The Murdock Creek Trail is a 6.3 mile hike located in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA). In fact, hikers drive right by the SNRA office at the turn off to the trail on Forest Road 146.
SNRA Office and Murdock Creek Trailhead
The office was closed due to COVID when I visited, but there are still many trail maps and other useful information about the area in the foyer. If it is open, you can see a variety of animals on display such as a wolf, fox, and badger.
Forest Road 146 is dirt, but easily passable by passenger car. The Murdock Creek Trailhead is a little over a mile down the road and on a spur to the right.
East Fork of the North Fork of the Wood River
After my experience hiking the East Fork of the North Fork of the Wood River yesterday, I almost didn’t come back to this area for another hike.
The East Fork of the North Fork of the Wood River is closer to 5 miles down the dirt road and very neglected. After about a mile into the hike the trail fades into a sea of fallen trees. I called it quits and didn’t even write a blog about it. I think it is my only 1 star review on AllTrails.
The Hike on Murdock Creek Trail
On the flip side, the Murdock Creek Trail is extremely well maintained, in particular for the first two miles. The first 1.5 miles, the trail meanders along the creek past moss covered trees as it crosses two nicely constructed bridges. Many of the trees were enormous, and I was fascinated by the one that looked like only half of it was attached to the mountain side. The atmosphere is this area of the forest was very calming.
At about 1.5 miles, the path veers away from the creek as it ascends steeply for about 50 yards before it descends back down to the creek. For the next half mile, it undulates through a talus field, along the willows and finally passes a cool rock formation.
The trail then climbs again, and the views really don’t get any better after this point. If I were to repeat the hike, I’d probably cut it short to 4 miles roundtrip and have a snack at the small rock outcropping with views of the ski mountain.
Continuing on, the trail descends to Murdock Creek. The creek is wide and shallow here, so it is possible to hop across logs and rock islands without getting your shoes wet.
Thereafter, the path climbs very steeply up the mountain side. Toward the top, turning around provides a nice view of the valley and distant mountains. This is the only view you’d miss if cutting the trail short, and honestly, the reward isn’t worth effort of all the ups and downs after the first two miles.
Further along, the trail becomes less distinct as it travels through the forest. At times, it feels more like an animal path as it again descends to the creek.
I don’t know how many times I thought to myself, can’t the Murdock Creek Trail just follow Murdock Creek. And does Idaho believe in switch backs?!?
Over 3.2 miles, the trail only gains 1,200 feet. The challenge is that it goes from flat to a 30% grade, then flat to a 30% grade, and so on. Fortunately, the climbs were short, but the descents on loose shale and dirt proved slick.
I forgot my hiking pole, so I selected a stick from a lot of broken branches on the way to the next creek crossing. This final creek crossing is at about 3 miles. In looking up the canyon, I did not see any spectacular views.
Additionally, the AllTrails reviews say the trail just sort of keeps going to nothing in particular. As a result, I sat down by Murdock Creek, had a snack with Annie, and returned the way I came, turning the 6.3 mile hike into a little less than 6 miles.
In all, I would highly recommend Murdock Creek Trail for a leisurely 3-4 mile hike. Thereafter, it is more of a workout. ETB