We were looking for an uncrowded hike for the Independence Day holiday, potentially one with lots of wildflowers and birds.
The McClellan Meadows Trail did not have a single trip report and did not go to any views, waterfalls or lakes, so it seemed like a good candidate to be uncrowded. The trip description mentioned wildflowers, so we decided to give it a hike.
More reasons to choose this hike: I had never been to McClellan Meadows except in winter on snowshoes or cross-country skis, so I was curious to see what this area was like in a different season. Plus, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is in the early stages of planning a large timber sale in the Upper Wind River, with some units along the trail, so I wanted to be able to comment from firsthand knowledge of the area.
The trail tread was in excellent condition. At .6 mile, we crossed the first stock bridge and turnpike. At 1.2 miles, we reached the second stock bridge, and we crossed a spur logging road at 1.7 miles. at 3.1 miles, we reached Forest Road 65, which runs along the west side of the Indian Heaven Wilderness. This upper trailhead is just north of the trailhead for the Indian Racetrack Trail and the Falls Creek Horse Camp.
During the first half of our hike, we were overtaken by about 40 mountain bikers. Apparently it was a group ride starting at Old Man Pass Sno-Park, riding connector trails over to the McClellan Meadows Trail to Road 65, down the road to the Falls Creek Horse Camp, and then riding Upper Falls Creek Trail 152 down to the Falls Creek Falls trailhead and beyond to the junction of Forest Road 3062 with the Wind River Highway. (We saw them partying next to the intersection as we drove homeward.)
The highlights of the hike for us were wildflowers and birds. We saw or heard 34 bird species. We identified and photographed many species of blooming wildflowers, including lots wildflowers in patriotic red, white and blue colors. White included beargrass, Columbia windflower, bunchberry, beadlily and goatsbeard. Red included red columbine, pinesap, baldhip rose and western spotted coralroot. Blue came from broadleaf lupine and marsh violet. We also saw yellow flowers, including Columbia lily, Drummond's cinquefoil and large-leaved avens.
After the hike, we stopped to check out McClellan Meadows. We discovered we would need rubber boots or possibly hip waders to walk out into the saturated meadow to look for plants and birds. We did add several bird species that like riparian areas, including yellowthroats and Lincoln sparrows, to our list during our stop.
The trailhead has space to park only one vehicle.
A vault toilet is available at the McClellan Meadows Sno-Park.