Hanover Mountain


Forest Service Trail #125 plus a bit of #332

Why? Fine views of the Gospel Hump Wilderness high country and of Indigo Lake

Season: Late June through October.

Ease: Moderate to difficult, with 1,500 feet of elevation gain over 4 ½+ miles.

I think that one of the reasons I enjoyed my hike to Hanover Mountain was because I did it after I’d hiked much of the high country in the Gospel Hump Wilderness. Not that one can’t appreciate the fine near and far views without prior knowledge, but for me, that knowledge really made the day.

Those “other” views included The Seven Devils, which popped into view for a time as I stood looking down the Hanover Creek drainage to the west. There were meadows here and there, meadows that at other times of day might have been full of wildlife. The first, just past the trailhead, held a distinctly non-wild herd of cattle. The last, and perhaps loveliest, held Indigo Lake, which sits below Hanover Mountain. The lake is nestled in bright green with the light-colored mountain rock as a backdrop. There were flowers, too, when I hiked the trail late one July day. Elephant head and lupine and one of those pesky, unidentified yellow flowers I’m always seeing.

The trail itself is a mix, and at least at the start, an indication of the oddity of this place and its road access, for you start on an old road. The trail does narrow in places, however, and eventually comes to feel more like a trail than a road. There are some skunky bits, rocky and rutted steep sections, but they are not terribly long. In fact, most of the up and down is gentle.

I actually hiked about a mile past Hanover, hoping for a view of Emerald Lake. But it wasn’t to be that day, for it would have taken hiking down off the trail to see that lake, something I didn’t feel like doing. Given that I got lost where I stopped, at a saddle above that lake, I can only suggest that if you hike that far, you should keep better track of where you’ve come from than I did. It goes without saying that the trail becomes fainter there.

All in all, the whole trail hiked harder than it looked, which might be a reflection on the trail, the hiker, the weather, or a combination of any or all of these.

Note: My views of the rest of the Gospel Hump that I’d already hiked included the ridge from the North Pole and Buffalo Hump all the way to Quartzite Butte, a ridge I’d seen up a lot closer when I hiked the east side of the wilderness. The ridge from Plummer Point to Marble Butte, with the long uphill area between, is one I had hiked a couple years before – and I even recognized a couple of lumpy black knobs I saw on that trip. I recognized the Anchor fire area I’d seen from that side, on both long and short hikes. And the ridge that the road from the northwest travels into the body of the wilderness, past Gospel Hill, Gospel Peak and Square Mountain – plus the closer Roundtop Mountains and Umbrella Butte. A pretty comprehensive set of views of the high areas.

Plus as an added bonus, the drainage to the east is that of the Wind River, one of my favorite area hikes.

Trail Notes: I had hoped the hike to Hanover would be partially a circle hike, for the map shows two trails coming out of the trailhead area, trails that meet about a mile shy of Hanover. I hiked out on the major trail, but couldn’t find the intersection of the two when I looked for it either coming or going. Next time I’ll try the narrow trail out of the trailhead, which I assume will be the other one on the map.
About 3 miles in, the trail crosses a saddle that, when I hiked it, contained many large downed trees. The trail goes off slightly to the left through there, something not readily evident.

Directions: From Grangeville, turn right just after driving through Grangeville on Road 221, then stay straight on the same road about 1 mile later at the drive-in-movie screen. Stay on 221 for 31.2 miles, turning left before milepost 30 into the Gospel Hump on Road 444. Turn right to Slate Lake as posted at 43.8 miles. That road ends at the trailhead, and the last mile is really rocky and rough. It’s about 1 ½ hours from Grangeville.

Information: Nez Perce National Forest, (208) 983-1950.

Maps: USGS Hanover Mountain, Idaho; Forest Service Gospel Hump Wilderness map.

Connections: The trail to Marten Hill is marked at about 2 miles in, that for Indigo Lake at about 4 miles in, and the Hanover Mt. trail on the right at about 5 miles. The first is noted on both Forest Service and USGS maps. The second is not, and the third is noted only on the forest service map.