Summer of 2018: Silver Creek Jeep and Hike (July 1)

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After our little trip to the North Platte, we drove back up to the mountains for our original destination of Silver Creek. We wouldn’t be backpacking, of course, but I wanted to do a day hike at least. This trail goes along the backside of the Never Summer Range, on the other side of American Lakes and Rocky Mountain National Park. Getting to the trail meant driving down a long dirt road. We had tried it years before in our Subaru Outback. It was very rough, but we drove carefully until reaching the creek itself. The creek was pretty deep and rocky. Some folks camping there had come out to watch us; I think they were hoping for a show. We considered the risks and turned around.

Now we were back, and this time we brought the right vehicle. We aired down the tires and set off, making it to the creek without any issues. The creek itself we crossed without difficulty- the jeep was more than up to the challenge. On the other side the road quickly got worse; I’m quite glad we didn’t take the Subaru that far. It was rocky, with multiple small stream crossings. The worst part is that it got very narrow. We met some ATVs and asked about the trail, but they didn’t know either.

At this point, the road was narrow enough that branches were scratching both sides of the jeep at the same time. The size and number of rocks kept getting bigger, and the trail was getting steep as well. This is the point where I called it quits. Unfortunately, while backing up, the rear end got stuck on a downed tree. I pushed my way through it, but the plastic covering the bumper was crushed in; my first visible vehicle damage.

We parked the Jeep and walked the remaining mile or so to Silver Creek meadows. The area was great; with wonderful car camping spots. The trail itself was rough and a little overgrown. I don’t think it gets much use. We only made it a little way before time constraints forced us to turn around. Still, it felt unusually wild, and I’d like to go back some day. As we walked we had three moose encounters- one each with a female, a juvenile, and a male.

After returning to the jeep, we headed back down the road. It was much easier when I knew what was in front of me. The source of most of my anxiety on the drive up was not knowing what was up ahead, and whether or not the road was actually passable to jeeps. It wasn’t until later that we found the following trail description online:

The trail begins as an easy gravel road with areas for RV and trailer camping in the first half mile. After that the trail begins to narrow with gradual ascents. The trail is suitable for most vehicles for the first few miles. The second half of the trail is very narrow as it meanders through the thick forest with running and standing water common along the way. There are very few places suitable to pass another vehicle for most of the second half of the trail. When crossing Spring Creek early in the season, the water can be nearly 2 feet deep. A stock, high clearance vehicle is well suited for this obstacle. Drivers with minimal off-road experience will feel challenged on this trail.

This trail is very narrow as it is lined with heavy tree growth. Good vehicle backing skills will come in handy if you encounter oncoming traffic.

As I write this at the end of the summer, with many more jeep trails under my belt, I don’t think I’d have a problem driving this whole trail. At the time, stopping where I did was the right decision. We’re also glad we didn’t try to drive this on Saturday afternoon. While I don’t think the rain would have made the trail harder to drive, the weather anxiety, not to mention declining daylight, certainly would have made a difference. There were no campsites available until reaching the end of the road, and I doubt we would have made it that far.

The summer is over, but the memories remain. While the summer was going on, I didn’t have time to edit photos and write up the stories to go with them, but now I do. This regular series will look back at the trips and adventures of the summer.

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