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GET OUT: Delvin’ deep near Moose Creek
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Running across wildlife is difficult in the dead of summer. You have to get up early and get up high to see anything moving around. One hike that’s pretty good for spotting anything from a black bear to a moose and her calf is Moose Creek. Let’s head there and, oh yeah, drop off a car on the pass at the Coal Creek parking lot – just in case we get the urge to loop through.
Scratch that. I’ve always done it that way and it’s stupid. The easier way to loop Moose and Coal creeks is to start in Wyoming at Coal Creek and come out in Idaho at the Moose Creek trailhead. It will be easier on your feet. From the top of Teton Pass, zero out your odometer and mark 2.6 miles to the west. Coal Creek is on your right with a fairly large parking lot.
Coal Creek starts at 7,300 feet. You’ll climb almost 2,000 feet in 2.75 miles of hiking – not exactly brutal and after that it’s all downhill including the entire Moose Creek drainage. That’s Taylor Peak on your left as you trudge up Coal. Lots of backcountry skiers hit that in the winter and pop out the drainage you are climbing. After a little more than a mile you’ll notice some creeks off to your right. That’s snowmelt from the backside of Glory.
At the 2.6-mile mark you are almost to the top. Check out that trail on your left. It’s the highline trail (No. 037) sometimes known as Taylor Mountain trail. It humps you over Taylor (10,068 feet) and traverses the ridgeline overlooking the highway before meandering down into heavy timber where it passes Bear Canyon and dumps you into Moose Creek right at the trailhead where your other car might be parked, right? You will definitely see wildlife on this route. Keep your eyes peeled.
If the high road is not for you, continue down from the aforementioned split and drop into Mesquite Creek. In less than two miles you will be at Moose Creek. But wait! What about Ski Lake? If you are still counting miles from the Coal Creek trailhead, at 3.6 or so, watch for a trail on your right. That’s the Teton Crest trail that can take you, among many places, to Ski Lake via Phillips Pass.
If you keep on to Moose Creek, after a total of 4.5 miles, you will drop into a meadow and see signs for Moose Creek trailhead – hang a left here and it is 4.5 miles out to Idaho to the west. It is virtually level the whole way; a pretty easy walk out. Watch for the double cataract on your left (south side).
Strong hikers can continue here and head up Moose Creek to Moose Lake. It’s an additional four miles and 1,800 feet of more ups. Moose Lake is one of the most beautiful little lakes you’ve ever seen. It might be easier to take the tram up to Rendezvous and hike down six miles to this lake and then on out Coal Creek. That way there is be hardly any elevation gain. If your intent is to see Moose Lake, this is probably the easiest way to do it. From the Moose Creek trailhead in Idaho it is 8.6 miles to the lake with 2,780 feet in elevation gain.
The entire run of Moose Creek is chock full of sights and animals. I’ve seen plenty of black bear and moose in here. On June 30, 2011, I came across a blonde sow and her two cubs. Only because my dog began sniffing the air wildly did I see the bear before she saw me. In fact, she never saw me. I was downwind and across Moose Creek. She was in the bushes heading the opposite direction about 40 yards away, if that! I don’t know if she was a blonde black bear or a griz. My dog has seen numerous black bear up close and never reacted the way she did this time so I am inclined to believe it a grizzly bear, but I did not see enough of her to know.