Fall Creek Canyon is a tributary of the Wildhorse Creek Canyon complex that drains the north side of the 12,000-foot Pioneer Mountain Crest. Though Wildhorse itself is longer and bigger than Fall Creek, a four-wheel drive road climbs nearly to the head of that canyon. The Fall Creek headwaters, by contrast, can only be reached via a 7-mile trail, making it feel much more remote than the Wildhorse Cirque.
The entire Wildhorse complex has experienced extensive mountain glaciation. The rivers of ice draining Wildhorse and Fall Creek merged together and extended down canyon to the mouth of the East Fork of the Big Lost River. At times the Wildhorse glacier dammed the East Fork, forming a massive glacial lake that backed all the way up to the Copper Basin glaciers.
The Fall Creek Canyon itself drains a series of stunning ridgelines above 11,000 feet. The huge U-shaped canyon captures several additional tributaries that climb into alpine meadows and cirques with beautiful sapphire Lakes.
Moose Lake is situated in a beautiful high-alpine basin. The trail crosses the Wildhorse Detachment Fault, leaving the dark shale slopes behind and entering a cirque ringed with vertical granite walls. The meadows above Moose Lake host beautiful mid-summer wildflowers.
The trail is accessed from the trail up Fall Creek Canyon. From the Moose Lake junction, cross the creek (note that high water in spring and early summer can make the first creek crossing quite dangerous.) and start climbing through several steep switchbacks trending down canyon. After crossing an avalanche path and several springs, the grade lessens a bit and enters a zone of granite boulders.
The trail turns west into the Right Fork drainage and hugs the south-facing talus until crossing the creek around 8,800 feet. Hike through the woods and cross the creek that drains Lake 8,980. The final climb weaves up a blunt ridge on granite slabs and through sparse trees to a flat, green meadow just before the lake.
It is possible to climb into the upper meadows and loop over and down to Lake 8,980 on your way back to the car. The descent, however, is down a large, steep talus slope and requires good balance and stable footing.
The north facing headwalls above Moose Lake are covered in expanses of talus and scree. Though footing can be difficult, competent off-trail scramblers should be able to the shoulder above Angel Lake and then descend to this isolated punchbowl high above the Fall Creek Canyon. Descending from here down Fall Creek will make a very adventurous off-trail loop out of your outing.
Climbers will be enticed by the sweeping corners of the northwest face of the granite buttress standing guard over the entrance to the basin (on the divide with the Left Fork). There are some impressive leaning corners and dihedrals that may yield some quality climbing.
Reference: All content excerpted from Exploring Sun Valley - A Comprehensive Guide to the Boulder, Pioneer, and Smoky Mountains by Idaho River Publications.
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