Grandmother and Grandfather Mountains


Forest Service Trail #275

Why? Views, huckleberries, and just a plain old fashioned good hike

Season: July through October

Ease: Moderate, with some attention-getting uphills

The Freezeout Ridge area northeast of Lewiston is well-known for its beargrass and huckleberries, and certainly it’s busiest time of year is either during hunting season or when the huckleberries are ripe. But even without beargrass or huckleberries, it’s well worth a visit. Which is obvious if you consider that the trail to Grandmother and Grandfather Mountains is probably the most well-used trail in the area.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve hiked the trail to Grandmother and Grandfather. I know it was one of the first places I hiked after I moved west. Between then and now, I’ve worked on trail, picked huckleberries, enjoyed the beargrass bloom in all its glory, and aborted a hike because the weather was unbelievably cold and wet.

The prettiest hikes always have been in the fall, for the color in the area is superb. Huckleberry bushes become a hard-to-match dark red, the grasses are a golden tan, the trees dark green, and the rocks mostly light colored and shiny with mica.

Each time I go, I am seduced into hiking to both peaks. After all, I’ve driven all that way and I really should do all the trails. However, each time that I reach Grandpa, I remember that the views are better from Grandma because her peak is more free of trees and, in fact, she is the higher of the two. Given that the hike between the two is the least interesting part of the trail and that the final uphill to Grandpa is steep and rocky and rutted, I will try to remember those facts and just visit Grandma next time. It’s certainly what I recommend if an 8-mile roundtrip – what it takes to do both– is more than you really want to do and a 5-mile trip– what it takes to do just Grandma - sounds just right.

Whichever you visit, you’ll enjoy most of the 2 1/2 miles of common trail. It’s a gentle downhill through the trees at first, with a few views west down into the more “used” part of this forest. After a short level section, there’s a mile of open uphill along one of Grandma’s flanks that, while somewhat steep, is really the best part of the hike. There are some fine rock areas of shiny mica. Lookout Mountain is to the east, its large white top standing out against pretty much all green below and all sky above. The ridge to the northeast of Grandmother juts out to the right, the trail down to Marble Creek visible through part of it.

Through most of these 2 1/2 miles you see Grandmother Mountain in front of you. The more distant scenery provides an interesting contrast between looking west and looking east. To the west you see an area that has been heavily logged and scarred by roads. To the east, which comes into view once you start uphill, you see Lookout Mountain and the roadless area between: a sea of greens with the white rocks of Lookout's peak on top.

When the common ends, take the right fork for a short, 10-minute walk to the top of Grandma and the left for a much longer 1 ½ mile or so to Grandpa the ends in a real uphill slog.

Directions: Drive north on Highway 3 from Bovil until just past milepost 54. Turn right into Clarkia and again as the road turns right, then left after the school. Drive 1 mile, then turn right onto Road 301. Stay on 301 by turning left and heading up the hill after 4.4 miles, left again at 8.6 miles and 9.3 miles. The Grandmother/Grandfather Mountain trailhead sign is on the left 11.8 miles in with a pullout for parking on the right.

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

Maps: USGS Grandmother Mountain, Idaho

Connections: The Marble Creek Trail takes off to the east from below the summit of Grandmother and also connects to the trail to Cornwall Point. The trail to Grandfather continues past that mountain and goes down into the Hobo Pass area.