Away from the Grind

Savage Run, Medicine Bow National Forest, WY

by Roger Ludwig

Highlights: A walk across the length of the 1st Wilderness Area in the Medicine Bows, established in 1978. The trail passes through three distinct areas. The first is through one of the few remaining old growth lodgepole forests in the area with huge trees and a park-like savannah in between. The second crosses some large wet meadows, filled with sunshine and life. The third and final is a long ramble along the tumbling Savage Run as it makes it’s way through the deeply forested, v-shaped valley.

Location: On the western slope of the Medicine Bow Mountains.

Elevations: Trailhead 9,400′, Forest Boundary 7,725′

Distance: 9 miles from end to end, one way

Maps: Medicine Bow National Forest, USGS Overlook Hill & Keystone quads

Guide: Marc Smith’s Hiking Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest – Third Edition, Erik Molvar’s Wild Wyoming, Forest Service pamphlet “Savage Run Wilderness”

Trailhead: From Laramie take WY 130 west to WY 11 south to Albany. Here WY 11 becomes FS 500. Continue west about 14 miles on this long gravel road past Rob Roy Reservoir to FS 500.3A. Turn to the south and continue 1 ½ miles along this rocky track to the trailhead and parking. A high clearance rig is advisable for this last bit. Cars can park just off the road.

The Hike: The trail begins in the desolation of a clear cut but then steps into a magical forest primeval. This is the way the Medicine Bows must have looked when the first trappers entered the Native Americans’ world, before the loggers claimed it as their own. Majestic lodgepole pines are widely spaced, the floor open, the brush cleared by fires that barely licked the trees. Take some time to wander in these woods.

As the trail begins to drop into the Savage Run Canyon it crosses wide wet meadows that dazzle in brilliant sun. On my last trip a huge owl buzzed right over my head. The trail can be easily lost in these areas and you may have to search for it once you re-enter the trees.

Once the trail joins the “run” it follows it for about 7 miles as the stream skips down this narrow, deep, forested valley. There are no places to put up a tent for some time as the ground is just too steep. Eventually you can climb up on the north to a long ledge to camp. The trail begins to open and there are more flowers until it simply dead ends at a private property/no trespassing sign. Time to turn around and go out the way you came.

Savage Run abounds in little brookies and browns that get bigger the further west you go. If you are going just to fish you may want to enter off FS 512 on either the Cottonwood Creek Trailhead or the Extension Trailhead which are shorter walks into the lower wilderness.

Pointers: “Savage Run” is a great name for a wild place, but unlike the fictional “Savage Run” of C.J. Box’s book it wasn’t named as the canyon where “savages ran” for their lives, nor does it describe this tumbling little stream on its peaceful course. It is named after Richard, Walter and William Savage. According to Saratoga historian, Gay Day Alcorn, the brothers were Canadians trapping beaver for Hudson’s Bay Company when they were hired in 1868 to hunt game for the Union Pacific track crews and the soldiers at Ft. Steele. After these adventures and many close calls with attacking Indians they returned to Canada. Richard married and was a successful lumber mill owner but was drawn back by his memories to the Platte Valley. He and William returned in 1881, establishing a sheep empire that covered hundreds of miles. He was remembered as “one of the most charming, bright, clever and diligent of men.”

 

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