Highlights: This short hike is long on attractions: interesting geology, abundant moose and beaver, boiling brookies, but most of all, fascinating archeology.
Location: In the southern Snowy Range, west of Foxpark, entering the Platte River Wilderness
Elevations: Official, four wheel drive trailhead, 8,850’; Douglas Creek:7,950’.
Two wheel drive trailhead on FS 580, 9,188’; Douglas Creek:7,950’.
Distance: From official trailhead, 2. 8 miles each way. From FS 580, about 3. 8 miles each way.
Maps: Medicine Bow National Forest, “The Platte River Wilderness” free Forest Service pamphlet, USGS Quad Elkhorn Point
Trailhead: From Cheyenne, Wyoming take I-80 to Laramie, take exit 311, following WY 230 southwest to Foxpark. Turn right on FS 512. After crossing Douglas Creek stay on 512, making a sharp right. Two wheel drive or low clearance vehicles should turn left on FS 580, continuing until the junction of FS 514. Park at the junction. Four wheel drive, high clearance vehicles can continue to FS 506. Turn left and follow this rutted narrow road to 506D. Turn left again, continuing about ½ mile to the Devil’s Gate Trailhead.
The Hike: After signing in at the register, follow the trail down the east fork of Devil’s Gate Creek. The trail is often moist and sprinkled with columbines and arnica. Four short posts mark the wilderness boundary. Beavers have created a series of ponds, forming mirrored terraces teaming with brookies. At the last dam you’ll spot the remains of Thomson Lodge to the left, two long, low cabins connected by a roof over the patio.
The Lodge was operated into the 1950’s by Edith “Bobbie” Thomson, known as the “Angel of Keystone” for her service as nurse, postmistress, cook and teacher to area tie hacks and their families. It is made from tie hack cabins, two of very few with some roof remaining. In one you’ll note a log book where hikers and hunters have left their comments over the years, many noting the serenity of the setting. Add your impressions.
Also at the last beaver dam, to the right of the trail, is the start of what might be the most impressive remaining construction of the tie industry era, the long Carbon Timber Company flume which floated ties down to Douglas Creek and out to the North Platte. The flume, built between 1900 and 1906, follows the East Fork, then cuts across to the West Fork, plunging down to the confluence. Imagine the hundreds of men that sweated and swore, filling this now peaceful hollow with thunder. The lodge area was once a small, booming village.
Past the lodge the trail crosses over to the west fork also, below the flume, continuing down to Douglas Creek. Time to turn back to the Lodge and trailhead.
If you are using the passenger car trailhead, begin your walk down narrow FS 580 into the pines. At the first junction take 580. 07. After a pleasant, cool mile you’ll come to the east fork of Devils Gate Creek. Turn left. Shortly you’ll arrive at the register mentioned above.
Pointers:So where exactly is “the Gate”? The creek was named long ago, in the era of the mountain men. My guess is it’s the rock formation on the east fork just above the west fork junction. What do you think?
Access to Thomson’s Lodge can also be gained by hiking down Douglas Creek from Pelton Creek campground to Devils Gate or by hiking up Douglas Creek from Pike Pole campground.
On my last visit, I was crouching down below the dam to clean my limit of brookies in the early evening. When I quickly stood up a beaver cracked his tail so hard and fast on the water I thought for sure I had been shot. It startled a cow moose, black as night, standing just a few yards away.