Moose Mountain


Forest Service Trail #427

Why? Fine views toward Cold Springs Peak, and a new look at the Moose Creek Buttes.

Season: July through September.

Ease: Moderate to difficult. It’s 2 ¾ miles of trail plus maybe 1 ½ miles of old road walking and about 2,000 feet up.

This is a hike for those who have admired Moose Mountain and the Moose Creek Buttes from near – Scurvy Mountain across Kelly Creek - and afar – many and various spots along and off the Lolo Motorway. The Buttes in particular always are recognizable by their color, best described as somewhere between coral pink and light rust, and their distinctive silhouette that combines a squared off and a pointed top.

Hiking Moose Mt lets you sneak up on the Buttes from behind, the north, and see that they buttress onto Moose Creek as well as Kelly Creek. They’re darker from this side. The pink cast that’s so obvious from other directions is not at all obvious from the north, at least when the sun is in the west and it’s mid to late afternoon.

Of course, there also are views, and they come from a different perspective from Moose Mountain. Basically, it’s a different way to see the North Fork Clearwater area. There’s Elizabeth Mountain and Cold Springs Peak with Pot Mountain behind both, and the Pot Mt. Ridge stretching all the way to Fly Hill. In the distance, you can make out Five Lakes Butte, Chamberlain Mountain, and the Mallard Larkins Peaks with their distinctive slants.

If you look the other way, you’ll see Shale and Rhodes and Grave peaks and a lot of stuff in between you and them.

The trail itself is ok and the hike isn’t truly difficult, just possibly a tad long. It’s a tour of the upper Independence and Deadwood Creek drainages and the ridge between them. At the end, there’s an uphill to just below the top of Moose.

Trail Notes: You start hiking on an old road that technically is driveable, but not in a car. A bike would work well for that stretch. When you reach Moose Mountain, the trail does continue south a bit, for better views of the Buttes.

Directions: From the #250 Road along the North Fork Clearwater, go straight at the Kelly Forks Work Center on the 255 Road along Kelly Creek. It goes left at the Old Kelly Creek Work Center. It’s 7.8 miles from there to Deception Saddle, where you turn left on the #734 Road. (If you come from the north, it’s 3 miles from the #250 Road to there.) We parked 2.7 miles later at a wide spot in the road, where there’s a sign for trail #812 and no sign for the #427 trail since that trailhead actually is about 40 minutes up the road. Do note that the #734 road gets progressively worse and you can pretty much park in any wide spot and make the hike longer.

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

Maps: Possibly USGS Moose Mt, Idaho.

Connections: Although the maps suggest that you could make a through hike by connecting with the #690 trail down Moose Creek, that trail is not obvious on top. Plus, at it’s lower terminus, there is a lot of private land on the 5440 Road that is not welcoming, to say the least. That may change in the near future.