Diablo Mountain


Forest Service Trails #4 and #18

Why? Views of the Bitterroot Mountains and North Fork Clearwater Country

Season: Mid-July through September

Ease: Moderate to difficult. It’s Just 5 miles to the old lookout site on Diablo from Elk Summit, with a 1,700 foot elevation gain.

I can’t think of a finer view spot than the top of Diablo Mountain. That it’s not a terribly difficult hike from the Hoodoo Lake trailhead at Elk Summit to the old lookout site on top of Diablo is just frosting on the cake. If those aren’t enough reasons to entice you to put it on your “to do” list, will outstanding views along the way of Horse Heaven Meadows and the Grave Peak area do it? Or almost guaranteed moose at Hoodoo Lake?

As I have said before, I have an unnatural fondness for moose, and for wanting for many years to get to Hoodoo Lake, where I’d been told they always hung out. I finally got there in the early 2000s, to do a hike from Elk Summit to Blodgett Canyon (hike xxx). I returned again a few years later, to hike to Diablo. The moose were there on both trips, as advertised. I can hardly wait to go yet another time and see them again.

Diablo Mountain truly is a magnificent view site, a finer one in my opinion than Grave Peak, also an old lookout site. You can see each from the other, as well as a great deal of high country in the Clearwater and Nez Perce National Forests. But from Diablo, there are awesome views into the Bitterroots of Montana and the Bitterroot Divide north to the Rhodes Peak area (hike xxx), and they make the case for that mountain. Not to forget, it’s a much easier hike and you get the moose at Hoodoo, to boot.

The hike starts along Horse Creek, along the trail that heads to Big Sand Lake and Blodgett Canyon. The trail to Diablo branches off to the right at the divide. At first, it’s in the woods, like most of the trail along Horse Creek. But soon there are glimpses of Horse Heaven Meadows, the views becoming better and better as you get about 1 or 1 ½ miles from the trail junction. It’s an awesome spot, with green meadow grasses, trees, stream meanders, and the occasional light-colored rocks. Grave Peak is in the distance.

Walking farther means the meadow views disappear, to be replaced by the partly open hillside of Hoodoo Mountain above its saddle with Diablo. And as you come around Diablo, you’ll see Goat and Gateway Peaks, the Goat Heaven Peaks, and eventually Goat Lakes below them. The area is stark and open, perhaps due to a past fire.

Eventually there’s the last small uphill to Diablo, and the views. Besides the nearby delights, the Selway Crags are visible, as is a lot of the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness high country. You also can trace Big Sand Creek’s path and see bit of Big Sand Lake, though Blodgett Pass is hidden behind the ridge just in front of it. A Nez Perce Forest Map and a Lolo Forest Map would be a great help if you’re into identifying all the peaks, at least if your day there isn’t as overcast as the one on which I visited Diablo.

Directions: Take the road to Elk Summit, a right off Highway 12 about 1 mile past Powell, Idaho. Drive until it ends at the lake. The trailhead is on the left before the end of the road, near a small cabin. We parked in the lot above the lake and near the end of the road.

Information: Powell Ranger District, CWNF, (208) 476-0129

Maps: USGS Cedar Ridge and Jeanette Mountain, Idaho