© Tony Huegel/Backcountry Byways
Idaho’s Mahogany Peak
LOCATION: In the Beaverhead Mountains about six miles south of the Continental Divide and the Idaho-Montana line. Lemhi and Clark counties. Caribou-Targhee National Forests.
HIGHLIGHTS: An exhilarating ascent into the Beaverhead Mountains is rewarded with a sweeping vista from the summit of 10,095-foot Mahogany Peak [N44.28358 W112.85284]. The view extends west across Birch Creek Valley and the soaring Lemhi Range, north to the ramparts of the Continental Divide, south across the vast Snake River Plain, and southeast to Wyoming’s Teton Range.
DIFFICULTY: Easy to moderate. There is one steep and loose section, where I shift into low range on the climb. Overall, the route involves some maintained county roads, and long stretches of two-track road.
TIME & DISTANCE: About five hours; 45 miles.
MAPS: Caribou-Targhee National Forests, Dubois Ranger District (D–F, 3–5). Benchmark Maps’ Idaho Road & Recreation Atlas, pp. 56–57 (F–H, 6–8).
INFORMATION Caribou-Targhee National Forests, Dubois Ranger District.
GETTING THERE: Take I-15 to Dubois (pronounced “DOO boys,” it’s 50 miles north of Idaho Falls). Follow Idaho Hwy. 22 west for about 19.4 miles, then turn northwest onto to road 202 toward Chandler Canyon [N44.09228 W112.60279]. Zero your odometer.
THE DRIVE: From Idaho Hwy. 22, follow two-track road No. 202 northwest across flats of sagebrush and grass, heading toward the mountains that so dominate the landscape here. Bear left at mile 0.9. After about 6 miles, the hills will begin to close in around you as you make your way through Chandler Canyon, gradually gaining elevation.
At the fork at mile 6.8 [N44.15792 W112.70349], where road 201 into Gallagher Canyon branches to the west, continue northwest on road 202 through Chandler Canyon. From here the road becomes more rudimentary, and follows a streambed for a ways. The canyon walls and the roadbed will become increasingly rocky as well.
Soon road 202 will bend to the west, toward Kitty Spring, but at mile 14.3 [N44.23324 W112.79182] from the highway it makes a sharp hook to the right (north, then east), along a hillside. Go that way, still on road 202.
The road may not appear to receive much use, but follow it up the draw. The road will take you high onto a saddle, with views of mountains to the north. Then you will descend into a ravine. At mile 16.4 is a T junction [N44.25357 W112.78272], at road 275. Go left (south), and follow road 275 up Buckhorn Canyon. The hills of the canyon will close in further, and the roadbed will become rockier as you climb toward the bald hilltops ahead. There will be some rough spots as you ascend, and shifting into low range may be helpful.
By mile 22 you can see your goal, the summit of Mahogany Peak, topped by a radio tower. Continue toward it, following established tracks across the rocky ground ahead. Here, having climbed about 4,700 feet, you will have a top-of-the-world view. The return descent, when you have a better view of this epic landscape, is even more inspiring.
When you return to the bottom of Buckhorn Canyon, continue north on road 275, past the junction with road 202, and road 275 will eventually bend to the southeast in Nicholia Canyon. Go through a gate. When you reach another obvious junction, with road 178 (Crooked Creek Road) [N44.24585 W112.71592], note your odometer reading and bear right (southeast). About 4.2 miles from that last junction you will come to the junction [N44.20763 W112.65531] with graded Warm Springs Road, a.k.a., Emigrant Trail Road. Bear right (southeast) here to return to Hwy. 22 [N44.11301 W112.57336].