Meadow Creek


Forest Service Trail #726

Why? A fine, green walk along a lively creek.

Season: March or April through November

Ease: Easy for the first 3 miles to Little Creek, then moderate.

I have always found the difference between the hiking trails along Meadow Creek and the Selway River interesting. Their trailheads are just a couple of miles apart, yet the two seem to inhabit totally different planets. Well, maybe not planets – but they sure do illustrate the difference between a largely east to west canyon and a largely north to south one, especially when the latter, Meadow Creek, also is the narrower of the two.

Basically, the sun rarely reaches the bottom of the first few miles along Meadow Creek canyon, except during the longest days of the year, for the sun is rarely high enough to crest Indian Hill to the south. That makes it a damp and green place, cool and pleasant most of the time, if not downright cold. I camped up the creek a bunch of years ago in March or April and can personally testify to “cold.” And I have also hiked in early July, when the sun actually does make the burnt out sections of trail rather warm.

Meadow Creek is a beautiful place. The trail passes through the woods and along the lively creek that carved that narrow and deep canyon. There are rock outcrops on the other side that have been eroded into caves and cubbyholes as well as outcrops along the trail that feature mosses and lichens. It's a green place, full of cedar and fir and undergrowth. When sunlight filters through, the effect can be magical.

The Creek itself isn’t quiet, and rarely is the noise just a babble. More often it’s the sound of madly rushing water tumbling all over itself in its rush to the Selway. But it also can be a roar, as at the falls just upstream from Rabbit Creek, my favorite spot in the lower 3 miles. There’s not a drop of quiet water at Rabbit, plus the rock outcrops on the other side of Meadow Creek have been eroded into neat little caves and cubbyholes.

The Canyon also hosts my favorite understory tree, the pacific yew. It’s bark made the tree famous as the source of taxol, used in the treatment of various cancers. And it surely has the finest bark of any tree I know, a dark purple red on the outside that peels down to an orangy red. There are 3 really nice ones in the parking lot, so you don’t even have to hike to enjoy them.

The trail itself is in good shape up to Little Creek, and pretty much level all that way until the last few yards before the bridge crossing Little. It’s uphill from there until Indian Hill Creek, then relatively level and along the creek until the work center 13 miles in. There's an OK camping spot at Little, down in the trees, and a good one 5 miles farther in, at Lark Creek. I hiked this trail the last weekend in May and there was no one else on it.

Nature Note: The damp, cool and green nature of the Meadow Creek area makes it a good place to look for millipedes and snails. Millipedes, unlike centipedes, are rounded and move slowly along the ground. They mostly eat dead and dying material, maybe a plant piece or two, so speed isn’t necessary. The one's I've seen in this area are black with yellow or orange dots along their sides. They coil up when disturbed, just as snails withdraw into their shells when upset. If you wait and hold still, the snail will come out, extend one pair of tentacles, then another (the back pair has the animal's eyes on its ends) and finally glide across your hand. You don't need to worry about being bitten, for their mouths are designed for scraping, not biting. The millipedes rarely uncoil until you put them back on the ground.

Name Note: Meadow Creek is named for Rhett Meadows, the source of the creek.

Directions: Drive east on Highway 12 to just short of milepost 97. Turn right onto the road along the Selway River. Turn right again at the bridge over the Selway, upstream from the falls, about 18 miles later. Continue on this road until it crosses the Creek, then turn right to the trailhead.

Information: Fenn Ranger Station, NPNF, (208) 926-4258.

Maps: USGS Selway Falls and Anderson Butte cover the first 9 or so miles of trail.