Be Nice to Box Canyon

Have you strolled through Box Canyon lately?

It’s one of my favorite places to go when I just have a few hours and need to get outside.

Our kids love climbing the rocks.

We love having picnic dinners in the canyon.

Or packing library books in to read as we’re perched on the top of a rock formation.

We go there at least once a week.

I love Vedauwoo and a walk through Box Canyon is the perfect place for families.

But lately I’ve been sad, and angry when I walk through the canyon.

Because of things like this.

Excuse me while I step on my soap box!

Why on earth do people feel the need to carve their initials into aspen trees.

Why?

Is it because aspens along the path are already scarred with graffiti? Why not add my initials too?

Why not add my initials too?

Monkey see, monkey do?

Tree carvings suck.

No.

No.

No.

It is NOT okay to carve into trees.

It’s called vandalism.

It’s called graffiti.

It’s not art.

It’s punishable by a fine, $325 for one family who thought it was cute to Instagram their family tradition of tree carvings on federal lands.

Wouldn’t it be great if they had a family tradition to clean up trails instead and didn’t turn aspen tree bark into their own twitter feed?

$325 is too light of a fine if you want my opinion.

Here’s what the US National Forest has to say about it, “Respect living trees. By carving or chopping into the trunks of trees, people unknowingly damage the tree by slitting veins right below the bark. These veins transport nutrients and water throughout the tree. If the damage becomes severe, it will deprive the tree of nutrients and food, and the tree slowly starves to death.”

We’re already dealing with a pine beetle epidemic. Why would we want to destroy more trees by being jerks?

There’s one problem with this.

The USFS doesn’t have time to patrol and hand out fines to people being jerks in our forests. They are understaffed and underfunded and doing the best they can with what they have and I think they are doing a great job.

Let’s help them by taking care of our local forests.

Let’s preserve them so our children’s children can enjoy them without seeing trees marred by jerks.

Let’s report anyone we see carving trees to the USFS and local authorities.

Let’s teach our children to be respectful of our natural world so they learn to respect it.

Let’s remind visitors to our local forests that this is our home and demand that they care for it too.

Because I don’t know about you, but I seek solace in the wilderness.

And seeing trees destroyed makes me angry, not peaceful.

Let’s be good stewards of the land.

{end of rant}

{thanks for tuning in}

{feel free to share this post and help get the good word out}

 

What You Need To Know About the Snow Survey Cabin

Last weekend we headed to the Snowies to celebrate our oldest kiddo’s 5th birthday.

We’re all about birthday adventures at our house and our kids are all about trying to stay in every single Forest Service cabin that exists.

The Snow Survey Cabin

So naturally we had to check out the Snow Survey Cabin on the back side of Medicine Bow Peak.

We’d heard great things about this cabin, especially in the winter since it has propane heat and lights.

But since we didn’t get up there last winter July seemed like a decent enough time to go, even though we booked our stay in recreation.gov several months ago to make sure we got it for the big birthday weekend.

Here’s a little synopsis of our stay and details about the fascinating history of the cabin.

 

A few things you need to know if you head there.

  • The outhouse is pristine, the most non-stinky outhouse ever!
  • The cabin is super clean and organized, a completely different experience than the Little Brooklyn Lake Guard Station which seemed cluttered and dirty after staying at the Snow Survey Cabin.  I don’t think any cabin in the woods is entirely mouse-free but there was no evidence of mice inside the Snow Survey Cabin.
  • The cabin is stocked with dishes, pans, and basic necessities. But don’t forget an axe to split firewood if you want to use the outdoor firepit, matches, toilet paper, and sheets for the beds.
  • The cabin has lights and heat, it’s almost too luxurious!
  • There isn’t any drinking water or a pump at the cabin, You could boil water from the creek or just bring your own water jug from home.
  • Make sure you reserve this place months in advance, it fills up quickly year round. When we called to get the code for the door we were also super impressed with how kind and friendly the Brush Creek/Hayden Ranger District office was so thank you for that.

More details and booking information can be found right here.

(p.s. We don’t get paid to review Forest Service cabins or anything really so do know that all of these thoughts are our own)

Have you stayed at the Snow Survey Cabin? What did you think?

