Birding · Commonly Backpacked · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
As an out and back, this is a great trail for families, with multiple turnaround points at the waterfalls.
As it is a good access trail to a number of different loop options of varying mileage, backpacking is common. Follow all San Juan National Forest Regulations, found here
Officially the Cascade Creek Trail #510 starts near the parking by the Engineer Mountain Work Center. However, there is alternative parking lot that many people prefer on Forest Road 783. From the 2WD parking lot on this road, follow a rough 4WD trail crossing an old wooden mining flume, one of only two still in use in the U.S. today. The flume carries water from Cascade Creek to the Tacoma Hydroelectric powerplant, the country's oldest hydroelectric plant still in use with its original equipment.
Traveling a mile through private land, the 4WD trail ends at a gate (at 1.9 miles the trail from the Work Center joins for the east). At the old Farmer Cabin, begins again. This 50s-era Farmer Cabin was originally used by the aptly-named farming family to graze sheep between the 1960s and 90s. The building has since been renovated, and today, it's used as a backcountry information center.
Cascade Creek Trail actually makes a loop following Cascade Creek, a trail on either side of the waterway. The trail splits about a quarter mile after the Farmer Cabin, just after crossing a small stream.
Take a right to follow the eastern trail. From the split, an easy trail through a forest thick with pine and aspen heads deep into the valley between Engineer Mountain and Grayrock Peak. Reaching a narrow clearing, your first mountain views unveil up ahead. But as the meadow tapers off, the trees close back in on a set of switchbacks that clamor about 300 feet higher up the foot of Engineer Mountain.
Soon leveling, the trail finds a narrow contour to wrap Engineer Mountain, and briefly dips towards the creek again. Where another drainage carves a sharp gauge in the mountainside, 4.7 miles from the trailhead, the trail crosses a bridge at the foot of a raging waterfall.
Continuing north for barely a tenth of a mile, an intersection with the Engine Creek Trail
finds another meadow, this one opening to views of Grizzly Peak's rugged southern face. From here, the route strains deeper into the basin on a seldom-used trail, where waterfalls pepper Cascade Creek. After 0.5 miles, the trail turns left to cross Cascade Creek. Across the creek you'll reach a junction with Graysill Creek Trail
. Stay left to follow the western leg of Cascade Creek Trail #510 south. This side of the trail follows the creek, closer at times than the eastern side. The trail closes the loop after 8.1 miles. Continuing heading south to head back to the parking area.
The eastern leg of the loop gives a good alternative out-and-back when the one on the west side of the creek is inaccessible during times of heavy rain or snowmelt.
Flora & Fauna
The lush forests of spruce, fir and aspen make this trail best for spring, summer and fall. During peak season, wildflowers blanket the meadows.
Moose frequent the area, as well as the usual high-elevation critters: deer, bear, mountain goats, and marmots.
Shared By: Caroline Cordsen
by Thomas Croswell