West Ridge and Eureka Trails


Why? A variety of possible hikes offering views of Dworshak and the breaks south of the Clearwater River near Orofino.

Season: March through December usually is snow-free

Ease: Moderate to difficult.

I don’t know how a 3½ mile trail with no more than 1,000 feet in elevation gain can feel like hard work. I only know that the combination of the Eureka and West Ridge Trails surely felt that way the first time I hiked them. Of course, we did throw in an amazing downhill in the middle of the hike, about 1,200 feet in less than a mile – and we essentially hiked the trail both ways making it closer to 7 miles. Maybe that’s why.

The West and Eureka Ridge Trails provide for a variety of different hikes, even without the steep downhill. A through hike from east to west has very little total uphill, though there certainly are a few steep up sections. Hiking in the opposite direction gives you a decent workout with over 1,000 feet of total uphill, some of it a tad steep. But of course, through hikes require more than one car.

You also can choose an alternate route about 1¾ miles into the hike from the east, at the trail junction near the old quarry that was used for rock when Dworshak Dam was built. At that point, a left gives you the long hike, down to the road to Bruce’s Eddy. But a right takes you down to Bruce’s Eddy itself, a hike that will total 2 ½ miles one way, give or take. And I’m told that you also can head right partway down the road toward Bruce’s and hike to Merry’s Bay. From there, you can walk up the road to where you left your car if you started at the eastern trailhead, making for a loop hike, always a find.

Given that you also can do an out and back hike from any of these trailheads, it would seem that the choices are almost too many. Especially if you figure that awful steep up or down hill as another choice.

The highlights of the hike are varied. Of course, there are views. Occasionally, but not often, of Dworshak Reservoir. More often of the south side of the Clearwater River, a good way to note yet again just how steep the breaks down to that river are, almost anywhere you check it out. (I can list on a very small number of fingers the relatively flat hikes off it and it’s tributaries.) Since both times I’ve hiked the trail it’s been foggy, I’ve no idea what you can see farther in the distance to the south.

I also loved the Quarry, which is fenced off rather seriously. Neat to think of all that missing rock bound up in the dam that makes the reservoir.

And ridgeline itself offers some nice woods – trees that were shrouded in mist both days I walked it.

Trail Notes: The only decision point, so to speak, in the hike is where the two trails junction. It’s below the quarry. If you’re coming form the west on the West Ridge Trail, head right on the old road when you hit the opening. If you’re coming the other way, head left. Unless you want to go to Bruce’s Eddy or Merry’s Bay, in which case you should turn the opposite way and head downhill.

At that junction, if you head up the gentle ridge point to the northwest, you can overlook the quarry, something you otherwise won’t see if you are coming from the east and choose the Bruce’s Eddy downhill.

There also are a couple of spots on the trail where it seems to divide. Basically, the parts will always come back together in a short while. It’s a choice of going up a bit farther, over the top of the ridge, or cutting off a little bit.

I’m told that an up and down of the stiff steep bit of trail is used as regular exercise by some nearby Fish and Game employees. They must be a hardy bunch.

Directions: Turn left after crossing the bridge into Orofino onto Highway 7. For the West Ridge Trailhead, drive 3.7 miles and turn right just before the road crosses the North Fork. Drive ½ mile to the trailhead on the right. For Bruce’s Eddy, drive 1.7 miles.

For the Eureka trailhead, turn off Highway 7 almost immediately, to the right and then immediately left, on the Dent Bridge Road towards Merry’s Bay. In 1.1 miles, head left at the sign for Merry’s. At 2.90 miles, head left on Merry’s Bay Road. There’s often a gate there. If there’s not, go straight toward another gate when the road makes a hard right 0.2 miles later.

Information: Dworshak State Park, (208) 476-5994.

Maps: USGS Ahsahka, Idaho. There’s also a picture map of the West Ridge trail available at the West Ridge Trailhead.