GET OUT: Little Red Creek big on steeps, Canyon views

By on June 11, 2013

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Little Red Creek Trail is overgrown and dangerous in spots but a major portion of the trail is skinny and hard-packed. Trail usage is light, which I attribute to the trailhead’s obscurity from the parking area at Red Creek. Just the kind of trail the locals like to keep to themselves. I have been driving the Snake River Canyon for 14 years and never noticed the trail. But recently, I came across a blurb on the Internet and then checked it out on Google Earth.

Red Peak from Little Red Creek Trail in the Snake River Canyon. (Jeana Haarman)

Red Peak from Little Red Creek Trail in the Snake River Canyon.
(Jeana Haarman)

It was one of the first really warm days of the year so I blew the cobwebs off some shorts. Bushwhacking in shorts, however, can be rather painful. The wrath of overgrown scratchy, spikey brush left battle wounds up and down my legs.

But the bushwhacking – a result of missing the trailhead sign – is avoidable by simply beginning at the actual trailhead (details below).

The elevation gain for this hike is a whopping 3,680 feet, which made it a bit of a struggle so early in the hiking season. To climb some sections, I held onto the grass, a tried-and-true method for my less-than-100-pound frame. Of course, if I had remembered my trekking poles it would have been that much easier.

The trail is level for the first quarter mile before it heads south and then winds up the ridge between Red Creek and Little Red Creek. From there it only goes up, up, and up, providing a quick yet challenging route to access the high country with a series of lofty switchbacks.

Portions of the trail contain steep side hills and Romeo, my 15-year-old Chihuahua, rolled over the edge on one of them. Fortunately, he’s small enough that it only took a single arrowleaf balsamroot plant to stop him from bouncing down the hill. The sunny yellow wildflowers were in full bloom on the hillsides.

Eventually the trail becomes more obscure but the destination is clear. The ridgeline comes into view about five miles into the 8.5-mile hike. There are spectacular views of the surrounding mountain ranges and I can only imagine the views from the summit of Red Peak at 9,771 feet. But due to a late start, a Red Peak summit will have to wait for another day.

I selected this hike as a warm-up to another attempt at Ferry Peak from the Cottonwood Creek Trail, just one canyon over. I have attempted Ferry Peak a few times but never got up early enough in the morning to make it all the way up and then back down before dark. I came close the second time, but close just doesn’t cut it. I catch a glimpse of both peaks every evening on my commute home from Jackson, a daily reminder of my disappointment. These two peaks are now on my bucket list for this summer. Wish me luck!

Directions from Jackson: Follow Highway 89 south, approximately 21 miles to Red Creek Road. Follow the jeep trail about a quarter mile to the end of the road and the Little Red Creek trailhead. The trail intersects with the Divide Trail and has access to high ridges of the Snake River Range and drainages beyond. The area is normally accessible late June through October. 

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