Twisting and turning for twelve-hundred miles, the Centennial Trail spans the length of Idaho. Those who follow its circuitous path travel through some of the state’s most incredible scenery. The winding route is an amazing patchwork of hiking trails, jeep tracks, backroads, and other connecting byways that can transport a traveler from the Idaho-Nevada border all the way to Canada.
The Trail changes elevation countless times over its long course. The lowest point, at under two-thousand feet, is found along the Selway River while the highest point lies at over nine-thousand feet in the Sawtooth Mountains. The trail passes through immense BLM holdings, eleven National Forests, and several huge wilderness areas.
While National Forest and BLM districts actually manage most of the lands along the way, the point group for the trail is the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. Leo Hennessy is the trail coordinator and has also personally traveled a large portion of the route. He says it’s a great trail but that putting it together was no easy feat.
“That was the hard part because you can’t just run a single track trail the full length of the state. It’s really hard to tie all these single track trails together. So we basically had to use roads and about one third is roads but we tried to do the most primitive roads we could find. It’s a very diverse trail. It involves deserts, high mountain passes, alpine lakes, big desert canyons and old growth forest. It basically shows the best of Idaho.” Leo Hennessy-Idaho’s Centennial Trail coordinator
The Trail was designed so travelers can separate the trek into multiple segments that can be covered in anywhere from several days to a week or longer. But trying to hike the entire Trail at one time is such a daunting task Hennessy doesn’t know of anyone who has completed the official route in one trip. Another aspect of the Trail is that there are routes for all types of users. While hikers and horse packers can access the entire Trail there are different routes for other types of recreationists, everything from mountains bikes to ATV’s and four wheel drive vehicles. That’s why when you look at maps of the route several areas include a Main Centennial Trail and an East Centennial Trail or a West Centennial Trail.
“A lot of the Trail goes into wilderness which doesn’t allow ATV’s and motorcycles so we created some routes that went around the major wilderness areas so that they could experience some of Idaho’s splendor. We wanted something for everyone.” Leo Hennessy
Over the last several years Hennessy and a number of volunteers have been signing the Trail. It’s a huge job but he says they have now signed a good chunk of the route.
“Signing a 1200 mile long trail is very difficult. It takes a lot of work but at present we have it signed from the Nevada border all the way to the Sawtooth Wilderness boundary. We are going to gradually going to work north and try to sign the entire Trail. I started on it in 1990 and first of all I’m selfish. I really love this Trail because I hike so I’m out here improving a trail and I’m out here hiking it. Also I like to see other people out here. That gives me great satisfaction to watch people hiking this and coming back and saying wow that was a spectacular trail.” Leo Hennessy