“This is an easy-to-follow loop around Cache Creek Wilderness, with a chance to see tule elk.”
— Nate Lillge
River/Creek · Wildlife
This is a multi-use trail, so you may meet some horses along the trail. Cowboy Camp is often closed in the winter (Nov-Feb).
This loop starts and ends at Cowboy Camp parking area. The Hike winds over many small shoulder ridges and provides access to the many trails in Cache Creek Wilderness Area. It is possible to see a herd of tule elk in the morning. There are many small ponds that are left from when the area was ranched. Some of these still have bass—which were transported to the ponds from Bear Creek and Cache Creek. Some of the ponds also provide an opportunity for a mid-hike swim. The 2015 Rocky Fire was very destructive and is still visible, although the area has started to regrow.
Need to Know
There are many small side trails along the route, but the main trail is well defined. A general rule of thumb is to always turn right when at a fork.
Follow the Bear Creek Trail
south from the parking area at Cowboy Camp. The trail follows the east side of Bear Creek for about a mile to the crossing. Find a suitable/safe place to cross the creek and continue on the west side. About 0.1 mile after crossing Bear Creek, a choice can be made to head left or right. Staying left, the trail continues through the meadow and eventually starts the climb into the hills. The trail is easy to follow for 2 miles to the top of the ridge. There are two climbs along this leg. The first is short, while the second is a long, steep climb. At the top of the ridge, the trail intersects with many other trails—take the trail to the right. Follow the trail for 2 miles (two trails will intersect from the left—always stay to the right) to Thompson Canyon Trail
. This intersection is near a stream crossing (you may have to look back over your right shoulder to see the sign pointing to Cowboy Camp) and climbs through an area that was burned in 2015. At the top of the hill, continue to the left. This section is very steep and can be slippery with recent rain (this is a good reason to go left at the beginning). Follow the well defined trail back to the meadow on the west side of Bear Creek (always taking the trail to the right).
Flora & Fauna
Chaparral, oaks, tule elk, otters, Swainsons hawks, and osprey.
History & Background
This area was ranched previously, and evidence is still visible throughout the hike.