The Sunshine After the Storm

When Al and I quit our cushy government jobs to move to Laramie to write trail guides a lot of people thought we were completely crazy.

I guess it’s time to confess.

Yes, we are completely crazy.

Who else in their right mind would move to a little town like Laramie, Wyoming and try to write trail guides for a living?

Clearly a few people without the ability to think logically.

In the past four years, Just Trails has grown from a crazy handwritten idea in a notebook to something that we’re proud of…a real small business that hasn’t failed (yet).

We’ve hiked thousands of miles, we’ve written thousands of words, we’ve mapped hundreds of miles of trails, we’ve had our ‘ups’ and we’ve had our ‘downs.’

We’ve earned money, we’ve lost money, we’ve learned along the way.

We’ve developed relationships with big mega retailers, and then watched them fizzle and die.

We’ve gained fans and followers. We’ve lost fans and followers.

We’ve written terrible blog posts and done embarrassingly pathetic gear reviews.

We’ve learned every inch of our favorite local trails. We’ve (okay, me) gotten hiking groups lost and then found again.

We’ve made a lot of bad decisions and big mistakes.

90% of our ideas have turned out to be terrible ideas but throughout all of this, we’ve let our mantra guide our work.

Let Us Help You Explore. 

It seems so simple, right.

But we try to live and breathe by these 5 words in everything we do.

This spring we thought we had turned a corner with Just Trails.

We had a glimmer of hope that we’d be able to press on and keep doing what we love.

We had a plan to grow and expand, a plan to expand our outdoor education offerings and for the first time in years we were totally excited about the prospects of growth.

And then something happened.

Last Sunday afternoon we were psyched to be at the Elevation 8076′ Celebration in Centennial.

We set up our tent, pulled out our trail decks, t-shirts and other merchandise and sat waiting to talk to people about our local trails.

 

elevation celebrationBut we didn’t see a lot of foot traffic and eventually dark clouds caused us to throw our products in the truck as fast as we could just before a gust of wind sent our event tent flying over two cars and down a parking lot.

As Al & I were trying to recover what was left of our tent it started hailing.

Meanwhile, a few awesome people were helping us deal with our tent, which was like a parachute in the storm and stash rain-soaked products and tables in our truck.

After several minutes of chaos Al & I sat, soaked and chilled to the bone in the truck.

the storm

I was on the verge of tears.

Al looked at me and said, “Is all of this worth it?”

I didn’t reply out loud but in my head I thought…

“Maybe we should just shut it down, maybe the universe it trying to tell us that Just Trails never was a very good idea. Whenever we get ahead and start to make a buck or two something like this always happens.”

We were in a bad place.

We were just 16 hours away from setting up for Freedom Has A Birthday.

Our expensive tent had two broken legs and was completely inoperable and all of our booth set-up was either destroyed beyond repair or soaking wet.

Could the show go on?

Would the show go on?

Or should we just call it a day, shut down the website and remember it fondly?

We knew that we had to try to make an appearance at Freedom Has A Birthday, after all we had already paid the vendor fee.

So we rallied, changed out of our wet clothes, unloaded our wrecked set-up in the garage to dry, headed to Walmart and replaced our beloved expensive tent with the second-to-last tent in the store.

IMG_2776

The best Walmart experience on my life.

And just like that we were back in business.

Monday morning found is in better spirits at Washington Park setting up for Freedom Has A Birthday and something amazing happened.

— Just Trails (@JustTrails) July 3, 2016

 

People stopped by our booth to tell us that they like our Trail Deck.

They stopped by to tell us that they love our website.

They stopped by to chat about hiking.

Freedom Has A Birthday

They stopped by to ask about Little Laramie Hikers.

Some Hike Like A Woman fans even stopped by!

They stopped by to tell us that they loved taking our Map & Compass and GPS classes.

They stopped by just because they’ve been reading the blog and wanted to say “hi” to us in person.

It was an amazing day.

And these were the most amazing socks we saw all day (thanks DuG)!

IMG_2784

We didn’t sell a record number of Trail Deck’s.

We didn’t sell out of Medicine Bow Peak t-shirts, or #takeahike swag.

