Lines Creek


Forest Service Trail #426

Why? Historical logging area with an incline railroad

Season: July through October.

Ease: Easy to Moderate.

The Lines Creek Trail is a mostly easy 3-mile loop through the woods, with a lot to see along the way. The trail celebrates the logging history of the area near Clarkia, Idaho, especially during the early 1900s when giant white pines were harvested from nearby forests.

There are artifacts here and there – the remains of an old trestle, a rusting out steam engine, old cable, and parts of a steam donkey. There also are numbered posts and an accompanying booklet that help make the hike a learning experience as well as exercise.

My favorite artifact is the steam engine. You can look through it, so to speak, front to back, and admire the pattern of the rivets that look more like decoration than the functional fastenings they were. It’s unknown how the engine got to this final resting place, according to the booklet.

It’s also hard not to admire the trestle remains that loom ghostily from the forest floor. Or to consider the deep trench on its far side, made by a machine called a “fresno.” A fresno was a sledge-like implement pulled by horses. It removed tons of dirt in the process of building the approach to the trestle on that side, resulting in the trench or lowered approach, with piles of dirt on both sides. It’s a bit like a tunnel without a top.

One of the more interesting stops is at the incline, off the main trail at post number nine. Logs were hauled up this incline by steam donkeys, then lowered down the 45% grade on the Clarkia side into town, where they then were loaded onto rail cars. You can hike up the incline from this side, where the grade is much shallower but still seems plenty steep for hiking. There’s old metal cable here and there along the way.

If you’re not interested in the history of the area, the hike still is worth hiking if you’re nearby. The trail surrounds the Lines Creek drainage and is a fine woodsy hike with the usual under story and no views unless you drive to the top of the incline after – or before – you hike.

Directions: Turn left at the school in Clarkia, then go straight on Road 321 at the junction 0.9 miles later. Stay right on same road at 3.1 miles, then go left at 8.3 miles on Road 758 (also 226). At 9.0 miles, stay right on 758 at the sign for Lines Creek Historical Trail. At 11.6 miles, go left over the bridge. The sign for Lines Creek and the parking lot are just ahead on the right.

To find the top of the incline, stay on Road 226 at its junction with Road 758, and remain on it through various unmarked intersections where you’ll see that the other roads are closed or have visible Kelly bumps at their starts. In 3.4 miles, you’ll top out and soon find a road to left, then a road on each side. The latter is actually the top of the incline.

Information: St. Joe Ranger District, Idaho Panhandle National Forest at St. Maries, (208) 245-2531.

Maps: USGS Merry Creek, Idaho.