Save this 14.4-miler for late summer when the snowmelt has subsided, then hike into the far northern reaches of the river valley to two high mountain meadows. From the parking area at Maverick Saddle, the trail traces the Mad River, passing through a mix of conifers and wildflowers. Continue straight at the handful of trail junctions on the way to the first fording of the Mad River at mile 3.8. (Although the trail might be snow free by mid to late June, waist-deep water levels are common in years with high snow levels.)
After 4.5 miles, ford the river again, then turn right onto Trail No. 1415 and head toward Whistling Pig and Cougar meadows. A mile later, follow the narrow trail through Whistling Pig Meadow where vast views stretch to the east and west—look for deer and elk and a whistle pig or two. Pass the famous hunter’s cabin nestled in the trees in the middle of the meadow and continue northeast.
The route rounds to the west at mile 6.3 and climbs to elevations over 6,000 feet, then turns south 2 miles later toward Blue Creek Meadow. Drop your pack at Blue Creek Meadow and visit the historic Blue Creek Guard Station before closing the loop back at Waypoint 6 and returning to the trailhead.
-Mapped by Alan Bauer, Alan Bauer Photography