The climate is typically "east side," comfortably dry and warm all summer. The bugs and brush tend to be fewer, and after gaining just a little elevation you leave the snakes behind (with only a few of us disappointed). The brush tends to be much thinner, and the views much more expansive, compared to areas further west. You can find some of the most beautiful and comfortable camping in the entire Wilderness. Given the abundant appeal, easy access, and adjacency to some of the most over-managed wilderness areas on the planet, you should expect crowds. But you should expect to be wrong! Credit this to the amazing the power of neglect.

Trails in this area run generally south-to-north, in parallel with the ridges and the creeks that cut deep valleys between them.

  • Trout Creek
  • Jack Ridge
  • Jack Creek
  • Blackjack Ridge
  • French Creek
  • French Ridge / Wenatchee Mountains

These geographical constraints define the general character of the trails: lots of miles, following a ridge or following a creek valley. Sparse connections between them. The most worthwhile destinations — spectacularly worthwhile — generally require a multi-day backpacking trip to reach them.

The "backbone" of this trail system is the French Creek trail. Once this was one of the fastest, widest, and easiest trails in the Alpine Lakes, pounded flat and deep by horses. Now that nobody but Mitt Romney can afford horses (thanks for your financial support, taxpayers!) the trails are slowly degenerating into encroaching walls of towering brush. Trails forking away to each side, which were already tough, are in double decline. It is so sad watching it all go. Things will only get worse. Visit before it is too late.

 


 

Access


Trailheads are reached starting from Leavenworth, Washington. The Icicle Creek Road turns south at the very west edge of the town, beneath the eastern terminus of Icicle Ridge. Icicle Road follows the river/creek south and then west on the north side. At 14 miles, then it turns into an all-weather forest road, sometimes rough. At 15 miles, pass the Chatter Creek forest station, sometimes manned during busy holidays. At 16.7 miles, reach a concrete bridge crossing over the Creek between portions of the Rock Island Campground site.

  • About 200 yards past the campground, a well-signed side road to the left takes you to an attractive but underutilized trailhead area for Jack and Trout Creek.

  • Continue up the Icicle Road the valley, parallel to the Creek on the south side, to the end at mile 18.5 at the Icicle Creek trailhead. The primary access to French Creek is via the Icicle Creek trail, 1.7 miles. To reach the Blackjack Ridge trailhead, I suggest parking here (you will need a USFS Recreation Pass) and backtrack 1/4 mile along the road to avoid the confusion and deliberate lack of hiker facilities at the Blackjack horse camp.

 


 

Trails in this area

Name Miles Obscurity Appeal
1. French Creek (1.7 +) 5.5 low low
2. French Ridge (2.0 +) 5.5 medium high medium
3. French Ridge Backdoor (6.5 +) 2.1 high medium
4. Klonaqua Lakes (6.2 +) 2.1 medium low high
5. Upper French / Meadow Creek (6.2 +) 8.0 very high medium
6. Snowall Creek (5.2 +) 6.0 seriously high very high
7. Cradle Lake Trail (6.0 +) 3.0 medium high high
8. Blackjack Ridge Trail (7.8 +) 7.8 scary high high
9. Jack / Meadow Creeks 5.9 low medium
10. Trout Lake / Jack Ridge (1.5 +) 4.7 medium medium
11. Windy Pass (5.7 +) 3.6 very high very high
12. Upper Jack / Stuart Pass (4.6 +) 6.5 high unknown