I hesitate to submit this trail description as we only made it 4.3 miles down the 6.2 mile Spencer Spring Trail, but perhaps somebody can amend or replace it someday after traveling the entire distance. Failing that, one can simply read the 2nd half of Fritzski's "West Pinto Spencer Spring Loop
" which starts from the Roger's Trough Trailhead and paints the same picture.
This hike begins at the Miles Trailhead which is just east of the Kennedy Ranch. Forest Service Road 287A was in very good shape and I had no problem negotiating it in my Ford Mustang. There were a couple of sedans at the trailhead so a high clearance vehicle is not a mandatory requirement by any means. One begins the hike on the West Pinto Trail which is the only exit out of the trailhead. The trail winds through the forest before coming to a wide clearing after just a 1/2 mile. The Kennedy Ranch is just north of the trail at this point and its fences and a dilapidated structure can be observed in the adjoining meadow. Shortly after this clearing one can make out an unsigned trail heading off to the left. There are rocks across this trail and I believe that it is the former Rock Creek Trail which was decommissioned several years ago. The West Pinto heads off slightly to the right and drops into a creek bed which you will follow for the next mile and a half or so. The trail crosses the creek bed several times but is well traveled and very easy to follow.
At about the 2 mile mark you will come to a sharp left turn away from the creek bed which will begin a short ascent up a couple of switchbacks and over a small rise. Descending down this rise will eventually deposit you on the east end of Oak Flat. Along the way to Oak Flat you will be able to make out a large corral on the north side of the creek bed. Soon after the corral you will come to the first major trail intersection, (ie: West Pinto and Cuff Button Trail). The Cuff Button Trail heads to the right across the creek bed and begins to climb up the hills. Continuing west across the Oak Flats, you will very quickly come upon the next major intersection for the Spencer Spring and West Pinto Trails. This intersection was exactly 1 hour from the Miles Trailhead. The Spencer Spring Tail appears to be well traveled and heads off to your left. However, after a short ways, it degrades into a cairn tracking adventure that makes the going a little slower, especially with all of the fallen leaves obscuring the trail. The trail criss-crosses the Spencer Spring Creek numerous times so one has to be on the look out for cairns or risk getting off trail which will slow you down and result in cat claw encounters. At one point, the trail follows along the west side of the creek through a 50 yard gauntlet of cat claw which was simply brutal. For the most part you are hiking along the creek bed under the trees without any real views to speak of until you get about halfway up the canyon. At this point, (right at about the "r" in "Spencer" on the topo map), the trail begins to climb up the south side of the creek bed until it comes out at a clear opening about 100 feet above the creek bed. From this saddle, one is treated to a beautiful view back down the canyon you came from as well as up the canyon to Montana Mountain and Forest Service Road 650 which is where the trail ends. This was a lovely spot for lunch and approximately 4.4 miles and 2 hours into the hike. This is where we elected to turn back. According to Fritzski, about another 1 mile up the canyon is where the trail starts to get real tricky as it climbs up the west side of the creek bed to the Forest Service Road above. But that will have to wait until another day. The trip back to the tail head was a much quicker 1 3/4 hours as it was a gentle downgrade the entire way.
This hike is listed as One-Way. When you hike several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the