Fish Creek

excerpts from the book
Utah's Incredible Backcountry Trails
by David Day

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Distance: 9.9 miles (plus 38 miles by car)

Walking time: 5 1/2 hours

Elevations: 1,080 ft. loss
     Upper Fish Creek Trailhead (start): 8,780 ft.
     Lower Fish Creek Trailhead: 7,700 ft.

Trail: This trail has been designated as a National Recreation Trail. It is a gentle, downhill walk along a small mountain stream, usually well maintained and easy to follow.

Season: Summer through mid-fall. The road to the upper trailhead is generally closed each year from the end of November until mid-June, and the upper reaches of the trail are very muddy until the end of June. For current conditions call the Price Ranger District, Manti-La Sal National Forest, at (435) 637-2817.

Vicinity: Fifty miles southeast of Spanish Fork, near Scofield

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Fish Creek

 

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     Fish Creek runs down a wide, gently sloping canyon from a point near Skyline Drive to the Scofield Reservoir. The canyon is popular with hunters because of the abundance of deer and elk in the area. Deer are everywhere, but the elk seem to prefer grazing in the large, open meadows high above the south bank of the creek. Take along a pair of binoculars and stop occasionally to scan these grassy meadows. If you are attentive you are almost certain to see at least a few of the magnificent animals.
     The creek runs from west to east, and you will notice a tremendous difference in vegetation between the north and south facing sides of the canyon. The north facing side is covered with aspens and conifers, interspaced with lush green meadows. The south facing side, on the other hand, is sage brush country with scarcely a tree to be found. Unfortunately the trail spends most of its time on the shadeless south facing side of the canyon.

     From Upper Fish Creek Trailhead the path winds down Straight Fork a distance of 1.9 miles before reaching the confluence with Fish Creek. Occasionally you may see other faint trails coming into the canyon, including one where Straight Fork joins Fish Creek. If you are confused just take the path that follows closest to the creek; the route never strays far from the bottom of the valley. Over the length of the hike the path crosses the creek four times, but for the most part it stays on the north side of the streambed.
     After walking 4.0 miles you will encounter the first of three Forest Service signs: a sign marking the bottom of C Canyon Ridge. C Canyon Ridge is also a popular access route into Fish Creek Canyon, and it was once possible to get to within a mile of the creek on a jeep road that follows the ridge. For several reasons, however, including the fact that Fish Creek is an important part of Scofield Reservoir’s watershed area, the road is now closed.
     As you continue down the canyon the volume of water in Fish Creek gradually increases, but for most of its length the stream isn’t deep enough for good fishing. There would be more fish if the canyon’s beaver population could make more permanent ponds in the streambed. The trail passes by numerous beaver dams, but virtually all of them have been breached. The dams rarely survive the spring floods. Only after Gooseberry Creek joins Fish Creek, 2.6 miles above the campground, does fishing really become feasible.
     At French Creek, 0.7 miles from the end, the trail finally crosses to the shady south side of the canyon. Then, fifteen minutes later, it emerges from the forest at the lower trailhead in Fish Creek Campground.

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