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Track Caribou in the Salmo-Priest Wilderness

Glimpse these rare mammals in Idaho's Salmo-Priest Wilderness.

If you can’t find a log to bridge the river, the day begins with the weekend’s second–but last–hairy crossing on the South Salmo. Unbuckle your hipbelt and sternum strap, then cross facing upstream, using your trekking poles for balance. You’ll skirt the southwestern slope of Snowy Top Mountain, then climb steep switchbacks 3.5 miles to a ridge where the trail cuts south for the remainder of the trip. Look for a spur trail just after reaching the ridge–it’ll take you 0.7 mile to the 6,829-foot summit of Little Snowy Top Mountain. From the lookout cabin, scope for caribou on adjacent slopes. These ungulates, called reindeer everywhere but North America, stay at high elevations year-round to feed on lichens growing on tree bark and rocks. Biologists say that this herd’s population grows by two to three members a year. Back on the ridge, continue south for 2.4 more miles: Descend a few switchbacks, then climb to the Salmo Divide Trail junction at the base of 6,764-foot Shedroof Mountain. Camp here and watch the sun sink behind pyramidal Gypsy Peak to the west.

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