Located west, south-west of Laramie is a tiny town called Encampment. Originally, it was called Grand Encampment by the trappers, mountain men, and even the Native Americans who would gather in the area for the summer rendezvous to trade with one another in the meadows of the Sierra Madre range. Supposedly there was some gold to be found there, but the true mother lode was copper and Encampment saw a short lived population boom. According to the 2010 census, less than 500 people now live in Encampment.
Encampment boasts a museum devoted to the town’s history and mining. There is also a one hundred year old opera house which still hosts several events a year. That old house probably saw some vaudeville acts and had a few of the era’s stars tread those boards. However interesting Encampment is (and I was fascinated when we visited because I will be the first to admit I am a history fanatic), this blog entry is more about the drive to Encampment from Laramie, with a detour into Aspen Alley.
Fall brings breath-taking color to Wyoming, and if the beautiful scenery of a fall day is your thing, this day trip will not disappoint. If you can’t make the trip in the fall, try it in June. The wildflowers color the roadside and hillsides in splashes of stunning pastels.
The trip originates in Laramie, WY. From I-80 in Laramie get on state Highway 130 (also known as the Snowy Range Road) to Centennial. Continue on the Snowy Range Scenic Byway across the Medicine Bow Mountains (also referred to as the Snowy Range) and through the Medicine Bow National Forest. One of my favorite places to camp is found along this stretch of road, just a few miles outside of Saratoga. Highway 130 features plenty of fall color and great views of mountains and lakes. The 78 mile trip will take you to Saratoga. Please note that the Snowy Range Road is closed for the winter season from Centennial to Saratoga so plan accordingly. Usually the Snowy Range Road closes around November 1 and won’t reopen until late April to early May. I’ve been to Libby Flats at the top of the Snowy Range in mid-July and there was still several feet of snow tucked into shaded outcrops.
The Snowy Range Road will take you into Saratoga, which is located on the North Platte River. During the warmer months, the North Platte provides for excellent fishing and kayaking. Several world record brook and brown trout have been taken from the North Platte along this stretch of the river. Up until the snow flies (and even after if the sun is shining) fly fisherman can be seen wading waist deep in the river, hoping to land the next trophy trout. In addition, Saratoga has two beautiful golf courses, of which the public course plays along the river. I just never understood the appeal of hitting a little ball away from me and then chasing it along a grassy field, but to each his own.
When you reach Highway 230 south of Saratoga, turn onto 230 toward Encampment. At Encampment, turn west on Battle Highway—Highway 70. This takes you across the Sierra Madre towards Baggs, WY. Travel about 23 miles along Highway 70 (Battle Highway) to Deep Creek Road (Forest Road 801) and turn north. This will take you into Aspen Alley—a beautiful area filled with very tall aspen trees overarching a half mile stretch of dirt road. Regardless of the time of year, Aspen Alley is a photographer’s must.
So many hidden gems are in this state I’ve adopted as my home away from home. Aspen Alley, the history in Encampment, the grandeur of this drive in the fall are just a few of those gems I treasure.