The hike up Hyndman Creek and eventually into Hyndman basin is one of the most popular on the west side of the Pioneers, and for good reason. The first section of the hike follows an old mining road through aspen groves and wildflower meadows to a major fork in the canyon at the base of the massive southwest face of Cobb Peak. It is a pleasant walk or mountain bike ride with plenty of fine views and ample summer flowers.
Hikers with the time and energy can continue upward into the spectacular glacial basin between Duncan Ridge and Cobb Peak. Sheer walls of ancient meta-sedimentary rock flank the rolling steps that lead to the saddle above Wildhorse Canyon. Mid-summer alpine wildflowers add a wash of color to the stunning alpine scenery, and the views from the divide into Wildhorse Canyon are hard to beat anywhere in Idaho.
From the trailhead, drop down to cross the North Fork of Hyndman Creek on a pretty log bridge. The trail follows an old mining road through a sloping meadow of wildflowers and scattered aspens. You will cross two small springs that can make the trail quite boggy, then you will proceed through several patches of dense pine and fir forest. After emerging into a large meadow around 7,800 feet there is an unmarked junction where the “road” turns right to climb into Big Basin (the other branch of Hyndman Creek).
From here the trail crosses a creek (this is a good place to stash your mountain bikes) and climbs up a steep, blunt ridge to a meadow at 8,200 feet. Look for some large quartzite boulders that mark a faint junction. The more pronounced trail continues across the meadow to Hyndman Creek and climbs steeply up a sage-covered face. An alternate route heads up the aspen-filled drainage to the west and offers a more gradual climb to the lake at 8,724 feet.
The Pioneer Yurt (operated in the winter by Sun Valley Trekking) is tucked into the trees just beyond the lake. The trail crosses the stream that drains the Hyndman/Duncan basin and eventually up sandy ramp above a cascading waterfall to the lip of the Hyndman Basin.
Beyond here the trail is initially faint, but hikers will be able to follow a steady tread past the small lake at 9,800 feet all the way to the divide at the head of the canyon. Be cautious around any remnant cornices on the precipitous leeward side, and enjoy the panoramic views into Wildhorse Canyon.
The initial 2.3 miles of trail make a nice, stand-alone mountain bike ride. Beyond about 8,000 feet the trail is steeper than most mortal riders will find reasonable. Using a bike is a great way to access (and quickly exit) the numerous off-trail hikes in the alpine basins above.
The relatively solid nature of the underlying geology in the Pioneers creates huge potential for scrambling and peak climbing in the Pioneer Mountains. The most common prize is 12,009-foot Hyndman Peak, which is the tallest in the range. The easiest route is the Class 3 southeast ridge, but it can also be climbed via the west face/south ridge.
Cobb Peak is a more challenging summit with a Class 4 route up the west ridge and a Class 4 to Class 5 route via the south ridge out of Big Basin. An impressive link-up of Hyndman, Old Hyndman, and Cobb covers an impressive amount of ridgeline terrain and requires excellent climbing and navigation skills.
There are five major units in the meta-sedimentary rocks that make up the Pioneer Mountains. Within the Hyndman Basin it is pretty easy to identify the cleaner, lighter quartzite that is the highest quality rock and holds the most potential for technical climbing. For climbers willing to explore, there is certainly potential in some of the more prominent quartzite walls that flank both sides of the canyon.
Reference: All content excerpted from Exploring Sun Valley - A Comprehensive Guide to the Boulder, Pioneer, and Smoky Mountains by Idaho River Publications.
Our mission is to inspire adventure with beautiful, comprehensive and waterproof map-based guidebooks. Owner, publisher, and photographer Matt Leidecker, grew up exploring and guiding on the rivers in central Idaho. His award winning Middle Fork of the Salmon River – A Comprehensive Guide is the standard by which other river guidebooks are measured. Printed on virtually indestructible YUPO paper, IRP guides are truly unique all-in-one resources for adventure. Each book is loaded with full-color maps, stunning photographs, and information on the history, geology, and wildflowers. Visit Idaho River Publications to explore our guidebooks to the Rogue River in Oregon and the mountains of Central Idaho.