A Climb to Pioneers Cabin

Spoiler Alert: Pioneers Cabin is not actually a pioneer’s cabin.

20160626_140008  When I first heard about this hike, I was picturing some intrepid (and possibly slightly crazy) homesteader making their winding way up the steep slopes of the Pioneer Mountains to build their home on the edge of a stunning view and equally stunning drop off.

Upon actually completing the hike this past weekend I was surprised to find out that the Pioneers Cabin was in reality a former ski shelter, built in 1937 to cater to alpine touring groups from the Sun Valley Company. Over the next 70 years, the cabin underwent varying stages of care, from well-maintained luxury to crumbling disrepair. As of now, the cabin stands in reasonably good health though it is in need of some TLC to be enjoyably habitable.


The cabin destination and the stunning vistas around it are not the only draw to the hike, however. The trail, beginning at the end of Corral Creek Road meanders for a short while through a riparian area along Corral Creek. Here, you can see a multitude of the many wildflowers that have graced the Pioneer’s slopes this summer. Bunches of phlox are mixed in with sticky geranium, all of which sits as the feet of a rather lovely grove of aspens, or “quakies.” Of course, along this riparian section you can also experience a delightful collection of biting insects, so take note from your author’s experience and bring along your deet.

Beware, however, for the flat section ends quite quickly and you begin a 2,400 ft elevation gain that doesn’t abate until you reach the cabin. The trail is comprised of many well-maintained switchbacks that wind their way through both forest and sage brush. Do not be too discouraged when each apparent flattening of the trail is actually just a lead-in to yet another steep rise.  Instead, distract yourself from the trail builders’ dark sense of humor with the beautiful scenery around you.  As you gain in elevation, the wildflowers visible along the trail adjust accordingly. 20160626_152745Indian Paintbrush, though sparse at first, soon appeared in increasing numbers. While the lupine at the bottom of the trail had since bloomed, as we began to crest the first of two ridges, we found plants that were only in the first stages of spring blossom.

I saw flowers I hadn’t seen in a month plus of working in the Pioneers, including the Scarlet Gilia and the Western Columbine. As the trail continues to rise, you can see glimpses of the Pioneers through the thinning trees. When at last you top the final rise to see the famous phrase “The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get” painted along the roof of the Cabin, there is a remarkable view of the rocky slopes of the Pioneers, as well as vistas of the Smokys and the Sawtooth Mountains. Sit and enjoy the scenery, and don’t worry about how many times you had to stop on the way up – you made it!

If you’re willing to work for your views (and possibly be a little bit sore the next day), this is a great hike to see some of the stunning landscape the Pioneers offer.




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The Pioneers Alliance is a cooperative effort by ranchers, local residents, conservationists and public lands managers to conserve and enhance the natural and cultural values of the Pioneer Mountains and Craters of the Moon landscape of south-central Idaho.

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The Nature Conservancy in Idaho
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