Monday, July 8, 2013

Palmer Creek Road: Old Mine and Waterfalls

Our style of exploring new places is to drive down random roads that look interesting to see where they go.  The first time we drove down Palmer Creek Road, it was only my stubbornness that kept us going the 7 miles to the campground (Coeur d'Alene).  I'm glad I was stubborn because in chatting with a lady at the campground we discovered that the road, that continues 5 miles past the campground (though significantly rougher), heads up to an old mine and a waterfall.  Thus, after hiking 10 miles out to Gull Rock, getting some food in us back in camp, the restless kids talked us into driving back up Palmer Creek Road to check out the mine.

The view towards the mine from where the road was blocked off and we hiked. has a wonderful, succinct description of this area that I copy here:

"High in the hills above the old mining community of Hope is the scenic valley of Palmer Creek. Here, waterfalls and weathered hemlocks punctuate the rolling tundra. Higher yet, a hanging valley cradles two alpine lakes. This is a delightful day trip for children and agile grandparents alike. The only sobering note is the last 5 miles of road—high, narrow, winding, and slow, but normally drivable in dry weather by passenger cars. The road is unsafe for large campers and trailers but is good for mountain bikes. Gold was first discovered along Palmer Creek by George Palmer in 1894. A rush to the Turnagain goldfields took place in 1896. Two towns, Hope and Sunrise, grew out of the rush, and as many as 5,000 people were reported living in the area in 1898. Palmer Creek was the site of early placer mining and, later, lode mining, beginning in 1911 with the Lucky Strike vein. The Lucky Strike and Hirshey Mines figure in the hikes offered here. Active mining continued into the 1930s, and some people still have claims in the area today."

A stream crossing aided by old mining paraphernalia.  The trail up to the falls goes right up this slope.

Leftovers from the old mine.  A couple pipes were alternately buried and exposed on the hillside up to the mine.

A view of the valley we'd just come up (driven and hiked), from just below the mine entrance.

The mine was up 2 more switchbacks from where we stopped (14 miles of hiking that day took their toll on me!).

The mountains above us were shrouded in fog, with an old stone building in the foreground.
Where the road was blocked off, the trail began in good shape, but as it made it's way upward it was rougher, and in places the trail was a river from melting snow.  We only saw the entrance to one mine on the mountainside above us, though the description mentions two (There were two pipes traversing the length of the trail, one originating at the mine we could see.  Perhaps the other went to the other mine).

The calls this a day hike; we managed to do it in less than a couple hours, but there was much more to explore.  The trail to the falls, which took off to the left at the stream crossing, looked like a mountain goat path, hugging the side of the hillside.  Apparently that trail can be the take-off point for exploring other ridges and peaks, including above the mines.  There were a few tents set up along the 5 miles of road from the Couer d'Alene Campground up to the mine parking area, and what looked like designated camping areas (free, of course).  If someone wants a really backcountry, remote experience without backpacking, this is totally a great choice.  It feels so wild and far away from the world.  We didn't see any wildlife, though there were many beaver dams along both sides of the road from the campground to the mine parking.  I can see going back here sometime.  It would be fun to explore more and the road past the campground is also very bikeable.  Once again, put that one on the schedule for Denver's Boy Scout troop to do someday!


Kaylene Johnson said...


I'm the program manager for the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area. We are posting some historic sites, including trails, on the Alaska App and I wondered if we could use an image from your Palmer Creek Road hike collection of photos? Could you please contact me at your earliest convenience? Thank you!!

Kaylene Johnson said...


I'm the Program Manager for the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area. I wonder if we could use an image from your Palmer Creek hike for our Alaska App entry of historic hikes and trails? Please contact me at your earliest convenience! Thanks!! Kaylene

lia said...

Hi Michelle,
Great description and photos! Could we use one for our Alaska App listing of this trail? I'm working with Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area, our mission is to provide community support to promote the natural and historic resources of this area.

MichelleW said...

I already gave permission to someone to use a photo--emailed a bunch to someone with the National Heritage Area...Kaylene Johnson. Get with her, or send me a message with your email and we'll get in touch that way (I won't publish a comment sent to me if it has personal info and you request I don't).

Also see my most recent post about my visit there last week. More great pics! I am working on it right now. In fact, your comment came in when I arrived back into cell access after climbing around the mountains by the mine!