Nice Horton Alternative
The Derrick Trail shares it's beginnings with the Horton Creek Trail. While the trail itself is probably not worthy of it's own write-up, it does offer some outstanding views of Promontory Butte and the Rim, a good workout and access to a nice section of the Highline Trail. Most importantly, it is a pleasant change of pace from the usual out and back hike to Horton Spring, and should help avoid some of the crowds, especially during the peak summer season.
After parking at the Horton Creek Trailhead, cross the bridge and walk up to the very beginning of the road going into the campground. Instead of walking up the road to access the Horton, walk east up from the little rusty trail box over three or four stone steps and follow the faint use trail directly through the campsites. The trail is faint, but easily followed. The trail will follow the ridge above a ravine, then split. Don't follow the trail down into the ravine, turn toward the northeast and follow it up the hill. Soon it will turn somewhat rocky and will still follow the ridge. When the trail widens, begins to look like a road, and then begins to bleed out, continue just a short distance cross-country- about 100 feet or so and suddenly you will find yourself on a rocky old road, wide and lined with logs. You can see this road from the trail if you look carefully. You are on the Derrick. The old road probably begins at the actual end of the campground, and you could bypass that little bit of faint trail blazing, but wasn't that ridge walking more fun that traipsing through the campground dodging beer bottles?
The Derrick Trail continues heading north/northeast, gradually becoming steeper and much rockier. It is not a terrible climb, but it is rocky and rough, so make sure to stop occasionally and soak in the wonderful views of the Rim. As the trail climbs toward Promontory Butte, it becomes lined with Manzanita mixed in with the ever present Ponderosa and Junipers. After about a mile and a half, the Derrick intersects the Highline. At the time of this writing, the Junction sign was lying on the ground, it's jigsaw pieces carefully arranged for better reading. The right branch continues down the hill and southeast to Christopher Creek. Take the left branch which contours Promontory Butte as it threads it's way to Horton Spring.
Take your time, because this is a very pleasant section of the Highline. As a matter of fact, if it wasn't for the beauty of the waterfalls and cascades in Horton Creek itself, this would be the highlight of the loop. The trail gently rises and falls, sometimes a bit steeply, but nothing too taxing. The Ponderosa Pines close around you and the area retains that euphoric sent of pine pitch in the light high country air. This is Rim hiking at it's finest . There also appears to be many young maples and oaks on this section, so this may end up being a fine autumn color hike. A half mile or so from the Highline junction, the Promontory Butte trail #268 takes off sharply up the side of the Butte on the right. After two miles the trail crosses the dry headwaters of Horton Creek. A half mile walk down the creek bed will take you to the Horton Creek Trail, coming in from the right. Or, cross the dry creek bed and continue up the steep hill until you reach Horton Spring. Follow the Horton Creek Trail description for your return down Horton Creek to the campground and trailhead.
The loop is not much more difficult than the more common Horton Creek out and back, a bit steep and more feisty, but it is very pleasant and it does offer some solitude before reaching the very popular Horton Spring. Make the Spring and the beauty of Horton Creek your reward, and this trail in will be worth it!
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.