GET OUT: Leidy boot camp
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Here’s a fun weekend camping trip-cum-backcountry hike combined into one. You will summit a 10K, swim and fish in a peaceful pond, and hike through some wild country filled with all sorts of animals. Ready?
First, the bad news: You’ll need two vehicles and you will log mucho miles on both. If you want to get the most out of this camp/hike weekend, you’ll need a friend to drive his or her car up into the Gros Ventre and park it at the Slate Creek trailhead/corral. Now, drive all the way up to Hatchet Resort. You are looking for FR30160 (Flagstaff Road) that begins between Hatchet and Blackrock Ranger Station.
Just past Lily Lake the road turns into FR30180. Not long after that it mysteriously becomes FR30100 and then finally FR30250. You’ll clock 16 miles on dirt roads from the highway before reaching Leidy Lake. If it’s a weekday, no one will be there. There might be one vehicle there on a weekend. Set up camp and get the canoe ready.
Swim, climb, fish
Leidy Lake, which honestly barely qualifies as a pond, fishes pretty well for a small mountain lake at 8,712 feet. It’s very shallow all around but on a cloudy day or along the shaded eastern shore you should catch a bunch of little trout. Take a swim, too, and cool off. You’re gonna need it. I want you to climb Leidy next. No joke.
Drive your vehicle further south from the lake exactly one mile. This is the start of the Mount Leidy climb. Take heart, it’s less than a mile up, but with a 1,120-foot elevation gain. Yeah, it’s steep. But the path is clear and never scary or dangerous. The payoff is a 10,326-foot summit you can scratch off your peakbagger bucket list.
If you go in June or early July, there will be a mess of ladybugs at the top. If you go in August, expect a swarm of gnats and other stuff. To the west, you have superb views of the Tetons. Turn south. That’s Gannett and the rest of the snow-capped Wind River Range. Just below you is the Leidy Highlands. Look closely and you’ll see an open drainage. That’s where Carmichael and Aspen creeks meet. You’ll be hiking there tomorrow.
From the same place you parked at the base of Leidy, you’ll notice a path that heads south behind a gate. What are you waiting for? That’s your trail, and it’s all downhill from here. Literally.
The trail starts a little tight but opens up magnificently after exactly a mile. You’ve already descended a thousand feet by then. At precisely the two-mile mark you’ll see a trail shooting off to your right. This heads up Carmichael Creek where you can catch Ditch Creek or Rock Creek-to-Spread Creek, if you had a notion. But you don’t. Not today. Keep going south.
You’ll pick up the confluence of Carmichael and Aspen creeks at about 2.3 miles. It can be soggy in here early summer. To your right, at 2.6 miles, is Cabin Creek. At four miles in, you’ll notice another trail joining you from the right (west). It connects with Horsetail Creek. You could do that if you had a car waiting there off the Gros Ventre Road.
At about 5.2 miles, you’ll be down in some boggy land again. This is a marshy area where the Dallas Fork meets Slate Creek. It is Slate Creek you will be tracking south now. You’ll be following an established pack trail/ATV road with a couple of crick crossings. Late in the season they can be boulder-hopped. Some have bridges, though.
Klay Mangis runs a hunt camp four miles up Slate Creek. You’ll probably see his horses in the fall. The ford of Slate at the end can be challenging right about now. I nearly lost a four-wheeler in there once. Swim hard.
Your hike is over after eight total miles. It’s a fairly easy stretch, considering the 2,000 feet of descent.