Hikers can combine trails in the Salmo-Priest Wilderness of Washington and proposed wilderness additions in Idaho to make a rugged loop. Problem is, two of the trails connecting the Shedroof Divide have been poorly maintained in recent years. Check with the Priest Lake Ranger District for the conditions of Trail #s 311 and 312 before attempting this loop. Also check for road or trail closures that may have been made to help protect grizzly bear habitat.
Take plenty of water, since it can be difficult to find on the divide during some years.
Elevation gain: 3,600 ft.
Key elevations: High point 6,520 ft.
Distance: 21 miles
Time: 2 days minimum
Season: July through mid October
Map: USGS Salmo Mountain, Helmer Mountain, Continental Mountain
Drive: From Priest River, Idaho, drive north on State Highway 57. A few miles past Nordman, the road turns to gravel and becomes Forest Road #302.
0.0 miles. Granite Falls campground.
5 miles. Turn left onto Road #662 towards Hughes Meadows..
7 miles. Bear left at junction with the Hughes Ridge Lookout road.
8 miles. Trailhead. It’s another ½ mile on the road to the unmanned Hughes Meadows ranger cabin.
Trail/Route: After a ways, bear left onto Trail #311 up Jackson Creek with lots of water at the lower elevations, but becomes dry near the Shedroof Divide. It is about 7½ miles from the TH to Shedroof Divide Trail #512. Turn right and head north passing an undependable spring along the slopes of Thunder Mountain. This is the best part of the trip, hiking the high divide between Upper Priest River and the Salmo drainage, with peaks in every direction. It’s about 6 miles from here to the junction with Hughes Fork Trail #312, with a few possible campsites along the way. This junction is just past the Gypsy Meadows cutoff trail that heads west. Also, there’s an unmaintained trail that leads to the summit of Thunder Mountain. Another possible campsite can be found about ¼ mile past the junction with Trail #312.
To complete the loop, head down the unmaintained Trail #312. It is 7½ miles down Hughes Creek skirting the west side of Hughes Meadows and back to the trailhead.