Targhee Creek Trail I must say was a pleasant surprise, I have driven by the mouth of the canyon many times and never gave it a thought, as it is unimpressive from the drivers seat at 55 miles per hour on Highway 20.
Targhee Creek Trail starts in a mixture of meadow and conifer and aspen forest
at about 7,000 foot elevation but you soon leave the aspens behind and the first
three miles are an easy meander along a pretty canyon bottom of open meadow and
conifer woods. Targhee Creek in August doesnt have much volume to it but I would
bet that it hosts some fishy surprises in it for the angler wishing to fish a
tributary to legendary anglers nirvana Henrys Lake.
After about three miles you start to climb and the more you climb the better
the views, mountain sentinels and cliff faces of a character that surprised
and pleased me were my companions on this solo trip. 90 percent of the elevation
gain is in this last 3 miles so many hikers turn around before they start to
ascend but I would advise to continue at least for a little while because the
more you climb the better the visual reward.
My destination was 6 miles from the trailhead where Targhee Creek Trail intersects
the Continental Divide Trail and I was hoping to find Lake Clark. The second
three miles were much steeper with a few sets of switchbacks but there were
a couple of benches as well. About halfway up I was treated to an impressive
cliff band to the east.
Close to the top of the ridge you enter the sub alpine zone which means fewer
trees, more meadow and great views, as you climb you enter white bark pine
territory, a favorite food for grizzly bears so be alert! Near the top of the
ridge at the trail junction at elevation 9,000- feet I popped over the ridge
to look down into Montana and mistakenly thought I was. What I did find was
Clark Lake and several low peaks. What I later found out is these are still
part ot the Targhee Creek Drainage and there were probably other small seasonal
lakes and ponds in this deceiving and un-obvious bowl.
the junction of the Continental Divide trail you can go east and head for Hegbon
Lake via Watkins Creek or Lions head Ski Resort or west for Miles Creek. The
Targhee Peak quad topo map doesnt show the Continental Divide Trail I speculate
it crosses at Reynolds pass on Highway 87 to get to the Centennial Mountains.
There are several alpine lakes set amid rolling alpine meadows and streams located
in the Targhee Peak area however, the lakes tend to turn into ponds or baked
earth as the season progresses as they depend on the winter snowmelt to replenish
the water supply. Campers are encouraged to keep their camps and livestock
at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
This is a good trail with current improvements for erosion control and bridges
across the bogs and a couple of bridges across the creek, considering the beauty
of the hike, the quality of the trail I was quite surprised to see only 2 hikers
on an August Saturday.
This region is home to elk, moose, deer, bighorn sheep, black and grizzly bear, wolves, mountain lion and many other species. Summer brings prolific wildflower displays with the balsamroot in early June. As the season progresses fireweed, larkspur, indian paintbrush, purple fleabane, columbine, and lupine proliferate turning every meadow of the region a sea of color.
The Targhee Creek Trail is located in Situation 1 Grizzly Bear habitat. Hikers,
riders and backpackers should be aware of the wildlife in the area. There are
dispersed camping areas available along the trail for visitors who are going
to camp. Some camping spots have bear proof food boxes that should be used
to store your food. If a bear box is unavailable food should be suspended at
least 10 feet clear of the ground at all points and 4 feet horizontally from
any supporting tree or pole. Sleeping areas should be at least 100 yards away
from all human, pet and livestock food items, cooking areas, garbage or refuse.
Afternoon thunderstorms with lightning and rain showers
are common in the summer. It can snow any day of the year and has, so visitors
should come prepared for a wide variety of weather and temperature conditions.
Remember Murphys Law and pack accordingly. A thunderstorm in the high country
is something to behold but avoid them if you can, if you are doing a day
hike start early.
The Targhee Creek Trailhead is located on Highway 20, 2.2 miles past the Highway 87 junction. Turn west on forest road #057, also signed as Targhee Creek Trail Road. This road will lead you directly to the Targhee Creek Trailhead.