Fish Creek Meadows


Forest Service Trail #480

Why? Good skiing and views of the Seven Devils and Gospel Hump areas

Season: Year-round if you include skiing

Ease: Easy to moderate, depending on which loop you choose.

The trail at Fish Creek Meadows is better known as a winter cross country skiing destination, but it’s not a bad hike, either, even though it’s primarily along old roads. The walking is easy, you can tailor the hike’s length to your needs or desires, and you might be rewarded with views of the Gospel Hump and the Seven Devils.

But this time of year, of course we’re talking skiing.

The flexibility in skiing (or hiking) distance comes with the design of the area trails. The basic 5-mile loop has connectors between its sides every half mile or so. Beginning skiers quickly learn this, and tired hikers, too.

The first views of the Gospel Hump area are a bit past the 1-mile marker when you head counterclockwise on the trail. Before that, it’s woods – and after that, too, for much of the hike is in mixed conifer forest with a low understory. There were lots of good hiding spots for the half dozen deer I saw early in the morning.

To see the Seven Devils, you have to go about two miles farther than the basic 480 loop, though still on old roads. After you pass the cabin that’s 2 ¼ miles in, a sign directs you left to continue on loop 480 or straight on the boundary cutoff. Take the cutoff. In about half an hour you’ll see the tops of the peaks through the trees.

For the best view, climb up the gently sloping hillside the trail encircles.

For future reference, when I hiked the trail early in the morning of a holiday weekend, it was quiet. I met one motor bike and one pickup truck. The pickup was a surprise until I looked more closely at my forest map and the trail. The former shows connections between other forest roads and the trail roads. The latter showed signs of previous four-wheeled traffic, at least in spots.

The hillside with good Seven Devils views was covered with flowers that day, with lots of a personal favorite: prairie smoke. (Note: the road that goes down the hill rather than around the hillside doesn’t offer any better views.)

As I said, it was a quiet hike. Besides the deer, biker and pickup, I saw only a few small rodents and some birds. But it was a pleasant outing not too far from home – well worth the time and trip.

Directions: As you leave Grangeville heading east on 13, turn right on the road to Snow Haven. At the old drive-in screen a mile later, go straight on 221. Turn right into the Fish Creek recreation area that’s about a mile past the road to Snow Haven and park in the lot on the left. The trailhead is signed, next to the covered picnic area.
If you do the 480 trail counterclockwise, turning right at the signed first junction a bit past the campground, the trail is blazed with blue diamonds in its entirety. Though I did not check everywhere, it is not blazed as completely in the opposite direction. This would not be a problem on trail 480, but might be if you do the boundary cutoff loop for the Seven Devils view. Also, the sign for the third loop on 480 seemed incorrectly oriented. I kept to the trail by going straight, then following the trail as it turned left in front of the motorbike jumps. In either case, if you keep watching for the blue diamonds as I did, the whole trail is easy to follow.

Information: Clearwater Ranger District, (208) 983-1963.

Maps: USGS Goodwin Meadows and White Bird Hill, Idaho, contain the area and appear to show some of the trail, but not all.