Smithfield Canyon, 17 September, 2023

The forest road above Smithfield Campground was washed out in the spring snowmelt, so we parked at the Campground and started our hike up the road. The road was closed although road repair was in progress, with grading and bringing in loads of gravel.  We stopped by a slope that preserved ancient wave forms, and Dave P explained that these gray flaky rocks were likely the Spence Shale member of the Cambrian Langston Formation, which is known for fossils, and sure enough we found one small trilobite.

There were two stream crossings with slippery rocks.  We had three options—balance on a log, hop from rock to rock, or wade through the water.  No one fell but most hikers ended up with wet boots. We got up to the point that was labeled on the map as “The Grotto”.  After looking around for a rock overhang with ferns or anything that might be called a grotto, we spotted a cave on the opposite (north) side of the valley that might be the landmark.  A little farther on we had lunch on a large rock with a great view of the surrounding rocky amphitheater.

On the way back at the upper gate we decided to try a single track route on the other side of the river from the road.  The first mile was more of a wilderness experience than we bargained for with some tread on steep side hills and sections that apparently had been washed out, which required walking in the stream along the bank to regain the route. The last mile was more of a normal trail and had interesting springs and welcome shade.

Except for the stream crossings and the rough part of the single track this hike had a clear trail and gentle grade.  There were asters and golden-eye flowers, ripe thimble berries and elderberries, and some maples that were turning red.  Three or four mountain bikers passed us, but we didn’t meet any other hikers.

Trip Summary:
  • Participants: Deanna, Brent, Jane, Susan, Dave W., Laurel and dog Zinnia, Kamren, Jack, and Dave P. (leader)
  • Drove 12 miles to the parking area near the Smithfield Campground
  • Started hiking 8:40, lunch 11:15-11:45, back at the beginning 3:00. 
  • Clear skies, calm winds and cool temperatures
  • Hiked about 8.5 miles with about 1300 feet of ascent and descent

Thanks to Dave P. for the narrative and photos, Jane and Susan for photos, and Dave W. for photos and GPS data.

Hiking up a newly repaired section of Smithfield Canyon's "cherry-stem" road

This section of road needs more work before it will be safe to drive on

The Spence Shale is exposed near the road

The usual trailhead, 2.4 miles from our start
The trail was badly eroded in places

The confluence of Summit Creek (left) and the South Fork (right)

Crossing Summit Creek

The sign at the Wilderness boundary had been vandalized
Is a cave up there?

The Grotto area
Lunch at the Grotto

We made a side trip to "Mack's Meadow" with it's unofficial campsite and swing
The maples were beginning to turn color
Wading Summit Creek with its slippery rocks on our hike back via the "single-track trail"

False Solomon's seal (Maianthemum racemosum)
Mountain ash (Sorbus scopulina)

Curlycup gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa)
Hoary aster (Dieteria canescens)

Showy goldeneye (Heliomeris multiflora)
Fairybells (Prosartes trachycarpa)

Blue elderberry (Sambucus cerulea)

Our GPS track shows about 8.5 miles and 1300 feet of ascent.
You can look at our route using Google Earth or download our GPS file.