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U.S. Forest Service

Intermountain Region Viewing Area


Thumnbail map and directions to the Viewing Area.

A scene on the Mount Harrison Botanical Special Interest Area. Mount Harrison Botanical Special Interest Area.

An illustration of members of the tall forb community found on Mount Harrison. Members of the tall forb community found on Mount Harrison. Illustration by Kim Pierson, Sawtooth National Forest.

Christ's Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja christii) with Penstemon (Penstemon spp.). Christ's Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja christii) with Penstemon (Penstemon spp.). Photo by Kim Pierson, Sawtooth National Forest.

Mount Harrison Viewing Site

Forest: Sawtooth National Forest

District: Minidoka Ranger District


Mount Harrison Research Natural Area

What is a Research Natural Area? Research Natural Areas (RNAs) are lands within the National Forest system that are permanently protected for the purposes of maintaining biological diversity, conducting research, monitoring, and fostering education. These areas serve as a “living library” where scientists learn by collecting and interpreting information in a natural environment that has not been disturbed. The Mount Harrison RNA was established in 1996 by the U.S. Forest Service because it contained striking geology and an isolated high-elevation ecosystem of rare plant populations, sagebrush-grasslands, and subalpine shrub communities. The RNA encompasses 381 acres of stunning beauty and an estimated 23 percent of the only known population of Christ’s Indian Paintbrush.

Mount Harrison Botanical Special Interest Area

What is a Botanical Special Interest Area? A Botanical Special Interest Area (BSIA) is a unit of land that contains plant species, plant groups or plant communities that are significant because of their form, color, occurrence, habitat, location, life history, ecology, or rarity. These areas are set aside to protect and manage them for public use and enjoyment as part of the National Forest System. The Mount Harrison BSIA was established in 2003 by the U.S. Forest Service for its unique alpine and subalpine habitats and rare species. The area provides protection for the remaining portion of Christ’s Indian Paintbrush population not included in the RNA. In addition, Mount Harrison has one of two Davis’ Wavewing populations and two of the largest intact tall forb communities remaining in Idaho (described below).

The Tall Forb Community

What is a tall forb community? The Tall Forb community has been described as one of the most beautiful and unique plant communities in the Intermountain West. It is characterized by tall (16 to 48 inch) and luxuriant plant species and was historically found at elevations between 6,300 to 11,000 feet. Today, this highly productive community has been largely converted to shorter and more drought tolerant species due to a variety of land uses. This fascinating plant community is comprised of an array of colorful wildflower species including, sticky geranium, yarrow, sedges, lupine, daisies, and sage. This diversity and splendor exists because more rain falls at higher elevations and deep soils provide moisture for growth throughout the summer.

Viewing Information: The best time for viewing the botanical splendor of Mount Harrison is generally the middle of July. This viewing time can vary given the timing of snowmelt.

Directions: The easiest route to Mount Harrison is to take Exit 216 off Highway 84 – driving south on Idaho road 25/77, you will go through Declo and nine miles later, through Albion. The turnoff for Howell Canyon Road, which takes you to Mount Harrison, is five miles southeast of Albion on Idaho road 77. Follow the “National Forest Access” signage and enjoy the drive!

Ownership and Management: USDA Forest Service, Sawtooth National Forest, Minidoka Ranger District.

Closest Town: Albion, Idaho.