The Mattingly Creek trail is accessed off of the Middle Fork of the Boise River trail upstream from the Powerplant Campground near Atlanta. For a brief overview of the Middle Fork canyon check out the Powerplant to Mattingly Junction adventure. The Atlanta overview will also provide more general info about the greater western Sawtooth region.
The trail up Mattingly Creek to the divide and then down Alturas Creek Canyon is the shortest route across the Sawtooths. The trail is one of very few routes shown on the 1904 map of the Sawtooth Forest Reserve. By then, however, the miners traveling between Atlanta and the Sawtooth Valley had been using the trail for nearly 40 years. As the mining towns on either side of the range grew, the traffic over the Mattingly Divide increased. There are records of raw ore being shipped from mines in the Salmon River basin to the Buffalo Mill in Atlanta for processing.
It is unclear how “developed” the trail actually became during the mining booms in the 1880s. The road from Rocky Bar to Atlanta was built in 1878, climbing 2,500 feet over a steep mountain pass, so it is conceivable that a similar road was constructed at least part way up Mattingly Creek. The later mineral development that took place near the mouth of Rock Creek and up Leggit and La Moyne Creeks was probably only justified because there was already a good road built out of the canyon during the earliest mining booms.
Today, as hikers climb the steep grade up the narrow confines of Mattingly Creek, it is hard to imagine mules laden with tons of rock lumbering down from the divide. Any evidence of the old roads has mostly faded into the landscape. The trail sees only a fraction of the traffic it once did. Because Atlanta is so remote, it is hard to justify a point-to-point trip in either direction. Nor does the 17-mile route link conveniently into a longer backpacking loop.
So why climb up Mattingly Creek? Well, there are three easy reasons. First, the canyon itself is quite impressive. The sheer south faces of Mattingly and Peaks 9,635 and 9,266 rise more than 2,000 feet above the trail. In the upper half of the canyon, several large, open slide paths are decorated with wildflowers alongside the tumbling creek. Second, the open grassy meadows at 8,300 feet below the divide are stunningly beautiful. There are no high-elevation meadows of comparable size anywhere in the Sawtooths. Finally, Mattingly Lakes and Mattingly Peak are an alluring objective for those looking for an off-trail adventure.
The route up Mattingly is one of the steeper trails in the Sawtooths. There are four larger creek crossings that may require taking your shoes off and can be tricky during early season run-off. While there are a few small bivouac sites along the canyon, there are no real campsites to speak of until hikers crest the lip of the hanging meadows at the top of the canyon.
The Mattingly Creek Divide connects to the east side of the Sawtooths via the Alturas Lake Creek Canyon. Trails splitting off from the head of Alturas Lake Creek also connect to Johnson Creek in the South Fork of the Boise drainage.
Most of the trail lies within the Sawtooth Wilderness. Please observe the following regulations:
• Mountain bikes are not allowed past the wilderness boundary.
• Self administered wilderness permits are required and available at the trailhead.
• Dogs must be on a leash between July 1 and Labor Day.
• Camp 100 feet from trails, lakes and streams.
• Pack out all garbage.
• Human waste should be buried and well disguised in a cat hole 6 to 8 inches deep. Pack out all toilet paper.
• Campfires allowed ONLY in a backcountry pan or fire blanket.
• Campfires are NOT allowed at some lakes and in some drainages in the Sawtooths. Please review the campfire restrictions at individual trailheads.
• Permits required for all stock use in the wilderness. No grazing allowed in the Salmon River watershed (This includes the Alpine Lake drainage).
• No equine stock at Edith Lake. ALL stock prohibited in the Goat Creek and Alpine Creek (Alturas Lake) drainages.
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.