Area: French Creek

Length: 7.6

Elevation: 3700 +1640 -1340

Condition: primitive to thick jungle

Solitude: extreme

Appeal: medium

Features: views, isolated meadow camps

Difficulty: medium

Administered: nominally USFS, Wenatchee River R.D.

Trailhead: Icicle Creek

Connects to:
   Lower French Creek
   Klonaqua Lakes
   Meadow Creek

Guides: -none-

   Green Trails Chiwaukum Mountains
   Green Trails Stevens Pass
   USGS Jack Ridge
   USGS Cradle




Why should I split the French Creek Trail and cover it as if it were two different trails? Well, because once you reach Klonaqua Creek, the boots stop, the horseshoes almost all stop, and most certainly the care and maintenance stops. Not only are you unlikely to see any people, you are unlikely to see any footprints. Little has changed along this end of the trail since the cleanup of collapsed miner cabins decades ago. It is so secretive that I don't even have photo records. It has no particular standout feature to draw attention.

More usually and more officially, the French Creek trail is considered to end at the broad pass where the upward grade tilts to downward. On that far side, it is considered to be the Meadow Creek trail. However, the Meadow Creek trail is in the same kind of boat: horse-busy on one side, and disregarded beyond that. Keeping both trails in the official registry provides a convenient way to abandon miles of trail while obscuring the evidence of the loss.



The trail begins at its northwest end, where the Klonaqua Lakes and lower French Creek trail depart. The horse powdered ground becomes more firm and natural, the berry brush intrudes a little more. In 0.5 miles, you switchback around and up to a small knob in closer proximity to the creek, gaining about 150 feet. That is the last semi-obstacle of this sort. Continue on a level course to cross a small side creek at 1.5 miles, from a higher unnamed lake through a tangle of downed trees. At 2.0 miles begin an uphill grade, crossing French Creek on rocks at 2.4 miles. Continue up the east side to 2.7 miles, and cross French Creek again, this time on larger rocks. Though sometimes a little intimidating at first, these crossings present no difficulties and typically no wet feet. If you run out of hours, the mild terrain past this crossing provides flat, robust places where you can set up a primitive overnight camp as the need arises. At 3.8 miles, cross the creek again. Your feet might get wet here, but not your knees. At the far shore, find the descending leg of the Paddy-Go-Easy trail from the Cle Elum area. There is plenty of room to camp at the cleaned-up cabin site.

My maps show two more creek crossings, but my notes omit them, as the creek turns to a trickle and then a moist memory at 4.7 miles. There is a rapid transformation from creek canyon to dry forest plateau, without any clear delineation. I found it intriguing, though most describe it as a nondescript place you will be glad to pass through.

Mt. Harding and Meadow Creek

Start of upper trail

The trail transforms itself again. It seems like you are on a high platform one minute, and before you know it way up in the air overlooking a dense valley of brush. Well, maybe not so much overlooking as diving into. You might have to do some inventive dodging of annoying small trees across the trail here, at least until I go through here the next time. Now 6.0 miles from the start of your hike, find yourself struggling to see where your feet meet ground as you swim through friendly but abysmally thick brush. This is slow, but you can't afford to go off-track here. The trail trail takes a double switchback for no obvious reason, with no warning, though later you will be glad it did. The trail resumes its straight-ahead thrashing until roughly mile 7.0, where it transitions from open brush to thin pine forest, with welcome shade. At 7.6 miles, reach the edge of spacious meadows. The "official" camps are 0.4 miles ahead, at the far end of the meadows; but there be horses. You have been warned.


Start of upper trail

Looking back up-valley from meadow


About trail oddities: I can't explain why, but it looks like there are two trails coming into the meadow on the west side. I don't think this is real, but I have no idea what is going on here. If it looks like your trail evaporates at the meadow edge, you probably arrived along the upper branch, as I did. Not a problem. A few steps into the meadow there is a tiny stony gully, running straight downhill. Follow it down gently about 120 yards, and you should spot the other trail branch emerging from the trees and crossing into the bottom side of the meadow to your left. Though there are no official "camps" here, there is plenty of suitable soft and open ground under the trees, with good proximity to Meadow Creek for fresh (uncontaminated by horses) water.