This trail provides access into the northeast portion of the Lost Creek Wilderness Area. A highlight of the hike is a lovely area called Craig Meadows. Craig Creek passes through this open meadow area. There are sites suitable for overnight camping in Craig Meadows. The northwest terminus of the trail is the trailhead described above. The southeast terminus is a junction with the Colorado Trail (1776). Most of the Payne Creek Trail is in a designated wilderness area, therefore bicycles and all motorized vehicles are prohibited. The trail has been identified on some maps as the Payne Gulch Trail or the Craig Meadows Trail. Hiking the entire trail from north to south involves a cumulative elevation gain of 2,285' and a distance of 9.5 miles.
This trail description is based on starting at the trailhead near Bailey and ending at the junction with the Colorado Trail. The Payne Creek Trail and the Brookside McCurdy Trail coincide for the first 1.75 miles from the trailhead. Portions of this segment follow old roads. At mile 1.75 the trail forks with Payne Creek bearing left and the Brookside McCurdy Trail bearing to the right. For the next 1.5 miles the trail rises gradually along the west flank of Payne Gulch drainage. The wilderness boundary sign is located at mile 3.4. The next 1.3 miles are very steep as the trail rises up to a high point of 9,890'. This climb puts hikers into a pleasant aspen grove, which is a great place to take a break. The trail now begins to descend into the Craig Creek drainage. In the large open meadow the trail remains on the northern side of Craig Creek. The trail becomes faint along Craig Creek, so stay on the northern shore until you notice a series of cairns on the bank. The cairns begin at mile 7.3. The trail continues in a southeasterly direction for .5 miles until you reach the Bluestem Draw flowing north into Craig Creek. This stream crossing is at 8.0 miles. At mile 8.2 the trail crosses another unnamed drainage flowing north into Craig Creek. After the stream crossing at mile 8.2 the trail begins to climb out of the Craig Creek drainage to meet the Colorado Trail at mile 9.5.
Directions from Bailey: From Bailey proper leave Highway 285 opposite the Post Office and turn on to County Road 64. Drive .45 miles to a Y in the road. Follow the left side of the Y, which is a gravel road and continue 1.6 miles to the trailhead. Drinking water is available at the trailhead.
May through October .