Photo: When one man’s upper is another woman’s downer.
By Andy Dappen
A mile into the hike he says, “I love this grass and how it undulates like waves in the wind. She says, “It’s windy every time we walk near here, and the grass is all brown and dead.”
He says, “The grass is blonde … and it’s beautiful. It might be prettier still if we hike in spring when all the hills are velvet green and colored with wildflowers.” She says, “Bet it would still be windy.”
Photo: Moses’ Stool behind. Is it a holy hill or a collosal cowpie?
A few miles farther, he says, “Look at that view across those basalt crags and up at the sensuous ridgeline leading to the top of Moses’ Stool …it’s gorgeous. She says, “What kind of stool do you suppose they’re referring to over there?”
Later, while walking along Duffy Creek, he says, “Given the width of this cattle trail and all the roads we’ve followed, this would be an awesome mountain bike ride.” She says, “Biking this would be hard and rocky…it would be awful.”
Near trip’s end, he says, “The last few miles of this loop along the Rock Island Grade will make for a fast, easy finish.” She says, “Walking a wide gravel road like this isn’t hiking, it’s stupid.”
Photo: Duffy Creek. What’s not to like?
Back at the car he says, “What a great hike! If it doesn’t rain and mud-out, I want to come back next weekend and explore a different hike around here. She says, “ Yeah, I’d like to come back, too… in about a decade!”
Whether you find this desert hike out in the grasslands of the Waterville Plateau to be sublime or abhorrent appears to be a matter of opinion. Some see subtle beauty here; others don’t. Check out this loop at Duffy Creek and decide for yourself whether it’s an upper or a downer.
Photo: Maybe it requires rose-colored glasses to appreciate the desert beauty of Duffy Creek?
Note: Some of the quotes above might have been ever so slightly made up. This is completely legitimate journalism and we quote the National Enquirer Style Guide which stresses, “Never let the facts ruin a good story.”
Detail, Details: Duffy Creek
Distance: 7.5 miles to 8.8 miles depending on whether or not you use the short cut.
Elevation Gain: 750 vertical feet.
Skill: For hiking: 2 (intermediate). For mountain biking: 2 (intermediate with some hike-a-bike). There is no signage here so you need reasonable map-reading skills..
Fitness: 2 (intermediate).
Recommended Seasons: Spring during flower season and fall when areas in the Wenatchee Valley are getting muddy (this area gets less rain and is rockier than the Wenatchee Foothills).
Access 1. From East Wenatchee follow Eastmont Avenue north until it merges into the Badger Mountain Road. Follow Badger Mountain Road about 7 miles uphill to the intersection on the edge of the Waterville Plateau with Bromiley and Clark streets. From here, follow Badger Mountain road another 5.8 miles and turn right on Indian Creek Road. Follow this for 6 miles and at an intersection with a major (and considerably larger gravel road) turn right. You’re now on Rock Island Grade, even though the road is not signed. Drive another 0.4 miles and turn into a small road on the left with a BLM sign noting the Duffy Creek Management Area. Park by the gate. For those living in Wenatchee and East Wenatchee, this is the shortest access, but Indian Creek Road is slow (rocky and bumpy) so Access 2 might even be faster to drive. Indian Creek Road can also be muddy in April and November so use Access 2 whenever the roads might be soft or wet.
Access 2. Drive Highway 28 southeast toward Quincy. At milepost 10.5,turn left onto the Rock Island Grade and zero out the odometer. Drive up the grade (steep for several miles) and then along the Waterville Plateau. After 13.1 miles (at a little pass and just before the road hooks left), note the road taking off on your right — this goes up Moses Stool and could be a walk for another day) At mile 13.8, there’s a green gate on the right and a pull-off on the left (you could park here). Our route description, starts at mile 15.9 where you can park along a small road on the right that is gated closed and has a sign noting the Duffy Creek Management Area.
Photo: Views down toward Waterville from the plateau above Duffy Creek.
- Mile 0.0 (Waypoint 1). Parking area. Pass through the gate and follow the dirt road.
- Mile 0.5 (Waypoint 2). Bear right at a Y in the road onto a less traveled double-track (no motorized vehicles allowed on this spur.)
- Mile 1.4 (Waypoint 3). Intersect a fence (a road branches off to the right here and if you were to take that, you would cross onto private property in about a third of a mile). Go straight through the fence (there’s a cattle gate).
- Mile 1.75 Waypoint 4). Another fence. Step over it.
- Mile 2.25 (Waypoint 5). Intersect a larger road (not shown on our map). Motorized vehicles are allowed on this road. Fade right onto this larger road and keep walking in a southeasterly direction.
- Mile 2.6 (Waypoint 6). Pass through a gate and keep following the road, which is now closed to motor vehicles.
- Mile 2.9 (Waypoint 7). Pass a corral and a fence. Make a choice here about whether you want to follow the road (red route on map) or walk cross-country (yellow route) to Waypoint 8. The road (about 2 miles long) is easier and longer. It comes down into the creek where (once across the creek bottom and on the south side of the creek) you’ll want to turn right and follow a more primitive cattle road back upstream. The cross-country route is shorter (about 0.65 miles), but is also rougher and requires a bit of bushwhacking to get across the creek bottom.
- Mile 4.9 (Waypoint 8). This is a good place to turn around and retrace the route. If you do pass through the gate, the trail appears to be on private property for about a third of a mile even though it wasn’t signed as such in 2010. The trail quickly gets fainter and smaller and, in one place where topography and brush pinch the route, you may need to re-cross the creek and walk on the opposite bank for a few hundred yards. Be extra respectful here, pick up trash, and leave the property better than you found it. Also be sure to close any gate you opened to pass through.
- Mile 5.2. The trail on the south side of the creek (left side as you walk upstream) improves, and is now quite negotiable on a mountain bike. Note: If you are a mountain biker, there are a lot of downed and low-hanging branches on this portion of the trail.
- Mile 6.8. Pass through a green gate to intersect Rock Island Grade. Turn right and walk along the grade. Again close any gate you open to pass through.
- Mile 7.15. Another gated spur road takes off on your right — this accesses private property. Stay on Rock Island Grade, for another 1.65 miles.
- Mile 8.8. You’re back at the car.
Map. See our topographic map.
Ownership. Bureau of Land Management.
Date and Updates. First prepared 11/15/2010. Some updates to the post were made on 3/29/2012 with information sent to us by Fred Stanley. Thanks Fred!
Other. Consider carrying a folding pruning saw with a six- or seven-inch blade on your belt (saws and holsters are available at Lowe’s and Home Depot). Spend a little time clearing and brushing out the segment of trail down at creek level. A little pruning donated by many visitors will keep this portion of the trail in nicer shape.
Leave It Better than You Found It. This should be every user’s goal. Pick up trash left by others, pull noxious weeds along your route, throw branches over unwanted spur trails, etc.
Disclaimer. Treat this information as recommendations, not gospel. Conditions change and those contributing these reports are volunteers–they may make mistakes or not know all the issues affecting a route. You are responsible for yourself, your actions, and your safety. If you won’t accept that responsibility, you are prohibited from using our information.