Idaho's stunning Magruder Corrider
In the mid 1990s, while living in southwest Montana, I did a lot of hunting and exploring around the mountains in the area. This included those ranges bordering the Beaverhead, Ruby, Red Rock, and Big Hole Rivers. I also got up on the Bitteroot and over the mountains onto the Selway which is where this web page and story has its origins. I learned of a road out of Darby, Montana that followed the Nez Perce indian trail over the monuntains into Idaho, which conected to a primitive road that continued across the Selway-Bitterroot and Frank Chuirch - River of no Return Wilderness areas over near Elk City, Idaho. I decided I wanted to travel this road, so I gathered up my gear and told my wife where I was going and started off. I got over to the Selway River only to find the wilderness road closed. This was during the Clinton administration and there were quite a lot of such road closures during that era.
Fast forward to July of this year (2007). Now living in southwest Idaho, I was recently asked by a friend if I had ever taken the Magruder Corridor Road in Idaho. I told him did not know the road, but when he described it coming off of the Elk City road and going over to Montana across the Selway, I immediately thought of my failed attempt twelve years earlier. It is the same road. This web page is dedicated to the two day trip that my 17 year old son and I made on July 21st and 22nd.
The Magruder Road itself, FS no. 468, runs from just south of the old Red River Ranger Station in Idaho, over to Darby, Montana. About 120 miles of no services whatsoever. The actual wilderness road is about 90 miles, starting from FS No. 223 just south of the old Red River Ranger Station, to the start of pavement climbing away from the Selway River into the Bitterroot Mountains. This pavement is shortlived, maybe ten miles, and then reverts back to gravel, but from that point on it is in very good shape and plenty wide enough for two cars.
The wilderness road is a rough, one lane road, with some parts primitive, but nothing that any well maintained four wheel drive vehicle with good tires and suspension cannot handle. The spurs, or side roads, however, are very primitive where good clearance, good tires, and a heavier frame are required for the four wheel low driving. Carry a good spare on this trip.
The entire report is VERY graphic intensive, so, :
CLICK HERE FOR THE ENTIRE TRIP REPORT INCLUDING 90 STUNNING PHOTOS I TOOK
A few examples of the photographs from this trip follow:
I thought I would share this neat experience that I had with my youngest son. Wonderful trip, wonderful scenery. Anyone wishing to see some of North America's most isolated, pristine, and most beautiful wilderness areas should consider this trip. But make sure you have a good four wheel drive vehicle (a good 4wheel ATV will also work nicely), at least one very good spare (two is preferable) and plenty to drink and eat for your trip.
It is seriously fun road!
I drove this road in 1995 with a 32 foot long 4-WD motorhome. It was a little nuts in a few places. Thanks for this field report and welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum!
Originally Posted by JeffHead
Thanks for the welcome!
Originally Posted by Editor
A 32 foot MH? Man, that would be hairy on that road. I know you did not take the primitive road to Burnt Knob Lookout with that rig...hehehe.
Anyhow, that trip is very much advised for anyone wanting to experience a big chunk of some of America's most remote "outback", along with stunning and beautiful mountain scenery. Just go prepared with a good rig, good spare(s), and normal water and food provisioning when traveling in remote areas. There's no cell phone, and very little radio coverage in these areas outside of a few Federal Agency frequencies (like the Forest Service).
Also, be real careful travling before mid-June or after mid-September as the snow could fly at any time outside of that and cause all kinds of difficulties.
Seems like all our neighbors and friends have moved to Idaho, and I can see why.
Well, the entire state is not like that...but a huge area in the middle is, surrounded by the Snake River drainage to the south. That drainage is large and the further west and then north it ravels, the lower it gets and more arid it gets. But even in those areas there is a lot of beauty.
Originally Posted by Ross & Alice
But, you don't have to travel far into the mountains surrounding the Snake River to get scenery just like shown here. Along the Boise, Payette, or Weiser Rivers in SW Idaho near Boise that scenery and recreation is never more than 30 minutes or so away. We just wanted to get onto that long, primitive road that traverses the heart of it.
Now, northern Idaho in the Panhandle, is pretty much all green and mountains.
Lots of backing up
It was somewhat insane -- here is photo of the truck.
Originally Posted by JeffHead
This is the same road my wife and i drove back in 2005.. i posted about it here in the off the beaten path section.
this is one spectacular road!
Great report! I have had many opportuities where the FS people will help you get through while the local LEOs, and in some cases the National Guard if the fire is big enough, will stop you and turn you back...and understandably so.
Originally Posted by uclid
This road is a great road. A true jewel for our entire nation as fr as I am concerned.
If you get the chance read my entire trip report at the link at the start of the thread and let me know if you recognize specific spots and what you think.
I did read the report Jeff and I loved it. It brought back lots of memories. After our trip we felt so inspired and had to share our memories of that road with others. Obviously that road had the same effect on you. Great job on your report and thanks for sharing it here perhaps others will explore it and enjoy it as much as we have.
There were a number of specific spots I recognize such as that bridge and some of the road signs. We did stop to read The Magruder Massacre site sign but never took the hike. At that point we were not sure if we would have the time for that hike, so we wisely decided against it. We had planed on spending the night at Red River Hot springs but the accommodations were a bit to rugged for us . We tried Elk city but that did not strike our fancy either so we headed to Grangeville from there. Every hotel we stopped at was filled with the Stump Jumpers (forest fire fighters) we ended up driving to Lewiston and that made for a very long and tiring day. I know we would make the same trip again if we get the opportunity.
I do not remember Burnt Knob Lookout. That must have been off a side road as we completely missed it, too bad because it looks like it had a stunning view. Although there were plenty of outstanding views along the way. You took some great photos and you know as well as I that those photos do not capture the true beauty that is along side that road. Anyone who can make the time for that drive should!
While in Stanley did you get to stop at the hot spring on the side of the road just outside of the town? I hope you had the chance to check out both Custer and Bonanza Ghost towns? That whole section of Idaho was fantastic and the people were extremely friendly.