youtuberecent survey taken by RVtravel.com revealed that nearly 40% of RVers own an ATV or other off-road vehicle. I have also interacted with several readers of this blog that have told me they enjoy a good adventure off the beaten track. In this installment we will look at a couple of places way off the beaten track that are worth a visit either in person via an appropriate off-road vehicle or vicariously online while lounging in your easy chair.


Off-Roaders Arriving at Cinnabar

The settlement of Cinnabar, Idaho is an abandoned mining camp about 14 air miles east / southeast beyond Yellow Pine, Idaho (Population 32) which many consider the most remote town in Idaho. In other words, you have to really want to go there!

Cinnabar, Idaho derived its name from the cinnabar ore extracted from the mine. Cinnabar is refined to create mercury. Cinnabar ore was first discovered in the area around 1902, with commercial mining beginning in the 1920’s under the United Mercury Mines Company (known then as Hermes mine). In 1942, the mine was taken over by Bonanza Mining, Inc. New life was breathed into the mining camp during World War II as mercury was deemed essential to the war effort. The mine changed hands again in the early 1950’s and was operated until it closed in the later 1950’s by Holly Minerals. The major mine / mill development standing today was constructed during that time. Being over 80 miles from Cascade, Idaho via a one-lane dirt road, life in town was quite isolated 60 plus years ago. Travel was limited to dog sled or snowshoes during the winter. However, the mining camp offered many amenities not seen in other parts of the world during that time. The nearby mining town of Stibnite, along with Cinnabar, had television repeater stations allowing residents to receive live broadcasts. The hospital at Stibnite also boasted the very first X-ray machine for the entire state of Idaho. Tungsten and antimony were mined at Stibnite which were also considered critical to the war effort. Sadly, very little remains of Stibnite today. Click here to read an interesting story on how Stibnite helped shorten World War II by a year and saved the lives of a million soldiers.

Today, Cinnabar is considered by some to be one of the most intact historical mines in America. Notable structures include the mill, huge boarding house, apartments and the mine office where time cards still litter the floor. It is definitely worth a visit by those willing to make the effort and are properly prepared.


Mill in Foreground


Remains at the Stibnite Mine


Residential Part of the Camp

When You Go:

Your starting point to Cinnabar will be Yellow Pine, Idaho which you can reach via three generally accepted routes detailed here. Route 3 is not recommended for RVs. The author chose Route 1 but discovered that the “second summit” contains grades up to 12% with tight switchbacks. If you fear descending steep grades or question your RV’s brakes, this route is not for you. Route 2, while the longest, appears to be the friendliest for RVs and gets you the closest to Yellow Pine before requiring you to leave the pavement.


One of Many Switchbacks on the Last Section of Road Leading to Mining Camp

Note: Every year Yellow Pine hosts a harmonica festival the first full weekend of August so plan accordingly.

Yellow Pine to Cinnabar: Here are two good links to help you navigate the 20 plus miles from Yellow Pine to Cinnabar passing by the remains of Stibnite along the way. Ride McCall and AllTrails. Note: Both links provide instructions beginning at Landmark, Idaho but current signage on the Johnson Creek Road suggests “off road” vehicles are no longer allowed between Landmark and Yellow Pine. Additional note: Due to Sugar Creek Road being unlawfully closed (according to this website) by the Forest Service, you will need to access Cinnabar via National Forest Service Road 375 using the turn off to the north at N44° 54.503 W115° 16.521 just before Monumental Summit. The turn is designated by a large rock painted blue. Warning: If you don’t have a small capable off-road vehicle consider hiking from this point.

Camping: 

Numerous camping options exist along the routes to Yellow Pine with a couple of campgrounds right near town. Yellow Pine Campground is the closest to Yellow Pine followed by Golden Gate Campground which appears to be more popular due to the beautiful views provided by a bend in Johnson Creek. The next closest “developed” camping area is Old East Fork Camping Area which offers dispersed camping.

The author chose to boondock close to the end of the paved road on Route 1 near the Landmark junction. You will encounter two boondocking spots on the south side of the paved road either side of the turn-off to Johnson Creek Road.

Disclaimer: Many hazards exist in abandoned mining areas and along the routes to them. Readers of this blog accept those hazards and travel / visit at their own risk.

Questions? Comments? Please add your thoughts below.

Dave Helgeson
Author: Dave HelgesonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dave Helgeson is the MHRV Show Director. He and his wife love to travel across the west in their RV. Dave writes about all things RVing but loves to share destinations and boondocking advice.

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