Creating the Perfect Wilderness Getaway Out of Salmon, Idaho

"The real meaning of wilderness will open our eyes like an Idaho sunrise of a summer morning."

 Frank Church

In the United States, 111 million acres of federal land have been designated as official wilderness. The designation is the highest level of preservation for any federal wildland. In these special areas, man is to remain a visitor, leaving behind no lasting impact. For this reason, vehicles, structures, and roads are not permitted. What results is a system of breathtaking landscapes where visitors can hike, fish, camp, hunt, boat, and otherwise connect with nature.

Idaho’s Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness lays claim to both the longest moniker and the largest acreage of any contiguous unit of the National Wilderness Preservation System in the Lower 48. The Frank Church’s craggy peaks, dramatic canyons, and free-flowing rivers attract thousands of annual visitors. 

Spanning over 2.3 million acres, the wilderness has several towns that make worthy jumping-off points, but Salmon, Idaho, easily tops the list. Whatever your route through the wilderness, a stay in Salmon provides the perfect bookend for any expedition.

Whatever it is that gets you outside, a successful wilderness trip requires proper planning. The Salmon-Challis USFS Field Office is the lead management agency for the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Headquartered in Salmon, the office is an excellent resource for recreators. Maps, regulations, and guidance can be provided to visitors at their office, located right in town. 

Other vendors provide the necessary supplies to outfit any type of journey. Anglers will enjoy browsing the shelves of the Salmon River Fly Box. Hunters can find sporting goods, guns, bows, and ammunition at 93 Outdoor Sports. Hikers and backpackers should make sure to drop into Arfmann’s Four Seasons for any needed outdoor gear. 

Whatever your chosen activity, take a page out of local artist and experienced wilderness guide Cayla Sanderson’s book and memorialize your time in the Frank Church through painting. She is seen here with her painting that captures the iconic Veil Falls along the Middle Fork of the Salmon.

Although the awe and wonder of the wilderness is difficult to capture, painting en plein air adds to any experience. Seek supplies at the Purple Easel Gallery, and be sure to check out other local artists’ renderings of the area. In addition to the tangible supplies provided by the small businesses that line Main Street, visitors can also acquire firsthand knowledge and insider tips for a successful wilderness trip.

Stanley to Indian Creek Flight - Idaho Frank Church Wilderness
Flying into Indian Creek from Stanley

Salmon is conveniently located. The town sits at the intersection of highways 93 and 28, less than 30 miles from the eastern border of the Frank Church, providing easy driving access to visitors. Although the wilderness boundary can be accessed by vehicle, the most convenient transport to the large swathe of land is undoubtedly provided by plane. Connect with pilots from the multiple flying services out of the Lemhi County Airport to plan a round trip flight to access your backcountry adventure. For a truly extraordinary experience, local flying services offer scenic flights over the Frank Church, perhaps the quickest way to grasp the magnitude of the vast landscape. Some such flights can even be arranged to include a meal or activity at a backcountry lodge. For further details on backcountry flights, check out Sawtooth Flying Service, Gem Air Aviation, or McCall Flying Service.

More than just a thoroughfare to the wilderness, Salmon is a destination unto itself. A few days in town before or after a backcountry journey provides the perfect balance to any rugged excursion. Whether it’s catching a hockey tournament after a winter hunt, or dancing to a live band at Sweetwater Hollow after a summer rafting trip, Salmon offers no shortage of activities to augment your trip. For a current list of options for lodging and dining in the Salmon, Idaho area go to

Photo Credits to: Sena Strenge, Landon Moores and Cayla Sanderson