Looking down into Bear Creek of the Greys River Drainage
from McDougal Pass
Length: 4.5 Miles
Ending Elevation: 9,360 Feet
USGS Maps: Man Peak; Rock Lake Peak
Beginning Elevation: 7,020 Feet
Elevation Gain: 2,340 Feet
Difficulty: More Difficult
North Willow Creek Trail is one of the more accessible trails into the rugged and scenic Salt River Range from Star Valley WY.
The trailhead is at the first turnout you get to after entering the dirt road that heads into the mountains from Turnerville, there is a sign identifying North Willow Creek at the mouth of the canyon.
The trail starts at 7200 feet and follows a pretty canyon 4.5 miles to 9,360 Foot McDougal Pass a rapid gain of Elevation Gain: 2,340 Feet where Bear Creek trail begins for a drop into the Greys River Valley.
The first couple of miles there are several creek crossings
but as you climb the trail veers away from the creek. There are parts of
the trail that is really rocky and parts that are steep stretches of clay
that could easily turn to a dangerous slime, on horseback, in a rainstorm.
ATVer’s use the lower section but there was no evidence of them in the higher
elevations. About halfway you get into the sub alpine terrain which provides
better views of the surrounding peaks and the canyon below.
A peak in the North Willow Creek Drainage
When you think that you have reached McDougal Pass, you
haven’t, the first saddle drops you into the head of Strawberry Creek where
Strawberry Creek Trail merges with North Willow Creek Trail for the final
couple of hundred yards to McDougal Pass. It is about a half mile from
the Strawberry/N. Willow divide to the Pass.
From the top of McDougal Pass, you look down Bear Creek into the Greys River Drainage. At the pass Cabin peak Trail takes off to the left and goes to Cabin Peak lookout and beyond down the Cabin Creek trail to Meadows Campground on the Greys River.
From bottom to top there were plenty of open areas to view the mountains
Thunderstorms are common in the afternoon for most of the summer. For that reason, it's advisable to get an early start and try to cross the open divide by noon; the top of a mountain is nowhere to be in a thunderstorm.
|This is about halfway up North Willow Creek Trail where the views start
The Salt River Range is home to elk, moose, deer, bighorn sheep, black bear wolves, mountain lion as well as many other species and grizzlies are a possibility. On this hike it is common to see moose and deer and if you get lucky you could see elk, or black bear. Some of the wildflowers you may see are fireweed; larkspur, indian paintbrush, purple fleabane, columbine, and lupine proliferate turning every meadow of the region a sea of color.
Expect summertime temperatures to range from highs in
the 70s-80s during the day to lows of around 30 at night. Afternoon thunderstorms
are the norm most summer evenings so plan your hiking and climbing so that
you won't be on an exposed slope when the lightning is competing for space
with the waterfalls of the canyon walls. 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.
From Afton, Travel north on Hwy. 89 to County Road #126 (Strawberry Creek), about 2 1/2 miles south of Thayne. Go east from Hwy. 89 to Bedford, then south on County Road #123 (Bedfored-Turnerville) to Turnerville. Go east on County Road, #177 (Willow Creek Canyon) to the Forest boundary. Continue on Willow Creek Road #10080 to the road end. The trail leads east across the draw. Passenger cars and trailers are not recommended on the last 3 miles of Willow Creek Road #10080 (beyond the old road closure gate.)