sign for Road 3289.
When the 770 Road forks 3.3 miles later, stay right on Road 370, Big Creek Road. The trailhead for the Wheelbarrow Mine Trail, #215, is on the right 0.3 miles later, with a sign that was flat on the ground when I hiked it.

The #215 trail also is accessible from the 788E Road, near its junction with the trail up Hoteling Creek.

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

Maps: USGS Sanders and Princeton, Idaho; Recreation on the Palouse from the Forest Service.

Connection: Trail #763 begins at the gated Road 3289. Take the right fork after you pass the Gold Hill Mining Association sign. The lower end of this trail is the nicest, with cedar along the East Fork of Gold Creek. It’s heavily shaded, as cedar woods tend to be, and largely devoid of understory. There were more ruts on this trail, indicating more wheeled vehicle use it than #215. It’s 2 miles up this trail to its junction with #215 at the Lost Wheelbarrow Mine.