Peak 7,835 is an unnamed ridge point between Florence and Rainbow lakes in the small local range of the Selway Bitterroots known as the Selway Crags or simply The Crags. These highly sculpted jumbles and precipices of Idaho Batholith granite occupy the divide between the Lochsa and Selway canyons in the Clearwater Basin of north central Idaho. Peak 7,835 is a high point along this divide and the third highest point overall in the group. It rises nearly 6,000 feet over the lush warm cedar forests of the Selway River in the western end of the extensive Selway Bitterroot Mountains. The immediate rise over Florence Lake at its east foot is nearly 1,600 feet and its south ridge terminates at a point nearly 2,800 feet below. It has approximately 695 feet of prominence.
Its summit is a fairly unspectacular ridge high point on the divide between Florence Lake and Rainbow Lake, which drain north to the Lochsa River and south to the Selway River respectively. The point forms a pyramid with the east side dropping off to Florence Lake in a series of cliffs and big walls. The southwest aspect is an easy to scramble, 600 foot talus slope above Rainbow Lake. The north side forms a steep cirque 1,000 feet above a hanging subalpine valley that rises 600 feet above Lloyd Lake. Ascent from Rainbow Lake is the easy way to go, while the other slopes would be more difficult. Just to the south of the high point there is another ridge point that is far more rugged and spectacular, but at approximately 7,740 feet is a bit shorter. It would be interesting to see if a scramble route exists up this, but from all sides it looks technical from a distance.
The mountain probably gets few visitors because it is unnamed and Rainbow Lake at its foot is nearly a half mile off the only trail in the area. Use would be heaviest during the fall hunting season when several outfitters work the area. Wearing orange and traveling in groups is advised during that time. Use is much lighter during mid summer, but the bugs can be hellacious. The area also supports mountain goats.
There are two primary access points to reach this ridge point and the mountain is situated between them. In this report we refer to the main trail through the area connecting Big Fog to Coolwater as Trail 31. Some maps refer to this as Trail 3.
Big Fog Saddle Trailhead
To reach this trailhead travel up the Selway River from Highway 12 at Lowell almost to Selway Falls. This is about 18 miles. The first several miles are paved, but most of the road is gravel. Some places are narrow and traffic can be heavy at times so watch the corners. Just before Selway Falls, take a left up the Fog Mountain road (Forest Service road 319). This road is well signed. From the Selway River the trailhead at road’s end is thirteen miles. The first half of this road is narrow, but in fair condition. The second half of the road gets progressively rough with large jutted rocks and seasonal streamlets breaking up the surface. A high clearance vehicle is advisable. The thirteen miles likely will take over an hour to reach the trailhead.
From The Big Fog Mountain Trailhead hike north six miles to Cove Lakes on trail 31. From the trailhead, this trail drops 540 feet to the bottom of Canteen Creek before climbing 320 feet then dropping another 560 feet to the north fork of Canteen Creek. Then the trail climbs nearly 2,000 feet before dropping a final 800 feet to Cove Lakes. From the mosquito infested Cove Lakes one must continue north on trail 31 for almost two miles to the Rainbow Lake outlet. At this point there are many ways to ascend to Rainbow Lake. Generally stay away from the eastern slopes as they are more rugged with some difficult rocks and cliffs mixed in. Keeping to the left and rising above the west side of Rainbow Lake is the best way to go. Once above the lake it doesn’t matter much which way to go, but straight up the slope to a large bench, then straight up the talus to the summit is the most direct way.
Coolwater Ridge Trailhead
Another way into the mountain is the trailhead at the east end of Coolwater Ridge. The Coolwater Ridge Road (Forest Service Road 371) is accessed off the Selway River Road less than a mile upstream from Lowell on Highway 12. It is narrow and twisty, but in fair shape up to about the Andy’s Hump vicinity where it breaks out into the open slope parklands of Coolwater Mountain. Here the road gets very rocky with some steep pitches. It is not possible or safe to drive this without high clearance and preferably 4WD. The trail is found about a mile west of the road’s terminus at Round Top Mountain or one can park in the west saddle of Round Top and get on the trail where it cuts northeast away from the road. Be sure to be on the main ridge trail going northeast on the main Lochsa/Selway divide and not on the Round Top trail that loops up from below in the Selway Canyon.
