The French Creek Trail
#703 connects the Barr Trail
to the Heizer Trail
and Manitou Reservoir Trail #638
, cutting across the French Creek drainage. It travels through lovely open forest for much of the way, and provides a wonderful sense of remoteness for being so close to the superhighway of the Barr.
To reach French Creek Trail
# 703, leave the Barr Trail
at 8,771 feet of elevation on an abandoned road (part of Longs Ranch Road, but it is not marked as such), where the only sign is the old perforated metal sign to the old Fremont Experimental Forest station. The 0.5 miles that you're on this road is badly eroded with many downed trees blocking the trail requiring significant extra exertion. In 0.25 miles, you reach the station where the remnants of the buildings make a nice spot for a break. An interpretive sign describes the activities that took place here. The road continues for another 0.25 miles to a saddle at 9040 feet. At this point, the French Creek Trail
leaves the road toward the left (northwest). There is no signage at this junction, but the trail is visible leading into a small grove of trees.
The trail is not well maintained, but easy to follow as it makes a gentle-to-moderate descent of a tributary of French Creek through open forest with only a few downed trees across the trail in this segment, and surprising views of the Pikes Peak summit. About 1.25 miles from the start, a good viewpoint of the main French Creek drainage opens up.
It is worthwhile charting your course from this vantage point as the next half mile is rough! The trail drops to the bottom of South Fork French Creek where there are many downed trees blocking the trail. The trail in the bottom of the canyon is not in good condition and will require extra exertion to get through this stretch. The trail crosses the creek where the North Fork of French Creek joins the South Fork, and ascends the North Fork. The trail improves somewhat at this point—with the downed trees thankfully behind you—or dreadfully ahead of you if you are going in the other direction! The trail alternately climbs steeply and then levels out until you reach the upper canyon which is at a much gentler grade. The intersection with the Heizer Trail
If continuing on the Heizer Trail
, this route makes for a 9.5 mile thru-hike if you spot a car at Cascade, but beware that once you are at the low point of the French Creek Trail
the only way out is up! There is 900+ feet of climbing to the top of the Heizer Trail
and then 2000 feet of descent to the car.