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Hiking Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains

Head to the White Cloud Mountains for a crowd-free taste of Idaho high country.

Expedition Planner: White Cloud Mountains, ID

DRIVE TIME: The White Cloud Peaks are in central Idaho, about 2 1/2 hours (140 miles) east of Boise.

THE WAY: From Boise, take ID 21 east to the town of Stanley. Then take ID 75 south for about 15 miles to Fourth of July Creek Road (Forest Service Road 209) and go east for 5 miles to the signed trailhead for Champion Lakes.

TRAILS: The 8-mile Champion Creek Trail is the best way to reach the lakes (don’t be tempted by the apparent shortcut via Pole Creek). The Champion Creek Trail connects with the Washington Creek Trail. Add 5 miles to the hike by continuing over the shoulder of Washington Peak and into Washington Basin.

DAYHIKE: For a 3 1/2-mile hike to Fourth of July Lake, continue on Fourth of July Creek Road about 5 miles to the trailhead. Other dayhikes include Boulder Chain Lakes and Castle Peak.

ELEVATION: The Champion Lakes trailhead lies at 8,250 feet and Washington Peak tops out at 10,519 feet.

CAN’T MISS: The view of Castle Peak from most high ridges and peaks in the area.

CROWD CONTROL: This area is a proposed wilderness and closed to mechanized vehicles. Go in early fall for the best chance of complete solitude and good weather. Avoid Champion Lakes in the summer, when it’s a popular destination for Boy Scout troops.

GUIDES: Idaho: A Climbing Guide: Climbs, Scrambles, and Hikes,

by Tom Lopez (The Mountaineers, 800-553-4453; www.backpacker.com/bookstore; $35), has good information on nontechnical ascents of peaks in the White Clouds. USGS 7.5-minute topo maps Washington Peak and Horton Peak (888-ASK-USGS; http://ask.usgs.gov; $4 each).

WALK SOFTLY: On the high ridges and peaks in the White Clouds, the rock can be fragile.

CONTACT: Sawtooth National Recreation Area, (208) 727-5000; www.northrim.net/sawtoothnf/index1.htm.

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