McCroskey State Park Loop

Located about 20 miles north of Moscow, ID, McCroskey State Park stretches along Skyline Ridge to the Washington state line. The land was donated to the Park Service by Virgil McCroskey in 1955. Worried about maintenance cost, the state of Idaho only accepted on the condition that McCroskey maintain the land at his own expense for 15 years. He accepted, maintained the property for 15 years, and died a few weeks later at age 93. The park is named after his mother, Mary Minerva McCroskey. The loop trail ascends the southeastern flank of Mineral Mountain in the easternmost section of the park, then follows the ridge to Mission Mountain, and completes the loop by returning via the Korth Trail, a logging road that contours along the side of the ridge.
Location
  • Channeled Scablands
Rating
2.9 out of 5
Difficulty
Moderate (some uphill hiking)
Distance
23.5 miles
Duration
6:59 hours moving time (Hiking)
Elevation Gain
2,279 feet
High Point
4,258 feet (Mission Mountain)
Low Point
3,086 feet (trailhead)
Features
  • Mountain
  • Structure
  • Grove
  • Outing Type
  • Daytrip
  • Trail Type
  • Loop
  • Trailbed
    Packed dirt, logging road, gravel road
    Trail#
    Water
  • None, besides a few seasonal creeks
  • Camping
    • Mission Mountain and “Fireplace” (on the ridge)
    Conditions
    • Excellent
    Administration
  • Idaho Parks and Recreation
  • Status
  • State Park
  • Maps
    USGS
  • Mission Mountain
  • Fees & Permits
  • None required
  • ()
    Open To
  • Hikers
  • Dogs
  • Horses
  • Mountain Bikers
  • ()
    Directions
  • On US-95 take the Skyline Drive exit. This is about 26 miles north of Moscow or 10 miles south of Tensed. The exit is located right on top of the hill. Head east on Skyline Drive for about a mile and park at the large vehicle turnaround. There is an old beer hall and restrooms at the parking lot. The trailhead begins on the other side of Skyline Drive.
  • Season
    Year-around
    Nearby
      Date
      April 22, 2017

      The structure beside the restroom at the parking lot is the first tavern in Benewah county to have a beer license. It was actually located on Marsh Hill, along US-95, but had to be moved when that road was widened. Built in 1933, the building did not benefit from the move, as a downed pine tree took out a corner of the house.

      The start to the trail is on the opposite side of Skyline Drive, a trail called Lazy T Trail. It meanders through a mixed pine, fir, and cedar forest for just under 3 miles, crossing a few seasonal brooks in the process. The trail is a packed-dirt single-track and is fairly hemmed in by trees, though some mountain views open up occasionally. There are a couple of forks in the trail, but they are marked. The trail ends on a grassy logging road where you take a right and slight uphill towards a pretty camping spot near Skyline Drive (about at the 3-mile mark).

      Cross Skyline Drive and ascend quite steeply along a single-track that is not marked on the park’s map. It climbs the southern flank of Mineral Mountain and about two-thirds up the forest opens up and you’ll enjoy some nice views to the south. For a while the trail follows a level logging road, but eventually veers away and climbs again, along a ridge, and heads straight up to the mountaintop. Mineral Mountain formerly featured a lookout tower and now surprises with nice views and a picnic table.

      The trail continues on the other side of the peak, leading down into the woods and a few lingering patches of snow. Now a single-track, the path crosses a saddle, which is also the county line, and spills out onto a logging road that provides sweeping views to the north. This side is tribal land, not state park land, and has been logged extensively. One really needs to cross the small knob to the left to get back to Skyline Drive, but there is no obvious trail and since it wasn’t clear whether the land was private or public we followed the logging road downhill in a north-easterly direction until it met up with another logging road, a little before the 5-mile marker. Take a left onto that logging road and follow it uphill back to Skyline Drive, which is at the 6-mile marker.

      Next are three choices, to the left is Skyline Drive, to the right a logging road, and in the middle a single-track ascending a small knoll. They all lead to the same place, so we picked the single-track, which crossed the knoll in perhaps half a mile and emerged onto Skyline drive (there is one fork along the way; take a left). There is a burned area to the south providing decent views. Follow Skyline Drive for perhaps a quarter-mile, then take a left onto a wide logging road that leads to a picnic area, nice views, and an interpretive sign detailing the life of Mrs. McCroskey.

