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Borah Peak, Idaho (12662 ft)

Borah Peak

Borah Peak, Salmon-Challis National Forest
Lost River Ranger District, Salmon-Challis National Forest

Route: Borah Peak Trail and Southwest ("Chicken-Out") Ridge

From Arco, Idaho, drive north through Mackay on US Highway 93. About 20 miles north of Mackay (milepost 129.4) turn east on a dirt road at the sign for Borah Peak Trail and drive 3.3 miles to its end. There are five campsites near the trailhead, and a two-pit toilet, but no water. As of 2011 there was no fee for camping or parking.

The trail begins at the signed trailhead (7400 ft) at a broad parking lot. The trail is obvious as it enters a pine forest, gains a ridge at about 8600 ft, then follows it steeply to reach a ridge top at about 10600 ft. The trail traverses along and up the ridge line southeast towards Borah's southwest ridge. In the second photo below you will see a snow gully in a notch on the steep ridge above.

The trail becomes more of a scramble at 11200 ft and at about 11500 ft it reaches the start of class 3 rock. From here I traversed right on ledges to reach a gully I descended into and climbed up to the right out of to reach an obvious trail that leads to a saddle on the ridge top (11700 ft).

At this saddle you will see several boot tracks, one apparently leading down to the right off the ridge line, one leading down to the left off the ridge line, and one continuing along the ridge top towards the snowfield ahead.

I initially stayed on the ridge top, but soon lost the boot track and saw no cairns. As I was unfamiliar with the route and reluctant to climb too high on the ridge without knowing what was ahead I paused and considered other options. Below me to the left I saw an obvious boot track that traversed downwards to near the bottom of the snowfield descending from the notch above. I retraced my steps on the ridge and descended this boot track, carefully crossing a patch of hard firn and frozen scree to the snowfield, which I traversed beneath on more frozen scree. I then scrambled up scree along the snowfield to reach the well-worn trail that leads northeast along the southwest ridge. I have learned since that the preferred route is to stay on the ridge line to reach a steep step down to the top of the snowfield on reportedly good rock.

The remainder of the trail traverses below the southwest ridge to a saddle, then mostly directly climbs the last 800 ft up the west face to the summit. You can find some firmer rock to the right of the loose trail in spots to make the climbing a bit easier and fun.

The views of the Lost River Range are quite impressive from the summit. You can also see the trailhead area from the summit, a mile below.

Retrace your route on the descent. More photos on Paul's Picasa Web Album.


  1. Holmes, Don, Highpoints of the United States, Second Edition, University of Utah Press, 2000.
  2. Lopez, Tom, Exploring Idaho's Mountains, The Mountaineers, 1990.