While Wyoming boasts many wonderful gems to visit throughout the year, traveling to some of the Cowboy State’s neighboring states can be incredibly rewarding.
One of the best spots to visit in the fall is the Rawah Wilderness area of Colorado. This gorgeous wilderness area begins just 15 miles south of the Wyoming border. The drive from Laramie follows the Laramie River past Jelm Mountain and alongside many lush, sprawling ranches full of freshly cut grass, likely the last cut of the year.
Along Wyoming Highway 10, moose, deer, antelope and many other critters can be found in abundance. The paved road turns to gravel once across the border into Colorado.
This is where the adventure really begins.
Further down the road, the rolling hills of the sagebrush-laden prairie begin to give way to forest. The walls of the valley slowly start to close in on both sides and the patches of golden aspen groves glow from within a sea of evergreens.
The sight is breathtaking. While the road isn’t crowded, the folks driving along pull over often to take in the scenery and try and capture the fleeting moments on their cameras.
It’s the early morning of Oct. 1 and the area is a little busier than normal. Dozens of people with orange vests and hats are getting a quick jump on the start of hunting season.
There are several parking areas and tailheads allowing visitors to hike, mountain bike or ride their horses among the beautiful fall foliage. The trails are sparce with only a handful of people making their way up the sides of the mountains.
The day is calm, the birds chirp and the faint sound of water flowing in a nearby creek can be heard. The trail, starting at the West Branch Trailhead, meanders through brilliant patches of golden aspens. Many of the trees along the trail show scars bearing the initials of people in love who enjoyed their time in the wilderness. The early morning sun catches the leaves just right, making them appear as if they are ablaze.
As the trail climbs higher, there is a better view across the valley. The aspens seem to grow best where water drains between mountain peaks. The color change makes it look as if rivers of gold are flowing from the top of the mountains to the valley below.
At this higher altitude, taller mountains begin to appear in the distance, their peaks already covered in a fresh layer of snow.
After a few miles into the wilderness and dozens of photos later, it’s time to head back down the mountain. Back at the trailhead, it’s time to pack up and head farther south.
Not far down the road, the green and golden trees are suddenly gone, giving way to tones of gray. The forest is in the midst of a rebirth after a fire a few years earlier. Decades from now, the trees will regrow and fill in the beautiful scenery. Future generations will look at those currently bare hillsides with the same awe as the visitors did on this day.
If you ever find yourself looking for an adventure on an autumn day, I encourage you to check out the Rawah Wilderness Area. I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I.