Five Pockets

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Five Pockets (Image: Dubois Chamber of Commerce)
Difficulty 2 stars
The trail itself is easy, but it could be a long day trip and the entire hike is above 8,000 feet in elevation so it will be more difficult if you’re not from high altitude. The trail is about 12 miles out-and-back, unless you are able to park farther up the road. You could also add on the 14-mile Hidden Valley Loop, or explore any of the pockets for more mileage.
Time to Complete 6.0 hours
Distance 12.0 miles
Seasonality Summer and Fall
June through September is the best time to hike this trail.
Fees/Permits None
Dog Friendly Yes.
Dogs must be on leash in developed areas, and under voice control in the backcountry.
Destination Highlights Requires most of a day
If you drive about 30 minutes north of the town of Dubois, through the colorful badlands and to the edge of the Shoshone National Forest, you’ll find a trek that follows Horse Creek to Five Pockets Basin. There are five different areas (hence the name five pockets) stretching out from the wilderness area, and this line takes you right up to the middle. The hike is already at 12 miles, but you can extend your trip by venturing even further into the backcountry to explore one of the five valleys in the area.

What Makes It Great

The best part about this hike is the scenery. You’ll get views of Horse Creek and the gorge below, expansive meadows, and the impressive Absaroka Mountains in the background. There’s a good chance of spotting wildlife along this remote trail, so keep an eye out for elk or even bear—be sure you’re properly equipped with bear bells and bear spray, and remember to make a lot of noise and be vigilant. The hike through Five Pockets is fairly flat and easy, although there is a 0.5-mile climb around the mile mark. Starting at the trailhead parking lot, head north past a sign that says “Five Pockets.” There are several animal trails splitting off the trail towards the creek, but you want to stay on the main trail and out of the gorge. After that, the trail levels out and it’s pretty smooth. As you make your way along the trail, you’ll have beautiful views of the creek below. About 2.5 miles in, you’ll get to Carter Lake, where you might see an elk or moose drinking water if you’re lucky (just make sure you never approach a wild animal!). Continue on for breathtaking views of the impressive Cathedral Peak, Boedeker Butte, and the Absaroka Mountains. Make sure you stay left at Twilight Creek, and the turnaround point is near Bear Pocket. Once you get up to the Five Pockets Area, there are several options for extending your hike. This route takes you past the trails going into three of the valleys—Bear Pocket, Hidden Pocket, and Lake Pocket—and any of those are fun to explore. (Lake Pocket is the easiest of the three.) If you continue on the trail instead of turning around, you can add on the 14.4-mile Hidden Valley Loop that is much more challenging than Five Pockets, and hits almost 12,000 feet in elevation. This loop circles around and joins back with the Five Pockets Trail at Twilight Creek.

Who is Going to Love It

This is a wonderful hike for anyone who wants to get in some distance hiking. The trail is generally easy, but with the opportunity to access more difficult trails and add on more mileage. Because this trail is out-and-back, it’s also easy to accommodate hikers who might want less mileage, or who might find the altitude more difficult than they expected. Another option would be to hike 2.5 miles up to Carson Lake and turn around there. Photographers will absolutely love this trail. There is beauty at every step, and between the flowers and the forest, the mountains and the creeks, there’s always something to see.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From Dubois, head north on Horse Creek Road. About 12 miles up, the road splits with 504/Parque Creek Road. Stay to the right and on Horse Creek. In about half a mile, you’ll see a dirt road to your left and a small pull-out. This is where most people park, though you may be able to drive another couple miles up the road (if the weather has been dry and your vehicle can make it up there).
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