But somehow, those dark clouds that were following us around the day before disappeared.

We recovered from what was one of the worst days in the history of Just Trails and by doing so we realized that we’re not going anywhere.

We’re here to stay.

Because you know what?

At the end of the day it isn’t about being able to earn a living selling trail guides.

No, that’s what our other jobs are for.

We’re about helping, inspiring, encouraging and motivating others to find their trail.

To get outdoors,

And to explore.

If we help just one person do that then we are doing exactly the right thing.

So thank you, our loyal readers and customers for helping us turn it around and reminding us why we do what we do in the first place.

You have no idea what it means to us to hear you say that you love our products and our website.

It means a lot.

So thank you, we mean it. Thank you so much.

“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

– Winston Churchill

And if you’re one of the one’s who helped us recover from the fiasco in Centennial we’re totally hooking you up with a virtual hug. Thanks SO much! We promise to pay it forward.

What You Need To Know About Medicine Bow Peak

So, maybe you’ve lived in Laramie your entire life and climbed to the top of Medicine Bow Peak dozens of times.

Or, perhaps you’re new to town and looking to learn more about this iconic peak.

Regardless we thought we’d talk about one of our favorite places (ever!) on the blog today, ‘The Peak.’

The best place to start if you’re looking to summit this peak is on our trail page, where you can learn more about the trek to the top and print off a FREE downloadable trail guide. We also have an entire map card dedicated to this peak our Trail Deck and an app and it’s mentioned in our e-book as well. So tons of resources right at your fingertips.

Please don’t be like the group we found last summer, lost and trying to navigate their way to the top with a bad map, that’s not fun for anyone!

WELCOME (3)

Now, I’m assuming you’re here because you already have your reasons for wanting to climb the peak but just in case you need some convincing here are 5 reasons why you should add this to your summer bucket list.

When you’re charging up or down the peak if you know exactly where to look chances are you can view some wreckage from United Airlines Flight 409, which crashed smack dab into the mountain during a storm in 1955. It’s a sad, but true tale.

But there have also been amazing things to happen on the peak, like an old fire lookout and the scandal that took place to construct it, or the first woman to ever “man” the lookout tower. You can read both of those stories here.

And last, but certainly not least. If you’re a parent the thought of climbing the peak with your children (especially babies and toddlers) might seem daunting. But I’m here to hook you up with a High 5 and tell you to go for it. I’ve climbed this mountain pregnant, with a baby, toddler, preschooler and I’m not that awesome. You can climb this mountain with kids of all ages. These tips will help.

Have questions about how to climb the peak? We’re always here to help. Hook us up with a note or send us a quick comment and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

Top 10 Things You Need To Know About the Little Brooklyn Lake Guard Station

The Little Brooklyn Guard Station.

This iconic cabin in the Snowy Range is a place that you need to experience. I stayed at this cabin twice this winter and here are a few things that might help you plan a weekend there.

