Camera adventure

Close to Wyoming: A fall adventure in the Rawah wilderness just outside Wyoming

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By Chris Mickey, guest columnist

While Wyoming is full of wonderful gems to visit year-round, traveling to some of Cowboy State’s neighboring states can be incredibly rewarding.

One of the best places to visit in the fall is the Rawah Wilderness region of Colorado. This beautiful wilderness begins just 15 miles south of the Wyoming border. The Laramie Highway follows the Laramie River past Jelm Mountain and past many lush, sprawling ranches filled with freshly cut grass, likely the last cut of the year.

Along Wyoming Highway 10, moose, deer, antelope, and many other creatures can be found in abundance. The paved road turns to gravel once across the Colorado border.

This is where the adventure really begins.

Further up the road, the hills of sagebrush-laden prairie begin to give way to forest. The valley walls slowly begin to close in on both sides, and patches of golden aspen groves gleam in a sea of ​​evergreens.

The view is breathtaking. Although the road is not congested, drivers often stop to take in the scenery and try to capture the fleeting moments on their cameras.

It’s early morning on October 1 and the area is a little busier than normal. Dozens of people wearing orange vests and hats make a quick jump at the start of hunting season.

There are several parking areas and drop-off points for visitors to hike, mountain bike, or horseback ride among the beautiful fall foliage. Trails are sparse and only a handful of people climb the sides of the mountains.

The day is calm, the birds are chirping and the faint sound of water flowing in a nearby creek is heard. The trail, which begins at the West Branch trailhead, winds through brilliant patches of golden aspen. Many of the trees along the trail bear scars bearing the initials of people in love who enjoyed their time in nature. The morning sun catches the leaves just right, making them appear as if they’re on fire.

As the trail goes up there is a better view of the valley. Aspens seem to grow best where water drains between mountain peaks. The change in color makes it look like rivers of gold are flowing from the tops of the mountains to the valley below.

At this higher elevation, taller mountains begin to appear in the distance, their peaks already covered in a fresh layer of snow.

After a few miles in the wilderness and dozens of photos later, it’s time to head back down the mountain. Back at the trailhead, time to pack up and head further south.

Not far up the road, the green and gold trees have suddenly disappeared, giving way to shades of gray. The forest is in the midst of a renaissance after a fire a few years earlier. Decades from now, the trees will grow back and fill in the beautiful landscape. Future generations will gaze upon these now barren hillsides with the same admiration as visitors did that day.

If you ever find yourself looking for an adventure on a fall day, I encourage you to visit the Rawah Wilderness Area. I think you will enjoy it as much as I do.

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