Cave Point


Forest Service Trail #617

Why? Exercise and some nice rocks if you go off trail

Season: July through October

Ease: Strenuous. It’s only 2 miles to Cave Point, but it’s 2,600 feet up.

I’m probably going to have a hard time convincing you to hike 2 miles and more than 2,500 feet uphill to Cave Point in the North Fork Clearwater River country. And I can’t say that I’d blame you for not going. I almost talked myself out of it the morning I hiked it. I’m glad I didn’t, but then I needed to do the hike in order to write about it, and the same probably doesn’t hold for you.

It’s not that the trail isn’t well graded, for it is. It switchbacks up essentially the entire way, though the corners are a bit worn and iffy. It isn’t that I didn’t enjoy seeing Chateau Falls, a lovely series of falls through a long rocky outcrop below Chateau Rock, for I did. It’s just that I was expecting something more in the way of easily visible interesting rocks along the way, maybe more in the way of views, or maybe just thinking of Cave Point as a destination after a hot, sticky, hard hour-plus of hiking up.

I was interested in hiking to Cave Point for a couple of reasons. The first was that I was pretty sure it was on the ridge I’d seen from the trail up Pot Mountain from Bungalow, a ridge dotted with wonderful rock structures. I don’t mean structures in the sense of man made, just structures in the sense that they were composed of more than one rock and that they were large. The second was that I’d been told about it by someone who says he hiked up to it most years. He raved about the rocks, too, and about the hike being good exercise.

Unfortunately, what I didn’t know was that most of the rock structures are off the trail and hidden along the hillside over the rim. Not that there weren’t some along the trail, of course, for there were, and they did offer an opportunity to use my imagination.
As for the good exercise part of my expectations – right on!

The trail tops out on a small wooded bump, then heads on down the other side in the direction of trail 144 along Pot Mountain, connecting via the #167 trail. I stopped at the bump, enjoying the shade and a snack. But there sure weren’t views from the bump, nor was it a destination of note, so to speak.

Chateau Falls is an obvious side trip if you do this hike, on an obvious trail. But even though the side trail to it starts off fairly nice, it ends up ugly and very, very steep. Like sit on your butt steep in places when you’re going down. But you do get to a fine pool of water at the bottom. If you’re just wanting to see the falls, however, the views of them are best from the trail to Cave Point, above where the side trail down takes off.

On the other hand, high above the trail down to the falls there’s a big bunch of interesting looking rock structures.

Note: Cave Creek and presumably Cave Point were named for the holes in the rock ledges about 1 ¼ mile up from the Clearwater River.

Directions: The trailhead is on the 250 Road along the North Fork Clearwater River, immediately upriver from its crossing of Cave Creek.

Information: North Fork Clearwater National Forest, (208) 476 4541

Maps: USGS Clarke Mountain, ID.

Connections: If you continue much farther than I hiked, a total of 6.7 miles, you would connect with the Pot Mountain Trail.