North Fork Deer Creek Trail #157: Great trail that departs the North Fork Trailhead. Many sections of the trails in the Deer Creek region offer technical challenges with some areas of high-consequence should one make a mistake. The North Fork Deer Creek Trail is one of the less technically demanding trails in the drainage, but even it includes some exciting challenges.
Generally speaking, the trails in the Deer Creek drainage are not for the faint of heart, the less experienced, or the ill-prepared. While still considered a "front-country" experience by many, the trails are rather deep in, and somewhat removed from things like cell phone service. You may want to think of the area as a more backcountry-type experience; to help you as you make preparations for a visit.
Be mindful that portions of your route will be through areas that burned in the 2013 Beaver Creek Fire. Beware of falling trees, rolling rocks, and flash floods. Watch the weather and stay out if the forecast indicates a likelihood of stormy weather or high winds. Watch for hazards. While the fire devastated much of the landscape, the subsequent regrowth and re-greening in the area is impressive.
Accessing the trails in Deer Creek takes some effort. Deer Creek Road is paved for about 4 miles, then it changes to a graded gravel surface. Depending on when it was last graded, and the time of the year, it can be relatively smooth, or it can be pretty rough. As you get deeper in, the road narrows, and there are some blind corners that you need to approach slowly. It takes a while to get in and out, but generally speaking, if it isn't hunting season, the area can be relatively quiet, and somewhat less traveled.
The North Fork Deer Creek Trail #157 is a Deer Creek classic that can be used for tying together a number of area trails. Hikers and runners often use the trail for an out-and-back trip. Mountain bikers like to connect the North Fork Deer Creek Trail #157 to the more technical Deer Creek Trail #158 for a great 11-mile loop. Most consider the preferred direction of travel to be counter-clockwise, descending on the more technically demanding Deer Creek Trail #158. Others like to descend on the North Fork, so choose your poison.
The lower portions of the trail include several longer areas of loose, finer rock, and some steady, long grades. The trail's turns are challenging when approached from below. Strong cyclists measure themselves by seeing if they can "clean them," and not dab a foot down. As the trail nears its high point the climbing gets easier.
During the 2013 Beaver Creek fire, over70 percent of the Deer Creek drainage burned. This was followed by torrential storms and flooding in the spring of 2014. The resulting damage to the natural and man-made components of the drainage was stunning. The area was ravaged and required a multi-year, significant rebuilding effort by the Forest Service and the local community. From 2015 to 2018, the Ketchum Ranger District rehabilitated the floodplain, restored wildlife habitat, rebuilt 20 dispersed campsites, installed trailhead facilities at two locations, and relocated 3,500 feet of forest road. They planted over 20,000 native plants and are treating the area for noxious weeds. They also rebuilt 28 miles of single-track trails in Deer Creek. These rebuilt trails form important connections to the vast system of trails found to the north of the drainage.
In total, Deer Creek restoration costs neared $1.6 million. Funding for this massive effort was largely mobilized by the 5B Restoration Coalition, a grassroots community alliance of diverse interests that strives to bring the Wood River community together to restore and enhance our lands and natural assets. Blaine County’s Land, Water and Wildlife Program, a tax-payer levy program, contributed $496,000 to the Deer Creek restoration efforts. This significant contribution provided leverage for additional funding including $188,000 from the National Forest Foundation, who is also the facilitator of the 5B Restoration Group. For more information about the 5BRC visit this web site: 5B Restoration Coalition
At the intersection of Hwy 75 and Deer Creek Road, take the paved Deer Creek Road west. (This intersection is about 2 miles north of Hailey, and about 9 miles south of Ketchum). Travel safely and slowly through the neighborhood to cross the bridge over the Big Wood River and proceed out the drainage.
From the highway its about 10 miles out Deer Creek Road to its intersection with the North Fork Road #103. (Deer Creek Road turns to gravel/dirt about 3 miles west of the highway.) At the North Fork Road #103 you can turn right to drive about a mile up to the top end of the North Fork Road to park at the start of the North Fork Trail, or keep straight to follow Deer Creek Road for 0.3 miles to its end at the start of the Deer Creek Trail. Each trailhead includes a vault toilet and information kiosk. The North Fork Trailhead includes a turn around area that can be useful to those pulling trailers.
*For additional 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.