Approximately 10 miles in the trail splits with the north fork going about two miles to Old Man Lake and the south route going about three miles to the Cove Lakes vicinity. Take the south route and proceed approximately one and a half miles to the first large perennial stream crossing. This is the outlet to Rainbow Lake. Follow the instructions above from this point.
There are other routes into this area of the Crags, especially from Highway 12 to the north. However, these are much further away and make the approach a multiple day affair. Consult local maps and Forest Service offices before confirming desired routes. Keep in mind that many trails in the area do not actually exist on the ground and cross country travel in this terrain can be difficult.
Views From The Summit
The top of this mountain provides a spectacular view of the Crags highest point, Fenn Mountain and the large Florence Lake at its base. The northeast to south the distance is dominated by the high Crags, while other directions, with the exception of a few mountains and ridges display the green rolling terrain and points in the larger canyons.
Contributing to the great views from the high points of the Crags are the fact that these summits form the higest part of the major Lochsa/Selway divide in an area of spectacularly carved and scultped terrain. The lakes associated with these features are larger than generally exist in this part of Idaho. In close proximity, but far below the deep basins of Lochsa and Selway provide immense gouges in the earth that are filled with lush green inland rain forests. Far to the west the land levels out to the Camas Prairie. The mountains of the Salmon basin are to the south. Generally the high peaks of the bitterrots are visible to the east of the Crags, but in the case of this mountain the view is blocked by Fenn Mountain and East Peak. The following photos show directional views:
Red TapeNone, other than standard wilderness regulations.
Camping is fairly sparse in the area. There is some limited camping at Rainbow Lake, if one doesn’t mind packing their gear cross country over some brushy and fairly rugged terrain. The best bet would probably be the large opening along the trail below Rainbow Lake. This is about one and a half miles east of the junction with trail 206. The Cove Lakes are almost two more miles further east on the trail. Florence Lake sits at the east foot of the mountain, but does not provide good access to the mountain unless one is very skilled and likes big walls. There appears to be a couple scramble routes through the cliffs, but they would be difficult. The mountain is accessible from Lloyds and Dishpan lakes to the north, but would require a rugged hike/scramble.
There is a fair chance of having camping areas to yourself except on weekends. Generally Cove Lakes sees more horses and use.
There are 10 campgrounds and several good dispersed sites along the Selway River road between Highway 12 and Selway Falls for those arriving late who don’t want to navigate the 319 road or arrive at the trailhead in the dark. For those coming in by the Coolwater route, a good dispersed site is along the road near Andy’s Hump. Driving the last few miles of that road in the dark may not be advisable.
When To ClimbThe area receives huge amounts of snow and hiking to the summit before late July may be difficult some years. Late summer or early fall would be best, especially after the bugs have died off. However, trips later in the year have the increased likelihood of having the air heavy with smoke from free burning wilderness fires.
Mountain Conditions and InformationGo to the mountain prepared for variable conditions. With over a mile of vertical lift from the canyons of the Lochsa and Selway basins to the top of the Crags, mountain temperatures and weather conditions can vary dramatically. Many years the trails and slopes are open from snow by mid-July, but in heavy snow years some high ground may not lose snow until fall or not at all.
Contact the Moose Creek Ranger District of the Nez Perce National Forest for information and current conditions.
Moose Creek Ranger District/Fenn Ranger Station
831 Selway Road
Kooskia, ID 83539
Mon-Fri, 7:30 - 4:00
The north side of the Lochsa/Selway divide is on the Clearwater National Forest, Lochsa Ranger District.
Lochsa Ranger District/Kooskia Ranger Station
Route 1 Box 398
Kooskia, ID 83539