Powder Keg

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Idaho, United States, North America
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
10000 ft / 3048 m
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Powder Keg
Created On: May 1, 2009
Last Edited On: May 3, 2009


Murphy looks onMurphy takes in the sunrise over Bear Creek Canyon
Pulk and Pinwheel A Pulk lightens the load by miles, I was able to skin it all the way to camp
Camp on the overlookCamp 1 on the rim of Bear Creek

The Powder Keg: an early and late season stronghold for Idaho back country skiers and climbers longing to alleviate their Cabin fever. The PK. Is a 10,000’ alpine basin surrounded by ten and eleven thousand foot peaks in the Pass Creek Drainage of the Lost River Range.

I say early and late season for two reasons, #1, Pass Creek road closes during the winter adding several miles to the hike unless you have access to a snowmobile and #2, the scree covering almost all of the slopes is so fine, one can ski on a very thin skin of snow without the worry of scuffing your planks.

The terrain can be somewhat dangerous in the wrong conditions. Steep dark canyons and towering cliffs add a great deal of drama and aloneness to a hike that is one part journey, one part destination, and two parts determination. The work is worth every step though and upon arrival any Slat rat will understand why they came. The basin is unlike any other topography in the entire range and skiing can be had on any compass point and ranges from easy 20 degree slopes to stuff that just might turn you inside out.

When I overnight in the winter alpine, I usually load all my gear in a large backpack and strap it on to a my Pulk, I use the backpack belt as a harness and can load the entire works onto my back to traverse the tough sections and or ski back down. Skinning in over flat ground, one hardly notices the weight, making the drag in, no drag at all. Click here
For instructions on building your own Pulk,

The Mountains surrounding the basin are all within easy hiking distance, They are, from counter clockwise, standing at the entrance to the basin:

Octoberfest Peak, 10,800'

Hidden Peak, 11,308

Wet Peak 11,309

Peak 11,138

and South Wet Peak 10,267

Getting There

The Powder KegThe how to
Powder Keg in NovemberThe Powder Keg in November, The small size of the skree on surrounding slopes makes this a great place to ski in thin conditions
Bear Creek Lake Bear Creek Lake and Bear Creek Canyon.
Early campAn early season camp in the middle of the Powder Keg Basin.

From Arco, drive north on Highway 93 for 18 miles until reaching the Pass Creek Summit Road turnoff on the northeast side of the highway.

Take this improved gravel road 8.7 miles to a poorly marked turnoff for Bear Creek Road The approach from Pass Creek is about five miles in winter, but when the road is open you drive 1.6 miles to the trailhead and then hike the remaining 3.3 miles from there.

Red Tape

Not much in the way of Red tape, Pass creek road is usally open through November and sometimes remains drivable well into December. The Lost River Highway district generally opens the pass creek narrows in early April. During the winter months, the entire area (excluding private land) is open to snowmobiles.

The Bear Creek trail to the lake is open to foot, horse and Mt. Bikes year around.

External Links

Lost River Ranger District Salmon Challis National Forest Service.

Sawtooth avalanche page for current conditions within 5o miles of Bear Creek

Idaho Outdoors Forum
For more information, post a question to locals on the forum.


Camping is pretty much wide open in the area, Lets keep it that way, tread lightly.