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Middle Canyon

Middle Canyon

Middle Canyon

Page Type: Route

Location: Idaho, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 43.89038°N / 112.96203°W

Object Title: Middle Canyon

Route Type: Hiking

Season: Fall

Time Required: A long day

Rock Difficulty: Class 3

Route Quality: 
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Page By: splattski

Created/Edited: Dec 19, 2011 / Mar 24, 2014

Object ID: 766395

Hits: 2085 

Page Score: 82.48%  - 15 Votes 

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This is not the easiest way up this peak.  
Middle Canyon meadows
Within 10 minutes of the car
More Middle Canyon cliffs
Hiking through the narrow canyon

But it is easily one of the cooler routes you could find in Idaho. The route starts in a narrow canyon with sheer limestone walls that at times are more than several hundred feet tall. For the first couple miles you follow a faint trail that was once a road. The road slowly disappears amid occasional deadfall. Then you leave the canyon bottom for a stiff climb up a gravelly hillside. As you gain the crest of the ridge, you get to scramble on solid rock along the crest of a narrow ridge. Then traverse across another easier, flatter gravelly section to a final ridge that can be either hiked in normal Idaho talus, or follow the spine of the ridge on fun and mildly exposed knife-edge.
All the while gaining 4800'.
This is basin and range country, so the summit offers up amazing views. 
Limestone rib
Limestone rib below the false summit

Getting There

The nearest civilization is the tiny hamlet of Howe, Idaho. From Howe, drive about 2.5 miles east on Highway 22. Turn left (north) on 1300 West, which is paved. At the end of this road, you are forced to turn left (west). Follow this road for a couple hundred yards, looking for a turn to the right (north). Take this right turn onto a decent dirt road, and veer left as soon as possible onto a dirt track. This track parallels a canal. It's not a bad road, but has a hump in the middle making high clearance desirable. After about a mile, take a right on the road that obviously leads to Middle Canyon. Again, a humped dirt road. A few rocks, but nothing a Subaru can't handle.
The trailhead is at about 6200'.
No amenities. Room for two or three cars to park. 
Flossing the ridge
Upper ridge

Route Description

There is a trail for the first two miles, but it is overgrown so a little difficult to follow. Some downfall. But not terrible. The real issue is that there are amazing limestone cliffs, at times overhanging the trail. And while looking up at the cliffs, it's easy to trip on the ill-defined tread.
At around 7800', leave the canyon bottom and head east up a very steep hillside through open terrain and a burn.
At the top of the burn, climb up onto the limestone rib and walk the top of the rib to the false summit at 10,200.
Traverse the saddle and make your way up the final ridge to the summit. You can either hike the talus/gravel, or climb reasonable rock up the spine. 
Scrambling the knife edge
Scrambling the narrow section of the upper ridge

Current Conditions

The Jumpoff Peak web cam is aimed at the southeast aspect of Jumpoff Peak, which is just to the east of Saddle Mountain.

Essential Gear

Sturdy hiking boots. Good hiking poles are nice, but not essential. This is a fairly grueling route at 9.5 miles round trip and 4800' of gain (actually more that that, because you have to do some climbing on the return). So pack food and water accordingly. There is no water in the canyon. 
Looking south into Middle Canyon
Looking south into Middle Canyon from the summit
Route map
Route map