Why it's Worth the Drive
Gin-clear rivers, huckleberries galore, ancient cedars, blue ribbon fishing, bountiful wildlife, and enough side roads and backcountry trails for a lifetime of exploring.
Hoodoo Pass at a Glance
Know before you Go
Fly fishermen have been drifting flies on Kelly Creek for decades, but outside fly fishing circles, the creek (and the road over Hoodoo Pass that gets you there) can rightly be called an off-the-radar treasure.
Kelly Creek starts high in the mountains in a roadless area that spans over 250,000 acres. The region escaped logging (and the roads that come with logging) because most of the timber was destroyed in the Great Burn of 1910. Ironically, the fire that devastated the region then is now the very reason that this wilderness area is so pristine.
The beauty of this remote region is that it offers a little of everything: Solitude, superb fishing, wild life, and trails galore. The campgrounds fill up on holidays, but the shoulder seasons are remarkably quiet, thanks in part to the fifty-plus miles that separate Kelly Creek from the nearest town.
From Superior, Montana, follow FSR 250, also known, invitingly, as Trout Creek Road. FSR 250 begins as a paved frontage road that transitions to gravel after a few miles. The road here is generally in good shape and wide enough for two vehicles. A four wheel drive vehicle is recommend but not necessary. Expect dust and some tooth-rattling washboards. Watch for logging trucks. The drive to the summit of Hoodoo Pass is approximately 25 miles. At the summit, you leave Montana, enter Idaho, and the road narrows. It's slower going from here on out. Watch for blind corners and occasional fallen rocks. It's a 30 mile descent to Kelly Forks Work Center, which is situated at the confluence of Kelly Creek and and the North Fork of the Clearwater.
At this point, where you choose to go next is up to you. There are seven campgrounds along the North Fork and Kelly Creek with more than 100 sites. You'll also find plenty of opportunities for dispersed camping, as well as a network of trails for backpacking or day hiking.
Here are some pro tips from the experts at Get Lost:
- If you're looking for solitude, lace up your boots and head up Kelly Creek Trail #567, which follows Kelly Creek and its tributaries for 22 miles.
- Planning on fishing? Kelly Creek and the North Fork of the Clearwater are open from the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend through November 30. An Idaho fishing license is required so acquire one online ahead of time, but be warned: A license is not cheap for out-of-staters.
- Orofino, ID is approximately 80 miles southwest of the confluence of Kelly Creek and the North Fork of the Clearwater, which means leaving the valley via Hoodoo Pass isn't your only option. Word to the wise: The road to Orofino can get dusty in summer.
- Nearby Cayuse Creek (a tributary to Kelly Creek) and Weitas Creek (a tributary to the North Fork of the Clearwater) offer excellent small water fishing and day hiking. Well worth exploring.
- Read The Big Burn by Timothy Egan. It's a fantastic book about the fire that devastated this region in 1910. As you explore the area, keep your eyes peeled for old charred snags left over from the burn.
- Fall foliage is spectacular on Hoodoo Pass. The nights are cold, but the fishing and scenery can't be beat. This might be the best season to visit.
- If you plan ahead, you can splurge for a night and reserve the Kelly Forks Cabin, a rustic, three-room cabin along the river.