The Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness is wild and scenic BLM land located in central Idaho. At just under two and a half million acres, it is the biggest BLM property in the south of the USA and is only outranked as the largest wilderness overall by the Death Valley Wilderness in California. If you like to take your outdoor adventures in unspoiled, but somewhat savage terrains, you'll be right at home in the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness. Imagine a landscape something along the lines of a wilderness survival movie filming location, and you won't be far off the mark.
The immense BLM terrains of the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness are encircled by four national forests, the largest of which are the Salmon-Challis National Forest and the Payette National Forest. The wilderness encompasses three stunning mountain ranges and is pierced by the fast-flowing Salmon River or as it was called in pioneering days because of its many rapids, the river of no return. The wilderness is also in part named after the man who campaigned to get the area designated as a conservation area.
The Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness is interspersed with hiking trails that wind around abandoned mining towns and over pine-forested slopes to awe-inspiring viewpoints and waterfalls. Parts of two well-known historic trails run through the wilderness too. Wildlife roams freely in the wilderness, from grey wolves to grizzly bears, and more than three hundred other different species of mammals including lynx, beavers, and bighorn sheep. There's excellent fishing to be had on many sections of the Salmon River as well as exciting whitewater rafting and jet boating opportunities.
While motorized access to any part of the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness is prohibited and camping is restricted to tent camping only, there's no shortage of campgrounds within a short distance of the wilderness. From these, you can make your way into this beautiful backcountry and spend time exploring nature just as it should be.
With the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness covering such an extensive area, the best thing to do if you're heading in that direction for a few days is to plan the travel route to your RV campground first. If your plans include fishing, rafting or jet boating, you may find the campgrounds of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River Ranger District of the Salmon-Challis National Forest the most convenient. If you're hiking, fishing or want to go off-roading outside of the wilderness, the campgrounds in the Challis Area of the Challis-Yankee Fork Ranger District will probably be more suitable to your requirements.
From the north or south the main access highway to the wilderness is the US 93. If you've been RV camping in the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, the drive up to the town of Challis on the border of the wilderness will take you around an hour. To arrive in the region of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, you'll be on the US 55 which you can join in Boise to the south or from the US 95 if you're motoring down from the north. Many of the campgrounds in both ranger districts can only be reached via single-lane dirt tracks off the main highways, so traveling in smaller rigs or trailers is highly recommended.
There are over eighty campgrounds in the Salmon-Challis National Forest where you can pitch camp. For ease of access to the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness, check out campsites in the Challis Area of the Challis-Yankee Fork Ranger District.
The Mill Creek Campground has eight primitive pitches for RVs with drinking water and vault toilets available on site. Access to the campground is along part of the Custer Motorway, an unpaved roadway not recommended for rigs longer than twenty-five feet. At the Mosquito Flats Reservoir Campground, there are eleven primitive lakeside campsites suitable for rigs up to thirty-two feet. The pitches are furnished with grills and picnic tables and there is drinking water on-site plus some vault toilets.
To be close to some great hiking routes, pitch up in the Dagger Falls Campground in the Middle Fork Ranger District. The site has eight primitive campsites only suitable for small rigs or trailers up to sixteen feet because of the single-lane dirt access road. The Boundary Creek Campground Complex can accommodate slightly larger rigs, but be prepared for a twenty-five mile trip down a single-lane dirt track to get to it. The complex offers fifteen primitive campsites with picnic tables and grills.
Hiking through the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness can be done in two ways. The first by going it alone across terrains with no marked trails or by stepping out on any of the many designated ones.
Whichever you do, you'll need to go prepared with enough supplies to last you between six or eight hours, as even most of the marked trails are day hikes. To see the stunning Dagger Falls in the Middle Fork Ranger District, set out from the Dagger Falls Campground and you'll soon be trekking along to the sound of rushing water. In the Challis Area of the Challis-Yankee Fork Ranger District, you'll have access to around eight different multi-use trails that wind around lakes and alongside creeks.
The Salmon River crashes through the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness in a torrent of whitewater that draws around ten thousand wild water boating fans every year. Join the river in the Middle Fork section and there's over one-hundred miles of navigable river with various gradings of rapids ahead of you.
Whether you're kayaking or rafting, it's an exciting experience floating downstream at speed through some of the most stunning scenery in Idaho. For jet boaters, the extra thrill comes from beating the power of the water while heading upstream. It's a serious adrenaline rush.
Whether you prefer river or lake fishing, you'll be able to do both in and around the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness. The swift-flowing waters of the Salmon River are a favorite habitat for several species of trout including rainbow, bull and brown as well as sockeye and Chinook salmon. You can fish for kokanee salmon in the Mosquito Flats Reservoir plus bass, muskie, and crappie.
The Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness is one of the best places in Idaho for observing an incredible diversity of wildlife in its natural habitat. If you're day hiking in some of the remoter areas you may see grey wolves slinking along the timberline or grizzly bears foraging for fish in the creeks.
Mountain goats and bighorn sheep live on the craggy slopes and there are elk, moose, and deer in the woodlands. Take some high-powered binoculars to make sure you don't miss spotting a thing.
If you're exhausted from exploring the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness on foot, although you can't go into the wilderness in a vehicle, you can take a scenic drive outside its boundaries along the Custer Motorway if you have an OHV or four by four.
Join the forty-six-mile long loop circuit of dirt roads near Challis and not only will you spot some amazing birdlife, you'll come across the ghost towns of Custer and Bonanza plus the historic Yankee Fork Gold Dredge. It's a good weather drive only as some of the tracks can be unpassable after heavy rain.
When snow falls on the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness the multi-use trails in the area become a haven for winter sports activities. There are endless opportunities for cross country skiing, snowshoeing and sledding in the wilderness.
For motorized winter sports like tubing and snowmobiling, you'll find there are endless trails in the Salmon-Challis National Forest where you can let rip and have some fun.