A road trip, with a little fishing on the side.
Actually, the headline is a bit misleading. The whole point of the trip was to go fly fishing; the road to the river simply a means to an end. But then plans were altered such that I would embark on a route that became a road trip worthy of note. Thus I’m posting this entry not so much as an interest to the 3 regular followers of my blog, but rather as a resource to those random internet travellers who may stumble upon this while researching the route from Montana to Idaho over Hoodoo Pass.
My destination was the North Fork of the Clearwater River in Idaho. Originally I was going to take the most direct, quickest route and drive to Lewiston, Idaho, up the Clearwater River via Greer and beyond. However, as I researched the matter, it became clear that I should take an extra day and travel a route that had long intrigued me, though I never before had cause to venture that way. This was my first trip to the NF Clearwater, and I decided to take a course that would entail more or less a big loop, without repeating as much of my route as as possible.
The path I chose took me on I-90, eastbound, to Superior, MT. This portion of the journey I’d done dozens of times, though never before actually stopping at Superior. Exit I-90 at Superior, turn right at the off ramp, then follow the frontage road to the left. Stay on this for a couple miles or so and the road makes a right hand bend and becomes Forest Road 250/Diamond Rd/Trout Creek Rd. It’s paved for a couple of miles before transitioning abruptly to a graded forest service road. From Superior to Hoodoo Pass is approximately 25 miles. The road, which was in good shape with only a few sections of teeth-rattling washboards, is wide enough for two vehicles to easily pass in most places. On this Thursday afternoon in mid July I only encountered perhaps a half dozen travelers coming in the opposite direction. Once you reach the summit, you’ll cross into Idaho and begin your descent into the NF Clearwater drainage. From the summit onward the road is not wide enough for two vehicles to pass, but there are occasional pullouts if needed. Rd 250 takes you down Black Canyon, approximately another 29 miles to Kelly Forks. From there, it’s another 44 miles downstream to Aquarius Campground, which is the last campground on the NF Clearwater before exiting the Clearwater National Forest (a few miles before you reach Aquarius, the road turns back to pavement, as you leave the dust in the rear view mirror). Onward down 247 though logging country to Headquarters (a place, not a town), turning right onto Hwy 11 through more logging and wheat farming country toward the towns of Pierce and Wieppe, ID respectively (cool little towns steeped in rich Idaho history). From there, down the steep and winding Greer Grade. This is worth the trip alone and seems to be a popular ride for motorcycles, as there are several Youtube videos of two wheelers riding the grade. At the bottom of the grade, I passed quickly through Greer and past Orofino, ID. From here on it was a familiar drive down Hwy 12 along the Clearwater to Lewiston, up the Lewiston Grade on Hwy 195, past Pullman, WA (Go Cougs!) to Colfax (Taco Time!). From there, westward on Hwy 26 to Vantage, then west on I-90 until returning home to the wet side of WA. It was 969 miles round trip with three stops to let the Man Van drink fuel. Once leaving Superior, I found the entire drive, all the way to Greer, to be very enjoyable. Everything else was familiar territory simply to be gotten through.
There are no photos of the road from Kelly Forks to Aquarius. Imagine, if you will, a dusty, graveled forest service road with ample room for two vehicles to pass; with no harrowing sections or hairpin turns. It’s a well-travelled road suitable for RVs of any size.
I should have—but did not—stop to take photos in Pierce and Wieppe. I had several hours of driving ahead of me and wasn’t thinking about much other than putting miles behind me.
Once at the bottom of Greer Grade, there were no more photos taken for the remainder of the trip, until several hours later when I was in the middle of eastern Washington on Hwy 26…