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The Upper Basin Trail is a 5 mile loop in the upper basin of Elk Creek just north of Elk River The trail is near the giant western red cedar, thought to be the largest tree in the U.S. east of the Sierra-Cascade crest. The loop is also near the Morris Cedar Grove, another grove of large old-growth red cedar. unfortunately, the road to the Morris Grove was closed and blocked off on Saturday.
If you’re looking for a difficult challenge, the Upper Basin loop is not for you. The trail was built as an interpretative trail with markers along the way. The markers are just numbers and likely correspond to a brochure to carry with you, but there were no brochures to be found at the parking area. The trail itself is quite easy. The total elevation gain is about 400 feet and much of the trail runs along an old railroad grade which is flat and soft. The trail is scenic, but don’t come looking for grand vistas or picturesque stream scenes. Instead, it winds through some of the typical ecosystems in the area: logged forest (regrowth), marshes, meadows, and some more mature forest. I suspect that hiking this trail early in the morning would provide plenty of wildlife sightings. I passed numerous evidence of moose and elk and a few scat piles that may belong to wolf. This is definitely a trail that the whole family could enjoy and it seems to receive little use compared to the Elk River Falls and the Giant Tree, so it’s also a good way to escape the crowds. To get to the trailhead, travel to the town of Elk River, Idaho (Rt. 8 East from Moscow), turn left onto N. Front Street and stay straight on this road. It will eventually turn into a gravel road. At the fork, take the right Fork onto Forest Service Road 382 toward Upper Basin. In about 8 miles, turn Left onto a short spur that leads to the trailhead and parking area.
GPS coordinates: N46 53.075, W116 09.674
Clearwater National Forest trail #747
About 2 miles beyond is the giant Western Red Cedar. This tree is thought to be the largest tree east of the Cascades and Sierras. It measures 18 feet in diameter at breast height and measures 177 feet tall. It is estimated to be about 3000 years old. This short walk through an old-growth cedar grove is short and mostly handicap accessible, though not 100%. There is also a bathroom at the parking area. If you’re in the area, a trip to the tree is worth the visit.