Backpacked West Clear Creek with a small group 7/1/2017-7/2/2017. Started from the Bullpen trailhead parking lot with the intent of camping at the plateau on the south side of the creek. The drive in was largely uneventful and the section of dirt road could be managed with an ordinary passenger car.
The Bullpen was fairly crowded with lots of people set up to swim and sunbathe for the day. There were 5 water crossings with the majority being in between mile 1 and 2 of the trail, a short enough section to hike in water shoes or sandals and not repeatedly switch out footwear. The crossings were not deep, most were calf to knee high but choosing a less than ideal crossing point could easily result in waist deep water. The rocks were algae covered and very slippery, a few members of the party cooled off the hard way by slipping and falling in (in some cases repeatedly).
Going along a few good camping spots were identified, see linked maps for exact locations. Water available from the creek was clear and quite tasty, water filters were used for purification without issue. The party stopped twice to refill water bottles on the way in and once on the way back. It was quite hot this time of year and the ~50 F water was a refreshing way to cool off. From mile 2 onward the route is effectively a desert hike.
Some notable difficulties were experienced along the way.
The forest service map that was used for navigation no longer appears to be up to date with regard to the trail routing. There is a 1-1/4 mile section which was previously routed on the north side of the creek but now runs on the south side. It is possible that the old trail still exists, we spotted a cairn marking a side trail in this area, but it is no longer the "obvious" route. The "new" trail is well established but if you were planning on navigating or replenishing water bottles by the number of water crossings another method may be required as the new route cuts out 2 creek crossings.
The intended camping destination ended up not being as accessible as hoped. Rather than being a flat area with easy access to the creek it ended up being a completely inaccessible area with ~40' walls on either side of the creek. After exploring the area and seeing the falls in the distance at sunset, probably not maiden falls but rather a smaller set downstream, we headed back to the creek crossing near mile 4 to set up camp.
A ~30' section of the trail about 5-1/2 miles in had been completely obliterated by a landslide and was initially impassable with gravel and sand at a 45 degree angle. An impromptu trail repair was made using a trowel, feet, and an inadequate lifeline of paracord. The timing of the repair was opportune as we encountered another group coming from the other direction just as we were finishing up. The stability of the 6" wide path was much improved by the foot traffic and we did not feel the need to use the lifeline on the way back. There were a few spots where trees had recently come down across the trail, these were not overly difficult to go around but some bushwhacking was required.
There was a fire ban in effect during our trip so a camping stove was used instead. The weather was warm even at night and suitable for hammocks. The large number of rocks and trees at this camping spot gave more opportunities hang a hammock than than there were flat spots to pitch a tent. One member of the party tried their luck at fly fishing but was not successful. There were a lot of crayfish in the creek so an opportunity may have been missed there. The water just downstream of the crossing was deep enough for swimming which was a great way to cool off after the long hot hike. The ants were quite well trained in this area, as soon as we started setting up camp they came out looking for food but were only a minor nuisance. Mosquitoes were not an issue for us at this campsite.
Our hike out was enjoyable though just as hot as the hike in. We saw more hikers on the way back than we encountered on the previous day. Aside from the the one previously mentioned group, we had the trail to ourselves once we got past the Bullpen on the way in. In hindsight going at a cooler time of the year or following the watercourse in wet suits may have been a better way to go.
All in all it was a great hike with some excellent photo opportunities and a great adventure feel to it.
Link to downloadable topographical maps:
Link to hike video:
[ youtube video ]