Elk Creek Falls is a little-known North Idaho gem, especially in May, when the three falls are roaring with snowmelt and the woods erupt with blooming violets, calypso orchids, arnicas, and anemones.
This easy 3-mile loop travels through a dense conifer forest to three short spurs leading to the cascades. The first stop has the most dramatic view: Lower Elk Falls, a thundering torrent that drops 50 feet into a narrow basalt gorge below an open hillside. Next come twisting Middle Creek Falls, which descend 70 feet down a rock face into a lower canyon, and cascading Upper Elk Falls, the shortest at 20 feet.
Info: (208) 875-1131; www.fs.fed.us/r1/clearwater
Hike provided by Douglas Lorain, author of Backpacking Idaho (Wilderness Press)
Location: 46.7364540100098, -116.175849914551