Outdoors Q&A: Magruder Corridor is a rugged, scenic road trip

Q: I remember Pete Zimowsky writing about a road in central Idaho that goes east and west through the state. He talked about it being very scenic, but rough, and taking several days to complete. I was looking to take a drive like this and wondered if you could give directions to its whereabouts.


A: I am betting you’re talking about the Magruder Corridor between Elk City and Darby, Mont. It’s a very cool drive, but you will have to wait until summer because it’s in the high country that divides two wilderness areas, the Selway/Bitterroot and the Frank Church. Much of the corridor is on the spine between the Selway and Salmon River drainages.

The Forest Service lists it as 101 miles. Some people consider the “corridor” the dirt and gravel section, and others consider it the whole route between Elk City and Darby, which includes some stretches of pavement and is longer than 101 miles.

The Forest Service says, “Travel time varies, but it takes eight to 10 hours to travel from Red River to Darby without rest stops. The average speed will be 12-15 miles per hour. A two-day trip is ideal with an overnight stay at one of the dispersed or primitive campsite locations.”

Time also depends on how recently it’s been graded and what kind of vehicle you’re driving. For example, Zimowsky took his four-wheel-drive van and spent several days and camped. I took my motorcycle and crossed it in a less than a day, which included a few stops and side trips.

You access it from the west to east by driving north on U.S. 95 to Grangeville and then cutting across to Red River, or from the other direction by heading to Stanley and then taking U.S. 93 north to Salmon and Darby.