  • Book the cabin early. You can book it up to 6 months in advance, if you’re looking to reserve it for a special day then it might be worth it to get up at midnight to make your reservation. I’m not joking. Currently renting the cabin costs $40.00 per night. I did learn that if you change your reservation recereation.gov you’ll get hooked you up with a big fat fee even if it’s still months in advance. I want to say the fee $50.00 so beware of that little extra fee.
  • The cabin has 1 futon, 1 set of bunk beds, and 3 single beds. Say hello to the “hobbit bed”–fun for kids and that’s about it unless you want to make an epic bunk bed fort, which we did (of course!).
  • The cabin description on recreation.gov isn’t completely up to date. As of a few weeks ago there is no refrigerator or gas heating. Neither of which are a problem. If you go during the winter let nature be your fridge. If you go during the summer pack along a cooler and sufficient ice. The cabin does have a wood burning stove which can reach sauna-like temperatures, you won’t be cold in this cabin once you get that stove fired up.
  • There are mice in this cabin, so keep it clean and pack your food up well, especially at night.
  • Be prepared to ski or snowshoe in from October to the end of May. When we went a few weeks ago, I dropped Al and the kids off near the turn off to the Mountain Meadows Cabins and then parked the car at the Green Rock trailhead and skied up from there to meet them. It worked out great, especially if you’re heading in with kiddos who might be good on skis or snowshoes for just a mile or two.
  • Bring a sled in the winter, a hammock, fishing pole and a good book in the summer. The sledding might be the best part about staying at the cabin. This place has the most scenic sledding ever.
  • This cabin gets a lot of use and abuse, and I doubt that it’s high on the priority list for maintenance and upgrades. But it’s actually pretty clean–or was left clean the two times I’ve stayed there. I pack along sheets to cover the futon and beds, mostly because dogs are allowed in the cabin and I’m allergic to dogs so putting a buffer between me and any residual pet hair is a good thing. I also have a thing for cleanliness…so if you’re a neat freak or an allergy sufferer trust me, bring some sheets.
  • This cabin has a nice supply of cookware, pots, pans, cooking and eating utensilss, plates, mugs etc. So there’s no need to pack that stuff in or drive it in if you head there in the summer. But don’t forget garbage bags, toilet paper, and matches. Fire starter is good to have in the winter too. Previous occupants are supposed to stock the wood pile but you might find yourself stuck with wet or no kindling.
  • This cabin is not a place to go if you’re looking for peace and quiet in the winter. There is a lot of snowmobile traffic on the way to the cabin and around the cabin.  For the most part, we like snowmobilers, they make a nice packed surface to ski on and most of them slow down and are courteous. But snowmobiles are noisy and there is a constant hum of snowmobiles in the area during daylight hours. If you’re looking for solitude and quiet go in May when there’s still enough snow to ski or snowshoe in but not much left for snowmobilers.
  • Bring a hammock! I’m serious. The beams on the cabin’s porch are the perfect distance apart for a lazy nap in a hammock.

WELCOME (2)

Have you stayed at the Little Brooklyn Lake Guard Station? What advice or tips would you give to those who want to stay there?

Toddlers & Seniors Hit the Trail Together

A few months ago the Little Laramie Hikers, a local kid-friendly hiking group that I started a few years ago ran into another local hiking group at Curt Gowdy State Park.

We were at the Visitor’s Center gawking at the mountain lion and wrangling kids in the parking lot when the Seniors on the Go pulled up.

The were fit, energetic and headed out on a much faster and more rigorous hike than us.

I was curious about the group so I started stalking them on facebook. I learned that both of our groups had similar goals and objectives. And we both hit the trails every Friday morning.

-the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow-

When I timidly asked if they’d like to team up for a multigenerational hike they agreed. I promised that they could hike at their own pace but wanted to see what it would be like for our children when they showed up at a trailhead just to be greeted by friendly new faces from fellow hikers decades older than them.

Over the past year I’ve been reading and re-reading the book, How to Raise a Wild Child by Dr. Scott D. Sampson. In the book, Sampson describes the concept of being a “nature mentor”– or a fellow explorer to children.  I’ve sought out ways to try to be a better nature mentor through WY Outside, an organization that I volunteer with and teaching kids from Beitel Elementary School about maps. But the truth is, I want my children to grow up having nature mentors, or someone besides me or Al who can explore alongside them and teach them new things.

A joint hike with the LLH & Seniors on the Go seemed like the perfect opportunity to start building friendships between the children in our group and adults who value time spent in nature just as much as we do. Maybe some nature mentorships will form?

But I had my doubts.

Would anyone from the LLH show up if they knew we’d be hiking with senior citizens?

Would anyone from Seniors on the Go show up knowing that they’d be chased down a trail by preschoolers with sticks and parents with whining babies?

Would Seniors on the Go want to see wildlife? The only wild animals we ever see are 2-year-olds…

-the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow- (1)

But yesterday morning, the day of our joint hike, I watched the parking lot at the trailhead fill up and conversations begin as hikers unloaded their gear, hoisted babies onto their backs and headed down the trail. I knew that I was witnessing something amazing.

Laramie hikers were coming together.

We were connecting children with seniors.

We were sharing a passion for hiking and the outdoors.

We stopped together for a photo shortly after leaving the trailhead. Then we split into groups of those who hiked at an adult pace, and those who hiked at the pace of a toddler.

WELCOME

I’ll cherish this photo forever because to me this is what community is all about.

