The Dead Horse Ridge Trail is out of Fall Creek near Swan Valley, Idaho. This trail is in the same area as our Rash Canyon article we posted previously. Dead Horse Ridge is one of the prettier rides out of this area. Several different views encompass this ride. It is about a 16 mile loop that takes you through lush forests, fields of wildflowers, a high ridge with a beautiful 360 degree overlook, and creek crossings. When you get to the ridge there will be plenty of photo opportunities. We got a lot of great shots with the Olympus Tough Camera and even got some videos with the Go Pro.
The Dead Horse Ridge trail to South Fork Fall Creek is an easy trail to follow and is well-marked. It starts off as a two-track trail that is opened to ATV’s and dirt bikes. At about 4 miles into the trail a little gate will prevent ATV’s from entering. The trail here turns into a single track where dirt bikes are still allowed. This loop has a lot of climb which is great for getting horses in shape, but can also be tough on them if they are still coming back from their winter vacation. There are also spots as the trail winds through the forest where it becomes very rutty from the dirt bikes and can also be very muddy and slick. When we did this trail it had just rained the night before so the inclines through the forest were quite slick and the horses had to really power up it and at times they would lose their footing and their feet would slip out from underneath. Be careful heading through these parts, we sometimes got off the horses because it was easier and safer to just walk up the muddy parts.
Finding the Dead Horse Ridge Trailhead
From Idaho Falls, ID: Follow US 26 towards Swan Valley for about 30 miles. Just before you cross the bridge over the Snake River, you will see a road to the right titled NF-058 this is a paved road for about a mile and will take you past a boat ramp. This part of the road is relatively wide, but be careful as you will most likely encounter a few big rigs on this road. In a little over a mile you will come to a fork in the road, continue right onto Fall Creek road. This turns into a narrow dirt road with some turn outs along the way in case you run into a larger vehicle. Sometimes cattle semis are seen on this road. There are also plenty of camping spots along this road. Follow this dirt road for about 5 miles until you see what is called the rock quarry on your right. It is basically just a lot of white boulders lined on the hillside. There will be a camping turnout across the road from the rock quarry on the left. You will also see a small wooden bridge that goes across Horse Creek with a trail marker sign 140. This is where we parked.
Dead Horse Ridge Trail Description
Once you are saddled, ride across the bridge with the trail marker sign 140. This will take you across Horse Creek. This trail is a two-track trail that will bring you to a metal gate in about half a mile.
Open the gate and continue through to the trail that will meander though the forest with some creek crossings. Make sure you stop to get your horses hydrated now because once you are up on the ridge you won’t find any water until you come back down onto South Fork Creek Trail. At two miles into the trail we came across a yearling moose. He was off the trail hanging out in the trees. We all just stared at one another for a moment before he took off. A little further up the trail, a deer ran out in front of us and watched us ride by. It is always great to come across wildlife when out and about.
At 2.7 miles into the trail you are going to come to what looks like a junction. It is actually just a trail that leads to an overlook. We took a right up that trail and headed to the overlook. It was a pretty good spot to take a break for lunch and get a good view of the green rolling hills. It is also one of those good photo opportunities. Once you have taken in the view go back down the overlook trail and continue straight along the trail. The trail takes you up through the forest where it starts to get muddy here, so be careful the horses were sliding out.
At 4 miles into the trail you will come to a narrow brown gate that closes out the ATV’s. Only horses and dirt bikes are allowed through this part of the trail and it now turns into a single track. From here the trail starts its climb through the forests. The trail can get pretty rutty here from the dirt bikes. Anytime we saw trails veering off we took them. They were better and most likely created by other horse riders that weren’t as slick. They all lead to the same place and join back up with the main trail.
At 5 miles the trail splits, we took the main trail that goes up the steep hill. This won’t be your only steep climb for the day. There will be plenty more to come. However as you start your climb on Dead Horse Ridge, there are some horse trails that go around the bigger climbs and sometimes we just made our own trails through the forest. After some climb you will be at about 7,600 feet in elevation and the view is pretty. We saw some patches of snow off in the distance and pretty rolling green mountains. There is plenty of climb left in the trek. You will be on the ridge for about 2-3 miles with a lot of rollercoaster hills. It is an amazing 360 degree view. Sometimes it can get windy up top, we lucked out this day as the weather was pretty good. At times you think you will be descending off the ridge, as it goes through some Aspen trees, but it will only meander through the forests for a minute until you are exposed on the ridge again with the view. Like we mentioned it looks like there are a bunch of different trails on the ridge, but they all loop back into one another. Whenever given the chance we avoided the steep hills and took the little trails that went around them.
At 7.5 miles the trail comes to a little camp site in the forest. It was a cute set up with a flat rock table build between two trees, a fire ring, and a tie rack that is also built between two trees. Perfect area to camp if you are wanting to pack in with horses. Only drawback is that there wasn’t a water source at this point for your horses. As the trail continues past this campsite you hit yet another climb and get to catch another glimpse of the view.
At 8.4 miles you will come to a sign on a tree to the left of the trail. The trail splits here giving you the option of going up to Red Ridge to the left, we cut down to the right staying on Dead Horse Ridge Trail, 267. You could make your ride a little longer and go up Red Ridge, it will loop around and eventually intersect back into Dead Horse Ridge, however we have heard that is not the best trail and not very well maintained. Once you make this turn onto trail number 267 the trail starts to descend into a forest of Aspen trees. It switch back down through the forest and you will be going over some bridges.
At 8.7 miles you finish the switchbacks through the forest and come to a big four-way intersection with a big sign on a tree telling you your options. We turned right onto trail #30 which is the South Fork Fall Creek Trail. You will also see the trail where Red Ridge intersects back with The Horse Ridge Trail. Once on the South Fork trail, the trail meanders through the lush green forest with wildflowers and there are now plenty of opportunities for you horses to drink as the South Fork Creek is trickling to your left. You will be crossing over some bridges at this point too.
At 11.5 miles you will be approaching another small gate where you will be entering the land where ATV’s are allowed. Shortly after this gate the trail turns from a single track back into a two-track trail. You will also come to a junction. We continued on to the right to head back to the trailhead, but the trail also goes to the left heading towards Rash Canyon which is the trail we came out on in our last article. You have about 3.5 miles left on this trail before you come to another metal gate that needs opening. Once you head through this gate before long you will be approaching the South Fork Fall Creek Trailhead. Once you reach the trailhead continue on down the road and you will reach the main gravel road you drove in on. Turn right and you will travel along this road for about 3/4 of a mile before you reach your vehicle.
Trail Map: Made with the Suunto Ambit 2 Watch