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High Ridge Trail #124
Details (5/25/2024)
Status: Closed
Difficulty: Expert
Uses: Mt Biking & Hiking & Equestrian
Length: 8.2 miles
Start: 7,745'
End: 6,919'
Min: 6,919'
Max: 9,431'
Gain: 2,636'
Loss: -3,474'
Elevation Profile
// track pieces: 1566, // elevation pieces: 1566
Trailhead Forecast (5/25/2024)
Description / Access Information
High Ridge Trail #124: A rugged trail that takes travelers to some beautiful scenery and across some giant avalanche chutes. The lower half presents a number of route finding challenges and is rather lightly traveled. The higher side of the trail is the more popular section, with people often using it for out-and-back trips. There, the trail is pretty easy to follow. Well-oriented trail users can approach this trail from its low end too, coming at it from the Lake Creek drainage.

Route finding can be challenging on this trail, especially if you are traveling on its lower, more southerly end. While much of the High Ridge Trail is well beaten and easy to follow, in places it gets faint. Areas of the southern end are through open hillside meadows that have seen a lot of sheep grazing over the years. In places it gets hard to tell where the trail goes. It can be helpful to carry a reliable map and a compass, if you understand how to use them. A GPS unit, or your GPS capable phone, uploaded with area trails can also be helpful. This page includes a link to a .gpx file for this trail, in the event that you would like to load the track to your phone or GPS unit. The link is above this route description, and below the map of the trail.

From its low end in the Lake Creek drainage, the High Ridge Trail #124 climbs up through a wide bowl of young aspens, and then transitions into an old logging/mining road. Eventually, a singletrack trail breaks off to the left from the road-like climb.

Look for the singletrack on your left as you are climbing up the road-like trail. It comes after about 2 miles of uphill travel. You will know you are getting close when the road-like trail starts to get more densely packed with young evergreens. The singletrack breaks off hard to the left - it is behind a tree and partially hidden from view.

The singletrack, on this Lake Creek side, utilizes a number of stacked switchback turns to climb up to a saddle. Once at the saddle, or just a bit beyond it, you can get some nice views through the trees into the Trail Creek drainage toward the Pioneer Mountains.

The switchbacks below the saddle are in disrepair, and some route finding and backtracking will likely be necessary before you find the way up. The trail fades away in a few places, but if you stay oriented, and take your time, you should be able to pick it up again without too much searching around. 

As you are climbing look for the saddle - its what you are working toward. It is near to an area where the more open landscape you are climbing through transitions into heavy ridgeline-hugging forest. If you loose the trail, keep climbing and aim for the treed-saddle.

For much of the way on the climb up you are in an open landscape where you can get a good overall picture of where you are. Look behind you from time to time and notice that for much of the climb you can look all the way down the drainage to the start of the trail and your parked vehicle (at Lake Creek Road). As you get quite close to the saddle you will loose this complete view down the drainage. Take this into consideration if you are planning to hike this section of the trail as an out-and-back. On the return down the trail you may temporarily loose the trail where old game trails and sheep trails help confuse just which trail to follow. Having a picture in your mind of the view you are trying to achieve should take you in the right overall direction, and eventually help you find your way back to the main trail.

Okay, back to the description of the climb up from the Lake Creek side:

At the saddle, the High Ridge Trail is signed, but only with a small "TRAIL" sign screwed to a tree. To continue on the trail, toward its high end, you will want to bear left/northeast after climbing up to the ridge. As you approach the ridge the trail enters the trees briefly, then you will come to a small opening in the canopy. The trail is a little faint here, and some game trails break off here and there too. Just stay to the left/northeast edge of the little grass and sage filled meadow to stay on the trail.

From the saddle the trail heads northeast to quickly break out of trees to gain a series of south facing bowls and great views as you make your way higher.

Turn around where ever you fancy for an out-and-back trip, or, if you have a shuttle-vehicle parked at the top, continue on your long outing. Its a strenuous hike, but the scenery is outstanding, and the wildflower displays as you gain elevation are often very nice.

