Lee Creek early in the Morning, Devil's Den State Park
Devil's Den offers a number of trails, hike-in camping and great places to explore. For me, it's Lee Creek. If you are an amateur geologist there are amazing features. Like fossils? There are areas along the creek that are treasure droves for various fossil types. Caves? Yep. Plant life and wild flowers line the creek, and because of the rock formations causing all day shade in some spots while other areas may be in full sun there is quite a diversity. And regarding animals I've seen deer on every trip, and the creek holds a number of sunfish and bass, frogs, crayfish and of course the occasional snake.
To get to Lee Creek trail it's best to start in the Primitive or Hike-In Camping area at Devil's Den State Park. If you aren't staying overnight you can park at the trailhead that is located in the Primitive Camping (A) area. It's located near site 8, about 150 yds into the loop. The trail head is also the trail to Hike-In camping for the first .2 mi. The trail will continue straight for Lee Creek, go right to the Hike-In sites. (Side note: The Hike-In sites are great, choose #8 if available, it's the last one and most remote)
You'll take the Lee Creek trail about a mile further, and come up on the Mannon Homesite. Take the trail left here.
The trail continues for another .7 mi, it is flat and easy to follow. There may be mountain bikes on the trail, I have seen them a couple times, they are not too frequent. The trail markers will be orange and at the end of Lee Creek trail is the Outlaw Trail, a 3 mi trail that was designed for mountain biking. You'll take this trail a very sort distance to where you can get onto the creek bed. Note: I have always gone when the water is at a reasonable level and plenty of creek bed to walk. I only recommend walking the creek bed when the water is low to normal. If the water level is up at all, or it's raining for a period of time, or any flood watch or warning.....don't walk the creek bed. I saw one place on the creek way upstream that has very loose sand and you can slide into 20 foot deep water when the creek is running well. So caution...but the creek is normally low most of the time outside of spring rain season.
When you walk down onto the creek bed at the Outlaw trail it's a very flat area, easy to walk. The creek will vary from flat rock, to boulders....sandy to pools of water. There are a couple places that unless you wade you will walk off the creek, but these areas are few and short. Of the 3 mi walk on the creek bed you may have to get off the creek for 100 yards.
I like to take off upstream from the point I enter the creek, then walk it back past the Outlaw trail and all the way to the trailhead. Lee Creek is the water you cross at the trailhead. Look and listen for a spring that comes out from a cave about .2 mi from where you came down to the creek on the right. I saw a few bats hanging at the entrance to the cave. Best not to enter the cave due to diseases that can harm bats we humans transmit...besides that it's dangerous too!
Views of Lee Creek as you walk Upstream from Outlaw Trail
I walk upstream about 1 1/2 miles, it's at a curve in the creek where there is a cliff line all along the right side of the creek, and the deep hole that is usually dry next to this cliff. On the left here you can see a rock fence line created years ago and part of a homesite in the past. Also on the right as moving upstream and just before the cliffs you may see a lean-to created a couple of years ago by someone who stayed off the creek for a period of time.
In the shaded areas of creeks I think you find the most beautiful and diverse vegetation. Moss, ferns and wild flowers can be found in the shaded area of Lee Creek, particularly on the side or under the cliffs.
Plants along Lee Creek
As you head back downstream you'll see features that you missed on the way upstream, new perspectives. You will pass the Outlaw trail entrance from the creek....I follow Lee Creek on down to the trailhead, you could you if desired hop back on the trail and take it back to the trailhead also.
Start to look for fossils if interested shortly after you continue to walk downstream past the Outlaw trail. I walk the left side of the creek here and keep my head down looking for rocks with fossils. Many times I'll see a rock with a few, and pick up the rock to see the hidden side and find great fossils. (Caution: If you can't see all around a rock be careful turning it over, there could be a Copperhead or Timber Rattler under it.) The rocks I find that have fossils are light gray, and about 1/2 " thick. Many times these rocks are soft so be careful when picking up or washing, they will sometimes fall apart if handled to rough. There are also large rocks up to 4 feet by 4 feet that are full of fossils, mostly shells of long ago mollusks collected in mud over time. I find most fossils along the creek near high level shoreline. I believe most rocks with fossils turn to sand when in the creek stream and thus are more rare in the creek bed rather than near shore, or less/no water flow. You will also find fossilized sponges, plants, Crinoid stems and fish. Here are a few I found in just a couple hours of exploring: (Note: I leave most fossils where I found them, and may place them on top of a rock for others to see.)
Fossils found along Lee Creek
The walk to the trailhead takes you over an area on the left where shale and coal layers come above the ground. To the left as you downstream you will see a recent area of a landslide. There are a couple pools of deeper water where you may see bass over a foot long, each pool containing their own ecosystem. When you get to the trailhead, you come off the creek and go right to the campsites and parking.
There are many trails at Devil's Den, but Lee Creek always calls me back to explore. It's an easy trail to get to the creek, and most of the creek is an easier walk outside those areas where you may climb a few boulders. I believe it's great for kids, so much to explore and check out. Take a lunch and water, you'll really enjoy this hike!