Thanks Little Laramie Hikers, for being awesome. I treasure our hikes together. Thanks Seniors on the Go for letting us join you for a hike, and showing our children that outdoor adventure doesn’t have age restrictions.

Here’s to many more hikes together!

 

Little Laramie Hikers: Come Hike With Us!!!

If you’re on our local trails on a Friday morning chances are that you’ve seen a gaggle of children stopping on the side of a trail to eat a snack, throw pinecones, or climb rocks.

Once a lady we saw on a hiking trip asked if our group was a daycare. Nope, just a bunch of kids and parents…

I’ll admit that one of the best parts of my week is our weekly hikes with our hiking group, the Little Laramie Hikers.

If you’re a parent with children who need to get outdoors.

Or a grandparent looking for something to do.

Or a childcare provider.

Or even if you don’t have kids but are looking to inspire a new generation to turn off the screen and get outdoors I’d like to invite you to come and join us on a hike!

We don’t hike far (most of the time). We don’t hike fast. And sometimes I think we spend more time stopping to play on the side of the trail than actually hiking down the trail.

But our goal is simple. To connect children (of all ages) with trails.

All of our hikes are free.

Most of our hikes are fun (every once in a while we enjoy an epic 2-year-old meltdown) 🙂

We typically publish our summer hiking schedule on our private group facebook page. But since facebook isn’t everyone’s jam I thought I’d publish our schedule right here for all to see.

Little Laramie Hikers

So here goes, the Little Laramie Hikers schedule for the summer of 2016.

***
  • June 3. Fairy Slippers Wildflower Hike with Seniors on the Go. Location TBA meet at the trailhead at 9 am.
  • June 10. Geocaching Hike. Meet at the Happy Jack trailhead at 9 am.
  • June 17. Lake Owen Hike + Playing in the Lake. Meet at the West Laramie Shell Station (2471 W Jackson St ) at 8 am or the Lake Owen Trailhead at 9 am.
  • June 24. Hike through Soapstone Natural Area in Colorado. Meet at the Barts Flee Market parking lot at 8 am or the trailhead at 9 am.
***
  • July 1. Safe Kids Hike. We’ll talk about hiking safety, practice getting lost and teach kids the Search and Rescue ‘hug-a-tree’ method during this hike. Have your children bring a whistle. Meet at the Chimney Park trailhead at 9 am.
  • July 8. Lone Pine State Wildlife Area in Colorado. Meet at the Barts Flee Market parking lot at 8 am or the trailhead at 9 am.
  • July 15. Libby Flats Hike. Meet at the Forest Service Visitors Center in Centennial (just up the hill past town) at 9 am. From there we’ll convoy to the point where we’ll start our hike.
  • July 22. Geocache Hike. Meet at the Vedauwoo Pay Kiosk outside the gate at 9 am.*
  • July 29. Saratoga Fish Hatchery & Hobo Pool Swim. Meet at the West Laramie Shell Station ( 2471 W Jackson St ) at 8 am or the Saratoga Fish Hatchery at 9:30. Bring a lunch & a swimming suit. This will probably be an all day adventure.
****
***
  • Sep 2. Raspberry Picking. Location TBA

A few notes about the group:

  • Sometimes we’ll change the location of a hike based on weather or trail conditions. This schedule is subject to change so come join us on facebook for the latest information and check out our calendar page for other local outdoor events throughout the summer.
  • I’d love to offer weekend hikes, but we’re busy teaching backcountry navigation courses on weekends…and I also work a pesky part-time job a few weekends/month. But often families will come up on our facebook page and invite others to join in on weekend hikes.
  • We try to be prompt with our schedule. Most hikes start at 9, we take a few minutes to load kids into carriers and get settled and we step off by 9:10.
  • Bring along snacks, water, appropriate footwear, hats and dress in layers.
  • Don’t forget your MBNF parking pass, WY State Parks pass or cash for a parking fee depending on where we are going.
  • We hike year round…well, we snowshoe and ski in the winter so come on out!

Questions? Let me know. 

Hope to see you on a hike this summer.

