Anyone who has hiked Scotchman Peak Trail #65 in the past knows that the worst two miles of trail are the first mile on the way up and the last mile on the way down. Of, course, those are really the same mile of trail, but for the hiker starting up the hill or the hiker coming back to the parking lot after climbing the peak, that mile often feels like two. The first mile of trail is, in two words, steep and ugly. The lower trail climbs at a 37 percent grade at its worst, and averages about 20 percent overall. It also ascends straight up the fall line in places, making the trail prone to erosion and actually visually unappealing.
A few years ago, Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness began conversation with the Forest Service about helping reroute the lower mile to make it more “user-friendly.” In the fall of 2013, FSPW program coordinator Sandy Compton and Brad Smith of Idaho Conservation League began surveying a new first (and last) mile, aiming for a much more gentle 10 to 12 percent grade. In May of 2014, Smith and Compton completed their survey, and after looking over the flag line, the Forest Service pronounced it “good to go,” and staked it.
Now, after NEPA approval and the required waiting periods, work has begun on the reroute, an exciting project for FSPW volunteers, and one that will prove popular with Trail #65 users in the future.
“It will probably take two work seasons to complete the reroute,” says Compton, who is also acting as lead on the actual work, “but by midsummer, 2016, we will have a new approach to our signature peak.”
The new route will not only make life easier for starting and finishing hikers, it will also lead to some great views that are unavailable from the old trail.
“Even folks who don’t want to go the whole route will find good views within the first mile, as well as some fine picnic spots,” said Compton. “It’s going to make the Trail #65 experience better and more accessible for many levels of hikers.”
Work continues on the trail. To sign up for workdays, visit https://www.scotchmanpeaks.org/event/field-day-fridays/ and sign up for one of the Trail #65 work days by clicking on the specific link you are interested in.