From the Trail Creek/Park Creek side the trail drops down from the parking area to cross Trail Creek (no bridge). The trail climbs several steep pitches followed by short traverses before settling into a gradual walk up the Cold Canyon basin. You get good views of large head-walls and the wildflower displays along the trail can be quite good in the summer.

The trail crosses Cold Creek where a series of switchback turns begin. Steep, short legs of trail connect the lower turns, but the trail segments between turns get longer and flatter toward the shoulder you are climbing toward.

The trail contours into Basin Gulch beneath vertical layers of sedimentary rock. The avalanche debris piled up below the trail is impressive, giving one a sense of the power that the slides have that roar down this face. Several short and steep switchbacks, and a long contour beneath the imposing northeast face of Otto's Peak, lead to a nice viewpoint offering a stunning perspective of the Pioneer Mountains.

The informal viewpoint is a good place to turn around if you are approaching the trail as an out-and-back. If you have a shuttle-vehicle parked at the bottom, or are riding a bike, continue on your long outing.

Beyond the unmarked viewpoint the trail crosses Rock Roll Canyon via a narrow, steep, side-hill trail that may make some trail users a bit nervous. Round a shoulder into a sub-bowl and watch for two faint switchbacks that lead to a talus covered shoulder. Beyond the shoulder the trail traverses down and across several bowls and ridges to reach a stand of trees at the south saddle of Otto's Peak.

At this saddle, the High Ridge Trail #124 enters the trees, then breaks into a small grassy and sagebrush filled opening where the trail gets faint. There is a small "TRAIL" sign screwed to a small tree. The sign includes an arrow pointing toward the trail. At this saddle, and forest opening, some game trails meet the High Ridge Trail. Follow the sign and arrow and stay to the right/northwest as you are descending to skirt the side of the grassy forest opening. Descend as the trail bends more to the north, descends through some trees, then takes you back out into the open to a view of the head of the drainage that you will be dropping down as you continue descending on the #124 Trail into Lake Creek.

To help you with orientation here, consider that this saddle is the point where the High Ridge Trail crosses over from the more south facing Trail Creek drainage side, to the more north facing Lake Creek drainage side. Some have missed the trail here as they descend because the game trails that continue along the south facing Trail Creek side of the ridge here look pretty significant, but be careful as they don't lead out to anything but a scratchy death march.

After descending past the saddle the trail meets some ill-maintained switchbacks. Compounding route finding are many game and sheep trails etched into the hillside. There are several ways down where old trails have been abandoned and new trails built, only to have sections of the newer trails becoming overgrown with time, lack of use and maintenance. To say that some route finding and backtracking may be needed to stay on course would be an understatement, so take your time and look behind you from time to time. Not being in too big of a hurry, and taking a look around and behind you from time to time can help you stay oriented. Doing so will give you a glimpse of some of the alternate routes that you may have missed as you first passed them.

The singletrack trail leads down to an old logging/mining road and a more gradual descent to the bottom of the Lake Creek side of the trail.

Directions:

Lake Creek Side: Travel north from Ketchum on Highway 75 for about 3.5 miles to the paved Lake Creek Drive on the right/east. Proceed slowly and safely through the subdivision and continue up the road after it turns to dirt/gravel. The Lake Creek lake/pond and picnic area is about 3.5 miles up the dirt road, and the trail is about another 1.5 miles higher up than that. The trail is marked with a wooden forest service trail sign, but it blends into the background and is kind of hard to see as you are climbing up the road. Look for it on the right as you are climbing and getting near the top of the road.

Trail Creek/Park Creek Side: Travel northeast on Sun Valley Road/Trail Creek Road to Trail Creek Summit (12.3 miles). This is a steep gravel road that leaves some drivers and passengers feeling nervous due to the sheer drop-off to the north side of the road. The road is a maintained county road, but can it can get rough as the season progresses. It is usually passable in dry weather by most cars and trucks. Once at the summit, continue along the road for another mile to Park Creek Road/FS Road 140 on the left/west. Drive up Park Creek Road for 1.2 miles to the parking area for the High Ridge Trail on the left.

*For more detailed descriptions, topo maps, and information on the history, geology, and wildflowers of the Wood River Valley pick up a copy of Exploring Sun Valley online or find it at one of several local shops.