      A single-track, marked as Lone Pine Trail on the map and signed as Fireplace Trail, heads off westwards, paralleling Skyline Drive but staying well below the ridge. In about a mile the trail heads back up to the rim to a campground and picnic shelter called Fireplace Campground. Stay on Skyline Drive until you’re passed the campground, then take a right onto a logging road that straddles the ridge and provides phenomenal views to the north (the entire north side has been clearcut).

      At the 9-mile marker the trail once again meets up with Skyline Drive and another interpretive sign, this time a 1955-newspaper article detailing McCorskey’s land donation. The single-track remains to the north of Skyline Drive, however, and parallels the road. It bypasses Mission Mountain, dropping down its northern flank and reemerges onto Skyline Drive at the 10-mile marker.

      Cross Skyline Drive and take the logging road that heads due south. After about a mile take the single-track that tumbles down into the woods to your left. Shortly it spills out onto another logging road, which is the beginning of the Korth Trail.

      Follow this logging road for the next 10 miles. It meanders along the mountainside, at first very broad and open, then narrowing and swallowed by woods. In fact, this first section of road could easily be traveled by car, but the narrower and deteriorating road clearly took its toll on the driving populace, as evidenced by several wrecks sprinkled throughout the woods (though, we mused, perhaps this was the result of a drive-by shooting, a particularly delicate operation on a single-lane overgrown forest road, that caused the assailant to follow the victim down into the depths of the forest, only to be crushed by toppling trees….). Anyway, the road does cross several gullies where you may find water, but late in summer it likely is dried up.

      The last quarter of the Korth Trail is on a logging road that clearly is heavily used and makes for poor hiking. The road leads back to Skyline Drive around the 22-mile mark. Then it’s downhill on Skyline Drive, a gravel road, back to the trailhead.

      Alternate Routes

      • There are many more trails (32 miles in total) along Skyline Drive, which follows the ridge for another 10 miles. Refer to the trailmap

      Things to Consider

        Not so great

          The first licensed beer hall in Benewah county
          Beginning of Lazy T trail
          Much of the Lazy T trail meanders through dense forest
          Limited views from Lazy T trail
          Naughty taking one of many mud baths
          End of Lazy T trail. Take the road uphill to the right
          Mountainview from 2-mile marker on Skyline Drive
          Singletrack ascending Mineral Mountain
          Glacier Lily
          Looking south from Mineral Mountain flank
          Old logging road on Mineral Mountain
          View from side of Mineral Mountain
          Path is mostly packed dirt, but rutted by dirtbike use
          Another old logging road
          First views of “the other side”
          Mineral Mountain peak, site of a former lookout tower
          View from Mineral Mountain
          Singletrack down the other side. A few patches of lingering snow
          View north from saddle
          Logging road down north side
          The rolling hills of the Palouse
          Looking south through a burned area
          Lone Pine picnic area
          Lone Pine / Fireplace trail
          There are many interpretive signs along Skyline Drive
          “Fireplace” pavillion and campground
          View northwest across the Palouse
          Time for another mud bath
          A singletrack along the northwestern flank of Mission Mountain
          After crossing Skyline Drive, this road leads south for a mile to the beginning of the Korth trail
          Korth trail. Essentially an old logging road
          View east from Korth trail
          The first third of the Korth trail is quite open with good views…
          …then the trail narrows and morphs into an ATV/biking trail
          A splendid example of a Buick Century. Are the bullet holes post or perimortem?
          Crushed by trees
          Seasonal brook along Korth Trail; it eventually becomes part of the Middle Fork of Deep Creek
          Tree stump along Korth Trail
          Thick cedar forests engulf the shadier sections of the Korth Trail
          Another seasonal brook, also part of the Middle Fork
          The carcass of a rare Bugatti Type 57S Atalante, stripped of everything of value, including its flux capacitor, an exceedingly popular aftermarket accessory for certain well-traveled DeLorean models
          Most of the Korth Trail follows an old logging road
          View from Korth Trail
          The last quarter of the Korth Trail follows a wide logging road that obviously is still in heavy use
          Looking back from ending of Korth Trail to the section just traversed
          Skyline Drive is a gravel road, single-handedly built by Virgil McCroskey
          View from Skyline Drive