GET OUT: Indian Creek: Go Fork Yourself
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – I like the Indian Creek area northeast of the Palisades Reservoir as a launching point to access the southern end of the Snake River Range and familiar Jackson Hole drainages from Idaho.
For instance, have you ever been all the way up Dog Creek? I mean all the way. Like 7.4 miles. That would put you just off Indian Peak to the north at about 9,350 feet, ready to drop into beautiful Lake Basin, which, if it has a lake, I haven’t found it yet. Maybe it’s the little pond at 43*16.525’N; 110*56.746’W. At any rate, this expansive basin drains into the South Fork Indian Creek and on toward the Palisades.
How about Coburn Creek? This is a lonely pack trail that begins off Fall Creek Road near Pritchard Pass. You won’t normally see a soul on this trail. It’s fairly flat for 6 or 7 miles before pulling up hard toward Observation Peak.
It’s a sheer wall drop south of the peak so skirt the ridge on a well-established highline trail and pop into North Fork Indian Creek via North Indian Creek Pass. From there it’s possible to head toward Palisade via Blowout Canyon or Spring Run, on either side of Spaulding Basin.
Let’s get back to our hike. Drive to Alpine. Turn right at the junction. Drive 7.25 miles. Indian Creek (NFD 281) Road is on your right. Drive in just short of two miles and park at the loop where Indian Creek forks north and south.
At 1.3 miles in, on the road you will see an old jeep trail headed left. This goes up Spring Run. The name would suggest this tiny rill is spring fed, but I’ve never found any springs up here. The water seems to be mostly runoff from Spaulding Basin. Smith Canyon is off to the right at 1.4 miles. It’s easy to miss and there is no trail to speak of. I bet there are mule deer up there for sure. Maybe some rangy elk, too.
At 3.75 miles up the north fork you will notice a tight draw on your right. That’s Big Basin Canyon. It heads two miles up to a wide-open basin alright. Some maps show a trail up it, some don’t. I can’t remember.
A little further on and you come to a hunt camp on your right. Then the trail splits: Left for Garden Canyon, right for North Fork Indian Creek. Garden Canyon is a sight in the spring and early summer. Wildflowers abound inside the horseshoe-shaped box canyon. It is almost always snowy and/or muddy in here.
Let’s go back to the parking area and take the south fork this time. It’s a little over nine miles to Lake Basin from here, gaining nearly 2,300 feet. On the way you pass numerous canyons including Driveway (2.1 miles), Burnt Timber (4.75 miles), Oat (4.95 miles), Dead Horse (6.6 miles), and Cabin Creek (7.7 miles).
I love place names that describe literally how they came to be. You don’t have to think hard to imagine how Dead Horse and Burnt Timber got their names. Driveway and Oat are pretty unique, though.