Despite the drive through oil fields, ranches and popular fishing spots, the Jack Creek Trail takes hikers into some wide open country with expansive vistas and lots of wildflowers early in the season.
Although it’s so far from a town of any considerable size, this area plays host to recreational traffic both summer and winter. Sunshine Reservoir is wildly popular for its population of Yellowstone Cutthroat trout and will be teeming with fisherfolk all summer. The road into the Jack Creek Campground bustles with horse trailers, ATVs and oil field workers. Still, it’s a beautiful 1.25 hour drive from Cody so you won’t mind what Wyomingites consider “traffic.”
What Makes It Great
Scenery is the name of the game with all the hikes in this region. The Washakie Wilderness is truly wilderness - this is the home of grizzly bear, elk and bighorn sheep and these animals thrive here. Just 1.5 miles from the trailhead you’ll leave the civilized world behind and start humming the theme song from Sound of Music.
From the trailhead, climb up above the creek on the east side and find the first creek crossing at 1.6 miles. From there stay on the west side of the drainage, head downhill and cross Jack Creek again at 2.4 miles. And you’ll cross the creek again at 3.2 miles, climbing uphill most of the way. All that huffing and puffing gets rewarded when you enter some lovely alpine meadows. This is a good spot for a rest and refuel break. The wildflowers should be abundant early in the season. Past this point the route becomes rather indistinct but at 5.5 miles start watching for tree blazes and rock cairns which mark the trail. Continue hiking until you reach an old road at 6.0 mile. Here is your turnaround point for this out and back trail.
Who is Going to Love It
There’s very little about this hike not to love. It’s a great trail to work out your legs and lungs, and an amazing way to while away an entire day. The Jack Creek Trail opens fairly early in the summer despite it’s overall elevation, so it makes for a good first-of-the-season long hike. Your best bet is to go on the weekdays, as there can be high horse traffic on Saturday and Sunday. The road in is well-maintained so there are no worries about beating your rental sedan to pieces.
After the hike, stop in at the Cowboy Bar in Meeteetse for some history and heaping platters of burgers and fries. Look for some of the bullet holes in walls and stand on the porch where Butch Cassidy was arrested.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Cody, take WY-120 south to Meeteetse 30.4 miles. Turn right onto the Sunshine Reservoir Road, WY-290. Drive 58.3 miles to the Jack Creek Campground and locate the large parking area at the far end of the campground. Fill your water bottles before you leave town because there is no water at the campground.
There are no fees and your leashed pets are welcome. Don’t even think about trying this trail without bear spray. You might not have cell service.