 

How do I climb a 14er? (Reader Question)

Lately, we’ve been asked a lot of questions about things like gear, equipment and hiking in general. It’s awesome, we love being able to share our thoughts. Instead of keeping the conversation confined to an email or social media conversation, we’re going to start publishing more Q&A’s right here too.

At the end of August I headed to Colorado to climb Mt. Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln and Bross with a few friends. They were my first 14ers. I write a trip report over on our sister site, Hike Like A Woman and it’s been crazy popular. But it also generated a lot of questions about bagging peaks.

Now, you might have noticed that we don’t have any maps or trail guides published for any 14ers yet. The key word there is yet, because as we expand into Colorado more we’re going to be mapping and bagging more big mountains. Also, I think that the “rules” for climbing 14ers also apply when you’re climbing our 11 & 12,000 foot peaks. So, I thought it would be fitting to go ahead and answer a question about 14ers right here today.

HOW DO I CLIMB A 14ER

***

Today’s question comes from Rachel. 

“Hi Rebecca, I just read your blog post about climbing four 14ers in Colorado. I’m curious, was this your first 14er? I’ve never climbed one before but I’d like to. What advice do you have for someone like me?”

Hi Rachel,

That’s awesome, do it. 

Yes, I did climb my first 14er last summer. I’d climbed plenty of 12 & 13,000-foot peaks but decided it was time to tackle mountains the 14,000-foot variety. Now I’m afraid that I’m a little bit hooked…

Here’s what I did.

  • Research and find the perfect first peak. For me, it was the Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, Bross (the DeCaLiBron) because I wanted to get all 4 on my first time up. I recommend the website 14ers.com. It is super useful for trip planning.
  • Get in shape by doing a few good climbs before you attempt your summit, but know that even if you’re in amazing shape your lungs will burn at 14,000 + feet.
  • If you’re coming from sea level there are a few different schools of thought in terms of acclimatization, check out this post. Most important is to stay hydrated, well-fueled and to listen to your body and head down if you feel sick no matter how badly you want to summit.
  • Get an early start, if you’re hiking a popular trail near the front range be hiking no later than 5:30 or 6 am to avoid not just crowds (it’s like Disneyland up on some of the more popular peaks) but also dangerous afternoon lightning and thunderstorms.
  • Recruit a few good friends to join you, just for the fun of it.
  • Don’t forget to wear good boots that are well broken in, plenty of people climb in just running shoes but if you’re like me you’ll want the protection and ankle support that only a pair of boots can provide when you’re descending a scree slope. Also think about finding a good pair of trekking poles.
  • Choose your season, Aug, Sept. good months for climbing 14ers but some rad people ski up them in the winter too.

Thank you for the question Rachel, best of luck to you!

 

Have you ever climbed a 14er? What advice would you give?

How To Climb Medicine Bow Peak With Kids

 

Last week a friend posted this question on the facebook page of our local kid-friendly hiking group.

Any tips for a family hike up Medicine Bow Peak? Best trailhead?

It just happened to coincide with some other questions we’ve been asked lately regarding taking kids to the top of the peak. So, I thought it’d be a good time to talk a little bit about climbing Medicine Bow Peak with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. 

How to climb Medicine Bow Peak with Kids

Medicine Bow Peak is the highest peak in the Snowy Range at 12,013 feet. It is part of a rugged ridge line that towers over several alpine lakes and forest below. There are several different trailheads that will take you to the summit.

The Lewis Lake Trailhead is very scenic at 1.6 miles offers the shortest route to the summit.

The Lake Marie Trailhead offers a generally more gradual, but longer climb (3.6 miles) which is just as scenic. It will also take you past an old lookout cabin.

No matter your route you will hike through some very steep sections and very rocky sections but there is hardly a spot on the trail that doesn’t offer a stunning view.

Here’s a video of the hike to the peak. I think it does a good job of showing the terrain that you’ll see on the climb.

I think the beauty of Medicine Bow Peak is that it is a peak that the entire family can bag together. But it’s not an easy hike and I would say that when it comes to outdoor family adventures it’s one that needs to be approached with caution.

This might not be the hike for your family if you aren’t comfortable with heights, altitude, and unstable rocky terrain.  Or, if you aren’t comfortable carrying a baby or toddler on your back on a steep climb. Or if thinking about your children standing on a rocky summit without good footing makes you nervous. Instead of a summit attempt I’d recommend a waterfall hike or a scenic trek to Gap Lakes instead. 

