Located in Custer County, Idaho, the White Clouds Wilderness is a protected area that includes 90,769 acres of land that was added to the National Wilderness Preservation System in 2015. Part of the White Cloud Mountains are included in the Wilderness Area, which is north of the Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness. Most of the White Clouds Wilderness is managed by the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, with a small part being managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Early settlers chose the name White Clouds as a result of there being many light peaks that appeared to blend with the clouds above; resulting in it being difficult to tell what were mountains and what were clouds. A variety of rock types make up the White Clouds, with many of the peaks being made of metamorphic limestone. Visitors to the Wilderness will encounter plenty of recreation opportunities, including hiking, fishing and horseback riding, as well as the chance to experience getting away from it all.
When looking to spend some time outdoors relaxing or engaging in outdoor adventure (or both) consider the White Clouds Wilderness, where you will experience magnificent scenery and plenty of ways to enjoy the views.
The White Cloud Wilderness can be accessed from the Little Boulder Recreation Site, which is located about 35 miles south from Challis, Idaho. From Challis, take Highway 93 south for two miles and then make a right to join Highway 75, which is a paved road. Continue for about 17 miles until you reach East Fork Salmon River Road (also paved). After making a left, continue for 20 miles until you reach the Little Boulder Recreation Site, which is on the left.
Visitors can park at the Little Boulder Recreation Site during a visit to the White Cloud Wilderness.
Public transportation to the White Cloud Wilderness is not available.
With 11 campsites as well as a picnic area available for day use, the Mosquito Flat Reservoir Campground is located along the shore of the Mosquito Flat Reservoir near Challis. Each site includes a picnic table and a fire ring, and the campground is able to accommodate RV’s and trailers that are up to 32 feet long.
While drinking water is not available, the campground offers vault toilets. Sites are first-come, first-served and visitors can camp at the campground at no cost. Camping at the Mosquito Flat Reservoir Campground ensures you have easy access to a myriad of recreation opportunities in the area.
Though small, the Mill Creek Campground, located near Challis, is a popular place to camp. The campground is along the Custer Motorway and provides easy access for those looking to fish for rainbow trout in Mill Creek. East of the campground is a motorized trail that leads to Bayhorse Lake campground and trail system.
There are eight campsites, each of which include a picnic table and a fire ring, and there is an additional site that is larger in size that can accommodate groups. Located at the campground are a vault toilet and a hand pump for drinking water. Sites are first-come, first served.
Looking for a place to camp where you can easily access hiking and ATV trails? Consider Big Bayhorse Campground, which also offers excellent proximity to lakes and streams for fishing. Each site has a picnic table, fire ring, and grill, and the campground offers vault toilets along with a day-use area for those looking to have a picnic.
A boat launch is available at Bayhorse Lake, along with two boat docks. The dirt road leading to the campground may be challenging for larger vehicles; it is not recommended to bring an RV or trailer over 32 feet long to the campground. Sites are first-come, first-served.
Located about five miles from Stanley, Idaho, the Salmon River Campground offers 30 sites, one of which is a double site that is ideal for larger groups. Sites are first-come, first-served and are located among lodgepole pines.
The Salmon River Campground is in an ideal location for those looking to check out the area’s hot springs as well as those seeking opportunities for hiking and fishing. Vault toilets and drinking water are available at the campground. RVs, trailers, and tents can be accommodated; however, hook-ups are not available at the Salmon River Campground.
While visiting the White Cloud Wilderness, there will be opportunities to explore the area by going for a hike. As you walk along a trail, be prepared for stunning mountain views and lakes filled with clear, brilliant colored water.
As the Wilderness is remote, it is particularly important that you plan well and pack appropriately. A water filter will be helpful, particularly for longer hikes, so that you can refill your water supply often and avoid a heavy load.
Located near Challis is the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park, which showcases the mining history of Idaho. Part of the Land of the Yankee Fork Historic Area, the State Park offers an interpretive center with exhibits and an area where visitors can pan for gold. Staff are available to offer information on the mining history of the area as well as other attractions nearby that you can visit like the ghost towns of Bonanza, Custer and Bayhorse, along with the Custer Motorway and Challis Bison Jump.
There are plenty of opportunities to go fishing in the White Cloud Wilderness and its surrounding area. From clear sub-alpine lakes like Big Boulder Lakes and Boulder Chain Lakes to a number of creeks (Elk Creek, Beaver Creek, etc.) you will have no difficulty finding a place to cast a line. Regardless of where you choose to fish, you will be treated to amazing views of the surrounding area.
After putting in some miles on the trail, a soak in a natural hot spring will feel great. Fortunately, there are a few in Challis, Idaho, that you can check out. Challis Hot Springs offers two soaking hot spring pools along with a large swimming pool. A campground along the Salmon River and bed and breakfast are also on the property. Another option is Sunbeam Hot Springs, which sits on the bank of the Salmon River. A true rustic experience, while relaxing in the hot spring you can enjoy your gorgeous surroundings.
During the winter months, it might be challenging to access the White Cloud Wilderness. Fortunately, the nearby town of Stanley offers the Stanley Basin Snowmobile Trail System, which includes 185 miles of groomed trails that you can explore by snowmobile. The trails are groomed and open from November through April.
There are several companies in the area that rent snowmobiles; rentals are typically available for a minimum of an hour through a full day. Get ready for a fast-paced outdoor adventure along with gorgeous scenery!
Backcountry skiing and snowshoeing offer the perfect opportunity to explore the area during the winter months. As a result of the area’s rough terrain, there is no downhill skiing in the Sawtooths; however, that won’t stop those looking for adventure in the snow!
Park Creek Ski Trails and Alturas Lake Ski Area offer backcountry skiing options for all ability levels. There are also plenty of trails in the area to embark upon with snowshoes on. Enjoy a workout while taking in the incredible scenery of the area.