Lunde Ridge


Forest Service Trails #534 and #532

Why? Some views during a challenging hike.

Season: Mid-July through September

Ease: Difficult. It’s a long 14 miles from one end of the hike to the other.

When is a long-anticipated hike a success, when is it not, and when is it both? I’m certainly not sure. I know that we set ourselves up for disappointment when our expectations exceed the possibilities, which is what I think happened with the trail along Lunde Ridge that runs from the Toboggan Hill Road down to Cayuse Creek (I should have read the map more closely – the trail terminates at Never Again Flats!)

The hike had been on my “to do “ list for years, after it was recommended to me by a former forest service supervisor as one of her favorites. One of the expected highlights of the hike was to be able to look back into the North Fork from the ridge and see places visited both recently and in years gone by. It’s one of those things that my hiking buddy and I really like to do.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t one of the things that were able to do on this hike. Except for views toward the Kelly Creek and Blacklead Mountain area, we really didn’t have any views to speak of into the Clearwater drainage. The trail stayed on the Lochsa side of the ridge most of the time rather than the Clearwater side.

We also had looked forward to visiting the Rock Garden, the highest point on Lunde Ridge. But when the time came and we were near it, we were almost glad that the trail didn’t pass over it and were equally unwilling to go off trail in order to do so ourselves.

But to say that the hike was a total loss, which I’m sure it sounds like up to now, would be to mislead. We had some fine views toward the area around Blacklead Mountain, a place where I did one of my finest backpacks.

We traced the ridge that the Lolo Motorway travels, a road and ridge that I spent many good days and weeks on when writing Hike Lewis and Clark’s Idaho. We saw Kelly’s Thumb, a lump along Kelly Creek that looks big from there but quite short from Lunde Ridge. We saw the 12-mile Saddle area and the Clearwater’s Lookout Mountain just before we headed downhill off Lunde Ridge toward Cayuse Creek. And we occasionally saw Grave Peak and the Selway Crags on the skyline.

The trail is essentially in the woods all the way. If I did it again, I would top out more. But I’m not sure that anything but the top of Rock Garden would give the North Fork Clearwater views that we wanted, and I’m not even sure that it would.

Name Note: Lunde Creek and Ridge were named for a USGS topographer.

Trail Notes: Should you decide to do the hike, I offer some additional notes of caution. It is a long hike, 14 miles, and it seemed longer. It seemed especially long at the end, when the trail reaches Cayuse Creek and trail #432 along it, when there is still more than a mile to go along the creek and over a hill before the end is reached. The trail is faint in the areas just before and below Rock Garden. There were many, many downed trees across the trail, especially at the start, and many burned areas.

Directions: Turn onto the Toboggan Hill Road off the road along Kelly Creek. It’s 7.7 miles from there to Cayuse Landing and the #532 trail on which we ended our hike. It’s 13. 7 more miles to the #534 trailhead we started at. From the other direction, it’s 11 miles from Cayuse Junction on the Lolo Motorway, the other end of the Toboggan Hill Road, to the #534 trailhead.

Information: North Fork Ranger District, CWNF, (208) 476-4541

Maps: USGS Toboggan Ridge, Indian Post Office, Horseshoe Lake and Gorman Hill, Idaho.