The Lower Mad River Trail starts at the Pine Flats Campground near Entiat. The road is paved and suitable for all vehicles. Just use caution as the road narrows to a single lane as you approach the campground. If you choose to camp here, you will find water spigots between the campsites and a vault toilet at the trailhead. Don’t forget your NW Forest Pass.
The trail follows the Mad River almost 15 miles up to Maverick Saddle. It is used by hikers, bikers, horses, and even motorcycles. If you’re hiking in the spring, the first thing you will notice is the sound of the river, so loud that it almost drowns out the sound of the songbirds. High water from snowmelt in the spring can cause the river to overflow onto the trail so be cautious with your little ones. You will also want to be alert for rattlesnakes that like to soak up the sun on the trail.
The trail is very mild for the first three miles, only gaining 300 feet as the trail hugs the river in the narrow, rocky canyon. Along with the sound of the river in the spring, you will also notice a wide variety of wildflowers. Tweedy's Lewisia can be found lining the trail and nestled in the rocks. Bring your flower book along because you’re likely to find a number of other beauties, including Columbia Clematis, Hooker's fairybells, Star-flowered and False Solomon's Seal, long-flowered Bluebells. lavender pea-flowers, Larkspur, Popcorn flowers, Balsamroot, and Scarlet Gilia.
At 1.5 miles you will find a small campsite with a fire ring big enough for 2-3 small tents. At 3 miles you will come to the switchbacks that take you up the canyon wall. Enjoy the Ponderosa Pine on this portion of the trail a couple hundred feet above the river. At 6 miles you may be able to find Camp Nine. There is a small fire ring and room for a small tent. As you hike, you will notice damage from the 1994 Tyee Creek fire that started from a lightning strike and burned for 33 days. At 8 miles you will pass the Young Creek shelter.
At 11.2 miles, between the footbridge and the Cougar Creek shelter, there is a major washout making the trail impassable for motorcycles and a challenge for hikers who face a brushy, steep slope. Know your limits and turn back if conditions seem risky. If you do continue on, you will find the Maverick Saddle campground at 14.3 miles. This is where you can connect with the Upper Mad River Trail if you're not ready to head home.