How to climb Medicine Bow Peak with kids

Usually, I’m comfortable taking risks in the outdoors with kids, in fact probably a little bit too comfortable.  But I did try to summit earlier this summer alone with both kids and turned around just a few hundred feet from the summit when the terrain got a little bit too difficult to manage by myself with a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. If you do hike with kids know that it’s okay not to summit. Part of being savvy in the outdoors is knowing when to call it a day.

With that being said, we frequently see families on this peak and there’s no better family holiday photo than one that’s taken at 12,013 feet.

Here are a few tips for the hike.

  • Food and fluids are essential for both you and kids of all ages at altitude. Pack more than you think you’ll need and don’t forget to stop often to replenish your bodies. The good news is that no matter where you stop you’ll be able to find a nice rock to sit on and you’ll be able to enjoy a spectacular view. 
  • Get an early start. The parking lots at both Lewis Lake and Lake Marie fill up quickly and you’ll want to avoid afternoon thunderstorms and lightning.  Try to be moving no later than 7:30 or 8 am.
  • Save this trail for August and September after the snow melts and before the snow flies.
  • Some parents find hiking with a child in a framed backpack carrier is challenging on this trail since there will be some bending over to scramble across the rocks. If you do hike with a framed carrier make sure that your kiddo is securely fastened so they won’t fall out of the carrier or choose a soft carrier–like an Ergo instead. A soft carrier will keep the child tucked snug against your body and help with your center of balance. If you want to use a backpack carrier take your kid up to Vedauwoo and practice a few scrambles while wearing the carrier before tackling the peak.

Framed backpack carrier.

  • Choose your trailhead carefully. I always recommend the Lewis Lake trailhead for families because it’s shorter. I know that after 3 or 4 hours on the trail my kids are done so the least amount of mileage is usually better for my family. But if your kids are bigger and can handle a longer day you might want to go the Lake Marie Route, the trail is easier until you reach the gap. No matter how you look at it, the final summit push is going to be tough and there’s no way to avoid it.
  • Be prepared for crazy weather. We consider a raincoat and a winter hat essential items on this hike no matter what the season. The summit will be windy and cold even if the weather in Laramie is downright tropical. Also don’t forget sun protection, even on a cloudy day.

Kid on the summit.

  • Break out those trekking poles, the extra support is awesome if you’re carrying a child.
  • It’s okay to reward yourself on this hike…this is a hard hike for adults. It’s even harder for kids. But I’ve heard of 5 and 6-year-olds summiting without any help–and I can’t wait for that day. Maybe you keep a stash of jellybeans in a pocket or promise ice cream in Centennial on the way home. 
  • Tell a few stories to keeps little hikers motivated. There is some fascinating history around the peak. You can talk to your kids about the time an airplane crashed into the mountain. Or the women who kept watch for fires from the peak

If I haven’t talked you into attempting to climb the peak by now here are just a few more reasons and of course, you can check out our trail page and download a free trail map right here. 

Here’s the view as you descend the peak.

Have you climbed the peak with kids? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of this hike? What would you add to the list?

How to get to Hidden Falls

Hidden Falls.

It’s a cool place and we get a lot of questions about how to get to the falls.

Friends don't let friends Introducing (3)

Curt Gowdy State Park does a great job of marking trails and trail intersections, but it can be tricky to find the best route. We see people up there all the time looking for the waterfall and on the wrong trail.

We thought we’d dedicate a post to Hidden Falls and give you a few tips for this hike. We’re going to break it down into the most popular route, the easiest route, and a fun loop.

Most Scenic/Popular Route:

  • Start from the Aspen Grove Trailhead. If you look across the parking lot (on the archery range side) you’ll see a trail sign and another smaller sign that says “waterfall.”

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  • Follow this trail up and through the meadow and then the trees.

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  • You’ll come to the first intersection,  but it’s well marked. Just keep heading down the trail.

