Backpack the Salmo-Priest Loop

Salmo-Priest Trailhead

19 mile loop through cedars, ferns & wildflowers a plenty. Trail starts & ends in Washington but for 7 lovely miles you'll be hiking among the Idaho mountains. <3

To begin let me just say that this trail has some beautifully breathtaking moments. Also, I highly recommend spring to early summer if you enjoy wildflowers.

Okay.. so ... Me, my dog Tolkien and my partner did this trail in two days. However we did see a group of people that completed it in one day, but they started very early.

We did the loop clockwise, which is recommended, otherwise you'll be ending your trek hiking uphill for quite a ways. Start at the South Salmo River #506, you will immediately begin descending. Once you begin to flatten out and you notice the Salmo River to your right, look for the cairn which will let you know when it is time to cross the river. There are a handful of campsites once you cross. Up above the campsites the trail continues, eventually you'll see another blocked off abandoned trail. Supposedly it leads into Canada... Continue on the Salmo River trail, you have to cross the river once more, but for the most part keep the river to your right. Alongside the river you'll see plenty of camp spots, so please only pitch up in an area that has been previously used.

You'll come to a 2 way on the trail, take the snowy top pass trail. This is an ascension and will lead to your last water source for the next 7 - 9 miles. There is one more river crossing, this is where you'll want to fill all of your water bottles! Continue ascending until you see a sign for the shedroof pass/divide. Take the divide... it opens up and gives a clear and beautiful view of some of the mountains of Idaho. This part of the trail is also covered in wildflowers. :)

There is a potential detour on the shedroof, to an old lookout that was built around the Great Depression, it was used to spot fires. This will add a couple of miles to the loop and is quite steep. We opted out of the detour but I'm sure it's visually very lovely.

After a good 7 miles on the divide you'll come to an opening where there is a spot to camp and another trail crossing. Take the Salmo Pass Trail. This last portion of the trail is 3 miles. Lots of sun, little shade & lots of flowers. We were lucky to find another water source along the way, but I do not think that it is entirely reliable (depending on the time of year). You'll know the trail is ending when it completely flattens out and turns into a road. Will lead you directly back to your car.

There is a base camp at the trail head, which (as far as I could tell) is free to camp at, there are also bathrooms there. We didn't need a permit but there is a sign in sheet at the trailhead.

Some form of sunscreen is highly recommended, the divide and salmo pass trail lacks in shady areas. Also definitely bring a bear canister for your food. We spent our second night at the base camp and woke up to the sound of bears in the near forest.

All in all, it is an awesome trail, amazing views, & it's dog friendly!!!

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Water
  • Water Filter
  • Bear Canister
  • Warm Clothes for early mornings
  • Camera
  • Cooking Gear
  • Dog Friend
  • Hat/Shades
  • Sunscreen
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RT Distance 19 Miles
Activities Chillin, Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Loop
Features
Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Forest
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Gorgeous Hiking!

This loop was epic. Unless you want to end with 3 miles uphill make sure you start on the correct trailhead and go clockwise. Breathtaking views, old growth cedar, and an optional scramble to Little Snowy Top make for a unique and fun backpacking trip. We did it in two 10 mile days and it was perfect. Highly recommend.


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