#1 Mount Borah

borah3Mount Borah (Borah Peak) is the highest mountain in the U.S. state of Idaho and one of the most prominent peaks in the contiguous states. It is located in the central section of the Lost River Range, within the Challis National Forest in eastern Custer County.

Elevation: 12,667′
Prominence: 5,981′
Mountain range: Lost River Range
Round trip Hiking Distance from Trailhead: 8 miles
Total Elevation Gain: ~5300ft


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Getting there: From Mackay, Idaho go North on Highway 93 about 20 miles until you reach Birch Springs Road. Turn Right (East) on Birch Springs Road and follow approximately 3 miles to the trailhead parking.

Camping: There are plenty of camping spots near Borah trailhead. There is an outhouse at the trailhead.  There are also plenty of camping spots within several hundred yards of the trailhead.

Best time to hike (Summer): Late July through Mid-September.

Special Gear Requirements: Depending on how much snow has fallen, it may be necessary to have an axe and cramp-ons for early season summits. During really heavy snow seasons, a rope is also a good idea to help when scaling down the final cliff on Chicken Out Ridge to the Saddle below. This saddle is often covered in snow and can be quite harrowing. No wonder it’s called Chicken Out Ridge.


Smokey Borah Camping

Smokey Borah Camping

A busy day at Borah Peak.

A busy day at Mount Borah.

The beginning of Chicken Out Ridge

The beginning of Chicken Out Ridge

Traversing Chicken Out Ridge.

Traversing Chicken Out Ridge.


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My Borah Experience (2013) – Just as last year, we not only had to battle the mountain itself, but mother nature as well. Brother Steve, friends Mark and Julie, and I arrived at Mt. Borah Friday evening and were greeted with more smoke. Although many fires were burning in Idaho, this smoke most likely came from the Beaver Creek fire which was burning to the South and West of our location.  The fires shrouded the entire area in a thick blanket of smoke, so bad that we could actually see ash falling out of the sky. The immense smoke made for a memorable sunset and a blood red moon later that night.

While everyone else was crammed, camping in and around the parking lot, we found an awesome camp site just a few hundred yards from the trailhead. We had the entire area to ourselves, including a creek running along-side our camp. After setting up camp, Mark entertained us in what can only be described as pure skill (if you must watch).

We awoke at 5:30am the next morning, hoping that changing weather patterns might have pushed the smoke out. It did not. We packed up camp and drove the very short distance to the trailhead. We began our hike at about 7am. There were many hikers on the trail and it was nice to get to know some of them as we continuously passed each other on the climb.

We ascended like billy goats until we reached the famous Chicken Out Ridge. I can understand why it is called this. This section of mountain is not for the faint of heart. As you scurry over sharp, protruding rocks, sheer drop-offs greet you on either side. It’s here where we lost one of our group to the mystique of Chicken Out Ridge. The rest of us gathered our senses and began the trek across. Yeah Baby! After a grueling scamper across Chicken Out Ridge, we descended the last 20 foot drop off, fortunate not to have encountered snow at the bottom. We straddled the saddle a bit more and began the final steep ascent to the top. At the summit, we experienced a brief snow/sleet storm that blew out just as fast as it blew in. Lasting roughly 60 seconds, it gave us an idea of how quickly the weather can change. After a brief stay at the summit we begin our journey down. While not as hard as going up, it was hell on the knees! Some ten hours later we emerged from this adventure still in one piece, however just slightly more tired.


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