Targhee Creek Trail

Targhee CreekTarghee 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.

The 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 doesnt 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.

Targhee CreekAfter 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.

Targhee CreekClose 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.

Targhee CreekAt 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 doesnt show the Continental Divide Trail I speculate it crosses at Reynolds pass on Highway 87 to get to the Centennial Mountains.

Targhee CreekThere 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.

Island Park trailsThis 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 Murphys 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.

Island Park trailsIsland Park trails

Getting there

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.

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