Away from the Grind

Curt Gowdy State Park: The Chameleon

by Roger Ludwig

Visit the Chameleon, the ruler of Curt Gowdy State Park. You’ll find him and Hidden Falls by taking Crow Creek Trail, looping back on Mo’Rocka.

Highlights: A lovely little spring or late season trek following Middle Crow Creek to its mysterious Hidden Falls. An optional loop back climbs to the plateau where a great megalith–the Chameleon–rules the countryside. At sunset you’re likely to hear coyotes singing their lullabies. 

Location: 25 miles west of Cheyenne off Happy Jack Road

Elevations: Trailhead at Granite Springs Reservoir, 7, 240’; Hidden Falls, 7, 434’; Plateau top, 7,520’.

Distance: 4 miles to the Falls and back on Crow Creek trail, 4.4 miles with loop using Mo’ Rocka trail.

Map: Plastic reference maps are fastened to posts along the trail. The “Curt Gowdy State Park Trails” brochure is on the web at http://wyoparks.state.wy.us/Site/SiteInfo.asp?siteID=4. While useful, it is outdated as more trails have been added and all trail names have changed. 

Trailhead: Take Happy Jack Road (Wyo 210) west 25 miles to Curt Gowdy State Park entrance, turning left into the park. Past the Fee Booth the park road crosses the inlet of the reservoir. Park on the dirt lot to the right just before the inlet. Walk along the road, crossing the water. The trailhead is on the right.

The Hike: Volunteers and the Wyoming Conservation Corps have constructed more than 16 miles of trail in Curt Gowdy’s new western addition. The routes are expertly designed for use by mountain bikes, equestrians, runners and just plain hikers. They’ve given them clever names, much like ski runs. The map will give many hiking ideas

For scenery I recommend the Crow Creek Trail to Hidden Falls. It begins along the south shore of the reservoir inlet, following Middle Crow Creek upstream. While there is more water in the spring, even in the fall the creek is lovely, happily coursing through a narrow, boulder lined valley. The trail keeps above it, tying to stay in the pines’ shade. 

With three new bridges, the stream crossings are a pleasure. As you near the falls the trail narrows and makes its way through a little notch, coming to an abrupt end at a great curved wall of weathered granite. Here the creek has cut a deep channel. Peer up the channel to the falls, a unique sideways plume of water.

For the return trip I recommend going back to the junction of the Mo’ Rocka trail, taking it up to the top of the plateau. It’s only an extra 80’ climb and a half mile more walking as it loops back to Crow Creek. The route is designed to lead hikers to some surprises. Vedauwoo’s rocks may be more awesome but these are impressive, singular and sublime sculptures in shades of tawny red, brown and yellow; our own Stone Henge in the abstract. 

At the top of Mo’ Rocka stands a wonderful tower, a place of power. You have found the Chameleon. From here you may wonder, as I did, just why it’s called that. If you take Pinball Trail to the north, climbing out of Crow Creek you’ll see him as you look back. There he is, his gigantic lizard head faintly smiling as he pushes up from the ground, warming his back in the sun.

More massive rock views greet you on the way down Mo’ Rocka to the join Crow Creek, as well as glimpses of the cool, blue Granite Springs waters. 

Pointers: This is a great trail for families with young children or a place for frisky seniors. For trail running these jaunts just can’t be beat. The trails are popular but hardly crowded.

Wyoming vehicles are to pay a $2 entry fee, $4 for “greenies”. Pit toilets, water and picnic areas are available in various places in the park but not at this trailhead.

Comments

PDS

Sep 3, 2013

FYI, price has been raised for entry to Curt Gowdy. Wyo residents are now being charged $4 per car.

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