Try this long loop for a challenging day hike. There’s not much in the way of camping options, but it’s a great trainer, and you’ll enjoy views of the Stuart Range, but only after you do a little bushwhacking and a lot of climbing. Bring as much water as you can carry – you’ll parallel creeks on the way in and on the way out, but the majority of the hike is high and dry.
The trailhead at the end of Road 9703 is the site for both trailheads you’ll use for this hike. Park where you can, leaving room for others to pass, and set out on the Miller Peak trail. The trail begins alongside Miller Creek, and for the first mile and a half, you’ll be right at the water’s edge. Of course, this means that trailside vegetation is well-watered, and you’ll be swimming through thick foliage for much of this sectionil.
Finally though, the trail does begin switchbacking up and away from the creek. There are still several creek crossings ahead, so you have more opportunities to refill on water. Your final creek crossing is about 1.8 miles in. After that, the trail truly gets down to business and begins climbing steadily to a viewpoint about 0.8 miles shy of the junction with the spur trail to Miller Peak. This teaser view completes a relentlessly steep hillclimb, but you’re not finished yet! Head around the back of what you might think is Miller Peak, still climbing steadily, though more moderately, and enjoy views of Navaho Peak, Dragontail and some of the other Stuart Peaks, even Mount Rainier on a clear day.
In spring, this hillside explodes with wildflowers. Festooned primarily with lupine and balsamroot, there are plenty of others to take in as well, like bitterroot and columbine, among others.
Reach the junction with the Miller Peak spur trail 3.8 total miles from the trailhead. It may seem longer, but that’s because you’ve just climbed 2500 feet, and much of that was in the last 2.25 miles.
And, if you’re heading for Miller, it’s not over yet. In the 0.6 mile spur trail, you’ll gain yet another 600 feet to the summit of Miller. You can’t see it from here, but the views are truly spectacular from the small summit block. If you’ve got the energy, it’s worth the side trip.
At the junction, a trail switchbacks downhill, seeming to head right back the way you came. This is the County Line Trail, and despite its confusing direction, it is the next leg of your journey. The trail dips down around the back and then pops over a shoulder to continue on below Miller Peak. This section is truly stunning in spring and early summer, with balsamroot, lupine, and paintbrush, as well as the contrast of gray crumbly basalt to the red sandstone.
Crossing over another shoulder, you’ll begin switchbacking down fairly steeply. The meadows continue, but they gradually become more treed, and the wildflowers become more varied. You likely saw the trail far ahead of you as you traversed beneath Miller -- it climbs straight uphill out of a low saddle.
You’ll lose 650 feet on the way down to that saddle, which sits at 5,050 feet. Here the trail borders private property, as evidenced by the logging tract and roads coming up from the east. Stay on the trail as it heads straight back uphill, regaining 450 feet in 0.7 miles.
Past the straight-up section out of the logging saddle, the trail re-enters forest, and the cool shade will be a blessing on a hot day .The wildflowers are still with you, though there are fewer here in the forest.
Reach another junction after those 0.7 miles. Your trail continues straight on, now on the Teanaway Ridge Trail. The trail doubling back to your left is a hiker-only continuation of the County Line Trail, which continues for 2.7 miles and simply deadends a few hundred feet shy of a high point.
Now it’s less than a half-mile to your next overlook, the 5489-foot high point of the Teanaway Ridge Trail. There’s a very small side trail to get to a good seating area for a snack – don’t walk right by it! From here, you’ll have similar views as those from Miller Peak.
Once refreshed, head down, through somewhat brushy trail but mostly good tread. It’s 1.4 miles to your final junction, where the Teanaway Ridge Trail intersects the Iron Bear Trail. Take the trail to your right at the intersection, and continue switchbacking downhill on much better trail than you had going up on the Miller Peak trail.
After less than a mile, you’re in the South Fork Bear Creek valley. Continue alongside this quietly chattering creek until it merges with the North Fork Bear Creek, and parallel Bear Creek for the remainder of your trip. The trail is markedly better than Miller Peak's trail, but after a long day hike, this part can seem interminable. Keep trekking! When you see a nicely built bridge, you know you’re back at the parking area; none of the other creek crossings have bridges!