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Carbon River Trail to Ipsut Creek Trip Report


The Trail

First things first, you need a National Parks Pass for this trail.  You can purchase one online or at places like REI.  You can also pay for a day pass at the trail head. 


The Carbon River Trail used to be a road.  So, this means that the hike is probably one of the easiest trails you’ll do.  The elevation gain is only about 600 feet and the round trip from trail head to Ipsut Creek Campgrounds and back is 10 miles.  The trail is well maintained, but there are a few areas where the Carbon River has washed over the trail. 


There are three sturdy bridges (two are wood, the last is concrete) and two log bridges (one is a log with one handrail and the other is a partially washed-out bridge patched with two logs and handrails.)  Along the trail you’ll mostly encounter other hikers, but there are the occasional jogger or bicyclist sharing the trail with you.  There’s plenty of room for each to get to one side and keep out of each other’s way.


At the start of the trail there’s a couple of well-maintained bathrooms and at the Ipsut Creek Campground there are two more toilets and a cabin, (more on the cabin later).  Since there are several streams flowing into the Carbon River, you could get by in the summer with just two water bottles and a water filter.


What’s Along the Trail

The trees!  Most of the forest is second growth trees, meaning they’ve grown up in the last 100 years.  However, along the trail and further into the woods you’ll see some old growth trees measuring 20-30 feet in circumference.  These trees are 200-300 feet high and range in age from roughly 200 years to about 500 years depending on the species and growth rates. 


It’s strongly recommended that you stay on the trail and not go tramping into the forest to check out the bigger trees.  This will cause damage to the local environment and can disturb the local fauna as they go about their business. Not to worry though, there’s plenty of old growth trees alongside the trail to admire.  You can check out my video ‘Hunting Old Growth Trees’ on Amputee Outdoors on YouTube to see them.


There’s a short side trail on the right as you go up the Carbon River trail which will take you to Green Lake.  I didn’t take this trail as I was running short on time, but it’s on the list for next time.


Ipsut Creek Campgrounds

The last bridge you cross is a concrete bridge and the last remnants of the original road that folks traveled up to the campground.  Since it was once a drive-in campground, there are bear boxes at several sites, some picnic tables, solar powered toilets, and fire pits. It is important to note that fires are prohibited, as it is now a backcountry site.  There were some trees blown down last winter so some of the campsites are occupied by those trees.


There are no reservations required for the campsites, meaning this is a first come, first serve campground.  If you’re a hammock camper the options seem limited at the campsites but if you walk up to the cabin past the toilets, there were a few trees that would work for you.


The cabin is locked down but around back there is a porch with a picnic table making it a good spot to get out of the rain and have lunch. 


From the campgrounds you can continue on to several destinations, however, you should check trail reports and ranger station reports regarding washouts, bridge closures and weather reports. 


This was a thoroughly enjoyable hike and if you’re looking for family friendly hike, this will suit you perfectly.

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