Area: French Creek

Length: 6.6

Elevation: 2850 +1480 -300

Condition: wide, clear, horsey on occasion

Solitude: medium

Appeal: medium

Features: pleasant creek, large meadow

Difficulty: easy

Administered: USFS, Wenatchee River R.D.

Trailhead: Jack / Trout trailhead

Connects to:
    Jack Ridge
    Upper Jack Creek / Stuart Pass
    Cradle Lake
    Meadow Creek / Upper French Creek

Guides: 100alp (outdated)

Maps:
   Green Trails Chiwaukum Mountains
   Green Trails Mt. Stuart
   USGS Jack Ridge


 

map

Overview

This trail is virtually unknown to hikers, having zero coverage in any of the canonical trail guides. Yet, the trailhead facilities are first rate, a showpiece of horse service in the Icicle Creek Valley. Not that this means much. The horses mostly pass by, and also skip past the Blackpine quadruped camp to form a dutiful line up the Icicle Creek Trail. And why exactly? It's hard to say. Horses can be pretty dumb sometimes.

But a few enlightened equines point their noses up the Jack Creek Trail. While there isn't a whole lot to see or do, they don't particularly care. There is a delicious meadow only six miles away, with sweet wildflowers to chomp, stomp, and fertilize. And the going is surprisingly easy! Apparently, they move through so quickly that they have little time for dropping their usual nuggets of golden decoration.

Fortunately, there is enough room in the meadows for the vegetation and soil to recover after the beasts run loose. Ugly though it may be, there might even be a net benefit. The horses will remain at the east end of the meadows, near the spacious and hard-pounded horse camps. On your west end of the meadows, you can enjoy (near) solitude. Plus, this makes a great place to rise fresh and early in the morning, to launch a trip to higher and better places.

 

Details

Bridge over Jack Creek

Steep slopes along Jack Creek trail

 

Follow the Jack Creek Trail from the Jack Creek / Trout Lake trailhead. Cross over Jack Creek on an elegant bridge, and then proceed to gain over 600 feet elevation on a sequence of casual switchbacks. At 1.5 miles, pass the unmistakable junction with the Trout Creek trail, keeping right.

Trout Lake fork from Jack Creek Trail

Steep slopes along Jack Creek trail

 

Little changes at first, but at 1.9 miles the grade grade becomes almost level. This is easy travel, with few distractions.

At 3.5 miles, pass the junction on the left to the Jack Ridge Trail — easy to miss, obscured in soft soil and brush. A camp along the creek on the right side will not be missed — the first easy opportunity to replenish your drinking water on a hot day.

The trail gains only 200 more feet elevation, staying close to the creek, until at about 4.7 miles it reaches a well marked junction; continuing on the left fork would take you to upper reaches of Jack Creek and perhaps on to Stuart Pass. The trail there was impacted to an unknown degree by the Jack Ridge fire in 2017. Take the right fork to join the Meadow Creek Trail. Immediately cross Jack Creek.

The grade becomes steeper again, a brisk 300 feet per mile (!), climbing along the north side of Meadow Creek. At 6.0 miles, the gasping is over, and the last 0.2 miles deliver you to the edge of open meadows. As you arrive, notice the Cradle Lake Trail splitting off to the right. Older maps might not show the location of this junction correctly. A little further, among the trees to your left, find foot-beaten camps. Continue on, passing the camps. Look up and enjoy the purple high peaks soaring above the meadows.

The meadows

Meadow Creek Meadows

 


The way changes from obvious trail to a barely discernible crease in the vegetation, maintaining on a level course. In 0.4 miles, where the trail drives straight ahead into light timber at the far end of the meadow, vegetation gives way to soft forest duff, excellent for pitching a tent pretty much anywhere you wish — but remember to tread softly and keep things undamaged. Back in the meadow, head straight down the gentle open slope to find good access to fresh water.
 

If you are continuing on to the Upper French Creek trail, and the trail continuation leads you to confusion, try going 100 yards up the west edge of the meadow to locate an alternate trail connection.