Stafford Creek, Stafford Meadow, Navaho Pass, Navaho Peak: Overview

trail map

Stafford Creek is an easy place to overlook, outside of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. It is in a fragment of an old mountain system, the Wenatchee Mountains. To the west is the main line of the Cascade Mountains. They squeeze most of the water out of the air, making the area typically a little warmer and a little drier. Blocking on the north is the granite spine of the Enchantment Peaks, with Mt. Stuart and Little Anapurna. Further east is the dry Columbia Basin area. The result is an interesting transitional zone, with unique plant species, minerals, and climate.

Take highway I-90 to exit 85 just east of Cle Elum, swinging across the overpass and following Highway 970 east about 7 miles to Teanaway River Road. Though not fast, it is very good road to the northwest and then due north for 13 miles along the picturesque little river. Where the road forks just past the (abandoned?) 29 Pines campground site, take the right fork — the good road ends here. It is a blessing that it is only 3 more miles, 1.3 miles to reach another right fork to the Stafford Creek road, and east from there to the trailhead (with facilities; trailhead parking permit or annual pass required).

Though there is plenty of elevation to gain, the Stafford Creek trail spreads this out rather evenly along the 5.1 mile course to the meadows, with only a few places with enough steep grade to slow forward progress. You can reach the creek in a few places along the way for water. When you reach the junction with the Standup-Stafford trail, make a distinct right turn, and there is one more long mile to reach the meadows, the typical destination.

This trip is typically a good choice for the early season, shedding its snow pack about a month earlier than most other higher-elevation locations, with a show of bright wildflowers. There were some misgivings about scheduling this trip in August, but as it turned out, extended low temperatures after a late arrival of summer left conditions very comfortable and not too dry. The "meadow," however, never dried this year, and was more like a bushy swamp.

And by the way, that isn't my spelling error. The maps show the name as Navaho and not Navajo as it would be in Arizona.