Cache Creek is wildly popular with locals for its proximity to downtown (2 miles from Town Square), its scenery, and its dog friendliness. It's also wildly unpopular for its popularity. The first mile up the double-track road from the trailhead parking lot can be a madhouse. But it's worth persevering. In the winter, a cross country skating track is groomed several times a week, as is a lane for classic skiing. Both extend about five miles up from the parking lot. You'll find classic skiers, Nordic skiers, snowshoers, fat bikers, trail runners, and plain old hikers all winter long.
What Makes It Great
Over the five miles of groomed terrain, you climb about 1,200 feet, which means that it's a 1,200 foot descent on the way back to the car. There are several tricky hills, which makes it more difficult for skate skiers, but it's still suitable for even beginner cross-country skiers. Since this is an out-and-back, it can be as long or as short as you want. The farther you go up the canyon, the more challenging the terrain becomes. There are also single track trails on either side of the canyon and the main abandoned double track road.
On the south side of the canyon, skiers can head a couple hundred feet back down the road from the parking area to a bridge over Cache Creek. After crossing the bridge and climbing for several minutes, you can ski either east or west along the Hagen Trail on the flank of the mountain. To ski on the north side of the canyon, head back down the road just beyond the bridge to a wide area in the road (where some people park).
Just beyond a forest service sign, the Putt Putt Trail begins climbing uphill on the mountainside to the north of the main groomed road, before heading east and paralleling the road. Winter runners often head up here. The main road is typically packed enough so that they can run it without snowshoes for about 2 miles. After that, it sees less traffic and becomes a bit squishier. Like running in sand.
Who is Going to Love It
It's a busy place but the crowds disperse after the first half mile or so. It's a fun day out, even if it's got a lot of traffic.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Start at Broadway Ave. and N. Cache Dr. in Jackson. Go west on Broadway Ave. Go 0.4 miles then turn left onto Flat Creek Dr., where the parking lot is 100 yards farther on the right.