Big Elk Creek Trail #097
ElevationAscent: 2,184' 666 m
Descent: -380' -116 m
High: 7,479' 2,280 m
Low: 5,675' 1,730 m
GradeAvg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 35% (19°)
Popular runs nearby
Mt. Baird Out and Back
9.2 mi 14.9 km • Loop • 3,934 ft Ascent 1198.94 m Ascent
Upper Palisades Lake
14.4 mi 23.1 km • Out and Back • 1,726 ft Ascent 526.16 m Ascent
Granite Canyon - Tram Route
13.4 mi 21.5 km • Point to Point • 554 ft Ascent 168.86 m Ascent
Rendezvous Mountain Hillclimb
6.1 mi 9.8 km • Point to Point • 4,104 ft Ascent 1250.84 m Ascent
Death Canyon & Static Peak Divide to Teton Canyon
19.6 mi 31.6 km • Point to Point • 4,383 ft Ascent 1335.98 m Ascent
Bradley - Taggart
6.2 mi 9.9 km • Loop • 656 ft Ascent 199.81 m Ascent
Navigate on-trail with our free app
“One of the best lesser known trails in all of SE Idaho!”— Jeff Fullmer
Turing off the highway onto the dirt road to the trailhead, you'll drive along a small inlet lake to the Palisades Reservoir that is filled by Big Elk Creek. There is a dock at the inlet lake for swimming, kayaking, canoeing, or even motor boating with access to a boat launch. As you continue to drive on the dirt road, you'll drive through a Forest Service Campground. This makes for a great area to camp before or after your run. There are reservation and non-reservation campsites for RV’s or tents. $12 is the overnight rate (2017) for a single vehicle and pad site. There is a camp host on site as well with water and maintained outhouse facilities. There is also a public outhouse at the trailhead.
This trail starts off steep for a short 50-yard section and then levels out and meanders up and down, but the climbing is minimal. Early in the year before summer, there is potential for multiple creek crossings. One can stay dry during mid/late summer months. This trail is frequented by horses, so the trail has protruding rocks in some spots. Bikers avoid this narrow trail as you can run it faster than biking it because of the sometimes rocky terrain.
Around 3 miles, you'll pass the Dry Canyon Trail turnoff to the east (right) that is marked with a sign. The Dry Canyon Trail crosses the creek, and this makes for a great turnaround point for small children and also a great little swimming hole. In early summer, the water will be above your waist at this crossing.
What makes the Big Elk Creek Trail so amazing is the lush undergrowth and large flowing creek. There are spots where the canyon is narrow and other spots where the canyon opens up and provides expansive views of lush hillsides covered in wildflowers. This trail is a hidden gem in Idaho and one that has made “top 10 little-known trails in Idaho that you should run” type of lists. This trail branches off at 6 miles and there is posted signage showing the trail changes to the Siddoway Trail and the Big Elk Trail continues across the creek to the east as it travels up the Big Elk North Fork Trail. This is another large creek crossing, similar to the Dry Canyon crossing, with deep water similar to a small river crossing in the early summer months. My main advice? Bring a camera!
Run this trail?
We need help with the following missing trail information:
Need to Know, Dogs Allowed
Is something wrong? Let us know. Have photos to share? Help fellow runners know what's here.