Do not be fooled by your maps, most of this trail is on low angle terrain in the bottom of a valley but the it can be a little rugged. The trail begins in a small parking lot just past the Grizzly Campground, but the bridge over the creek is washed out; secondary access is through the campground.
The trail starts out all well and good for a mile or two as you hike past an old homestead, then shortly after it crosses the creek on the log bridge things get rougher. The trail passes through the base of several talus fields.
After 5 miles, you'll reach a junction with the Flat Gulch Trail (some maps label it Chico Gulch). This is roughly the halfway point and the end of the easier part of the trail. Once you pass the Flat Gulch trail, the Ranch Creek Trail becomes a backcountry adventure; the trail enters an old burn area with tall grass often obscuring the trail, there are continued rough sections, and even some minor route finding once you begin to climb up to the Hog Back Ridge. The open burn area is beautiful and offers some great views of the surrounding hills and peaks; there is an obvious outfitter camp on the west side of the valley. The trail looks like it heads over a dilapidated bridge but keep heading south to stay on course.
At roughly 7 miles in, the trail disappears in thick brush and a spring so you may need to do a quick jaunt on the talus field just to the east. Once on the talus, you'll see a well-constructed bridge over the creek. Cross two bridges and begin to ascend up some switchbacks. Keep an eye out for the trail as you get higher on the ridge as it comes and goes for a little over a mile until it reappears for a nice bit of hiking to the Hog Back Ridge Trail.
Hike the Ranch Creek Trail as an out and back or if you are feeling strong and adventurous, link up with some of the other trails in the area or make a bid for Quigg Peak. Be sure to bring a first aid kit, bear spray, etc. as it's a long way to get help if you need it and there is no cell service anywhere on this trail. There is a lot of water in this area so bring some kind of filter.
Shared By: Matt Radlowski