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Palisades Creek Trail, Swan Valley Idaho
boy swimming in Upper Palisades Lake Caribou Targhee National Forest
Upper Palisades Lake

Beware, this has become a very popular trail with little solitude. 

Once a haven of solitude and peace this little bit of heaven has become too popular with hikers and mountainbikers, except in the muddy season.  Because of a lack of trail maintanence, deep spots in the trail become pools of water and mud after a rain. If hiking soon after a rain, hiking poles are handy to help straddle the pools of mud and water. If this trail was in a national park, the trail maintainence department would have filled the holes with crushed gravel and carved water runnoff channels away from the trail. .

Palisades Creek Trail is located about 50 miles southeast of Idaho Falls and about 60 miles west of Jackson Hole WY in Swan Valley Idaho. The four mile hike up to lower Palisades Lake or the 6.2 mile hike to Upper Palisades Lake (elevation 6800 feet) provide some of wonderful mountain views of the Snake River Range. Palisades Creek Trail can be used only by hikers, backpackers or horses as it is in the Palisades Wilderness Study area. If you choose to hike up to Upper Palisades Lake, two miles above Lower Palisades Lake you have to leave Palisades Creek trail and turn up Waterfall Canyon Trail and it is just a short distance up Waterfall Canyon.

backpackers Palisades Creek Trail
Backpackers love this access into the Palisades Wilderness Study Area.

Both lakes were formed when giant landslides came down the canyon and dammed the creek. Palisades Canyon is thickly forested with fir, aspen and willow. It is a canon of steep magnificent cliffs. The Lower Palisades Lake is much smaller than the Upper Palisades Lake and because of its proximity receives most of the traffic. Upper Palisades Lake is in a beautiful valley surrounded by forest and is a great place for camping. As one of the main spawning tributaries for the South Fork of the Snake River. Palisades Creek is teaming with native cutthroat trout even long after the spawn is over. Both lakes provide good fishing also. Moose frequent the area as well as elk, deer and mountain goats, there are plenty of bear and mountain lions but it is rare to see them. If you scan the mountain walls you may see mountain goats if you get lucky. I've gotten lucky four times.

The trail doesn't end at Upper Palisades Lake; from upper Palisades Lake you can continues up Waterfall Canyon and connects with Little Elk Creek Trail. You can also continue up Palisades Creek past the turnoff for Upper Palisades Lake. This part of the trail there doesn't provide any bridges so there several crossings of Palisades Creek that make this part of the trail a bit more challenging. It's best to travel this section of trail later in the year when the water is lower. Not many people continue beyond the lakes, so it is a great way to lose the crowds. By continuing up Palisades Creek you will reach Mosquito Creek trail, which leads into Jackson Hole, or you can also drop into Mail Cabin Creek from the divide and come out at the bottom of Teton Pass.

The trail up to the Palisades Lakes is one of the most popular trails in eastern Idaho because the lakes offer fishing, gorgeous mountain scenery, good wildlife viewing possibilities, easy hiking and a Forest Service campground. Two bridges cross the creek and make the route easier for hikers and horseback riders to traverse the canyon. If you wish to avoid the crowds, this is not the trail for you. It is also a great place for a cross-country ski in the winter but wait until there is good snow coverage as there are many sharp rocks in the trail to cover.

Trail access, parking and bathrooms are on the left side of the ceek, stay out of the campground and horse parking!!!  Hikers are ruining the camping experience for campers, and misguided hikers are driving the camp host crazy!!!

 

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