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  • You’ll climb a little bit farther and then come out in a meadow. The next intersection is where people make a wrong turn. Hang a hard left and keep on climbing. You’ll want to stay on the trail and not turn left but do it. This intersection is not currently marked with a “waterfall” sign.

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  • The trail will climb a little bit higher before it starts to descend through the forest. As you get into the forest you’ll notice  more rock formations, thick, green vegetation (and wonder if you’re still in Wyoming) and hear the sound of water rushing through Crow Creek.

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  • The next intersection you’ll come to will be down, close to the creek. Your instinct will be to keep hiking low along the creek but the trail actually makes a hard right turn and starts switchbacking up again. This intersection is marked with a “waterfall” sign and hang in there- you’re on the right path.

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  • Shortly after this intersection you’ll come to a bridge, this intersection will give you the option to either continue along Crow Creek trail or head on Alberts Alley. Keep trekking along the Crow Creek trail, at this point you’re less than 1/2 mile from the waterfall.

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  • You’ll come to another intersection but keep on moving down Crow Creek.
  • IMG_6991You’ll  know you’re almost at the waterfall when you start to hear it, and the rock formations become dense. The last few feet up to the waterfall follow a stone staircase.

On this route the waterfall is just about 2 miles from the trailhead.

  • To get back to the Aspen Grove Trailhead simply retrace your steps.
  • You can do this trail with a lightweight jogging stroller like a Chariot but I don’t recommend it. You’ll have to carry the stroller over several rocky places and have any child exit the Chariot and walk along several portions of the trail. It’s much easier to carry a child or double carry two children along this route.

Chariot

Easiest/Kid-Friendly Route:

  • If you’re looking for an easier kid-friendly route (albeit less scenic) park at the Aspen Grove trailhead and walk through the horse stables.

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  • Link up with the Lariat Loop and follow it through a meadow. It’s not much of a trail in places.

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  • Eventually, you’ll come to the intersection where the Lariat Loop links up with Albert’s Alley. Follow Albert’s Alley down the meadow.

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  • Follow Albert’s Alley down to this bridge. This is the same bridge you’d link up with if you came on this trail via Crow Creek.

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  • At the bridge hang a right and get onto Crow Creek trail.
  • Not far from the bridge is another trail intersection, keep on truckin’ down Crow Creek trail.

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  • You’ll  know you’re almost at the waterfall when you start to hear it, and the rock formations become dense. The last few feet up to the waterfall follow a stone staircase.
  • The waterfall is just about 2 miles from the trailhead on this route too.
  • To get back to the Aspen Grove Trailhead simply retrace your steps.
  • This is a much more Chariot-friendly trail, without a lot of boulders, roots or other obstacles. Your child will be able to ride in a Chariot until the last few hundred feet to the falls. Bicycles are not allowed on the Lariat Loop but the park has said nothing about jogging strollers, so there’s some gray area there. I figure that a parent hauling a toddler in a stroller isn’t moving at the speed of a mountain biker and has plenty of time to give equestrians and horses their space.

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The Loop: 

For a fun 4-mile-loop I recommend heading down to the waterfall via Crow Creek & Pinball and heading up via Alberts Alley and Lariat trail. This will show you the most terrain diversity and loops are always fun!

Pro-Tips:

  • Bring sandals or water shoes  if you’re hiking with kids because they will want to splash in the water. I just stripped my kids down to their skivvies and packed their Keens to wear in the water. After we played in the water I wrapped them in our rain gear (because I wasn’t about to pack the extra weight from towels) and sat them on a rock to warm up and dry off after playing in the water.

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  • Some signs at intersections say “waterfall” and some signs don’t. Look at a map before you strike out (or print off a FREE map and bring it with you) before you go.
  • Another way for easy navigation is to download a map of Curt Gowdy State Park on your mobile phone. Just follow the blue bubble, it’ll pinpoint your location onto a map as long as you have service. We had cell service for most of the hike except the last mile or so along Crow Creek to the falls.

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Overall this is a fun hike through some interesting terrain to a fun waterfall! Kids love the waterfall and climbing on the big boulders along the route. Just know where you’re going before you leave the trailhead and don’t depend on “waterfall” signs and you’ll easily find this hidden gem.

Have you been to Hidden Falls? What tips do you have for the trek there or the route?