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by Ralph Maughan & Jackie Johnson Maughan (Falcon Guides)
This hike is one of the most remote in Idaho. Aside from the stretch along the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, encountering another hiker would be a surprise. This is the most spectacular hike in the Frank Church–River of No Return Wilderness. Big Baldy Ridge is one of the finest walks in the American West. It has some of the most spellbinding views found anywhere. Indian Creek is 24 miles of sublime walking through old-growth forest, with one of Idaho’s most remote hot springs thrown in for good measure.
I did this loop clockwise in the first week of July, 2006, down Indian Creek and back via the Garden Creek Trail. That way the steep sections were uphill - better for my knees. The tree falls that are sometimes mentioned must have been cleaned up, though there are random trees across the trail in the upper Indian Creek area. There was still some large patches of snow near at the head of Indian Creek and along the Baldy ridge there. The lower section of Indian Creek had zillions of ticks - until you actually drop to creek level.
I spent 6 days on the loop including one mostly rest day (July 4) around the Indian Creek Ranger station area. Ranger Rick was very nice. There were lots of people in that area, but otherwise few people - except at the hot springs, which was packed.
The trail was mostly easy to follow. It disappeared in some meadows in upper Indian Creek and at the junction of Garden Creek and Baldy Ridge trails - that's the one place to be careful. Once you are on the ridge, you can't lose it.
My first camp was at Big Chief Creek, second less than a mile before the final cross of Indian Creek, third on a sandy beach just below the ranger station, fifth at Buck Lake and the last at a small unnamed lake just off the jeep road about 5 miles from the trailhead. The road to the trailhead was easy for a regular car.
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