The final destination for our three-day weekend in Cheyenne, Wyoming was nearby Curt Gowdy State Park.
Curt Gowdy State Park is located in the foothills of the Laramie Mountains, about 20 miles (32 km) west of Cheyenne. This is the native land of the Comanche, Pawnee, Crow, and Shoshone, but they were displaced in the late 1800s with the arrival and expansion of the railroad. The area was later mined, ranched, and homesteaded. The state park was established in 1971 and named for the famous sportscaster Curt Gowdy.
It’s not a huge park, although the number of hiking and biking trails made it appear much larger than it really is when I looked at the map. The park is centered around two reservoirs – Granite Springs and Crystal. These make up what could be considered the center and east portions of the park, respectively. Both lakes are surrounded by campgrounds; there are over 200 sites here. The western portion of the park, on the other hand, encompasses forested hills and is the location of most of the hiking trails.
We intended to begin with a stop at the visitor center, but it was closed for construction. Instead, we proceeded to our planned hike. With the sheer number of trails, there are literally dozens of loop or out-and-back hikes you could do. The main attraction we wanted to see was Hidden Falls, so I plotted out a loop that would take us along Crow Creek to the falls, and then up to a high point and around back to the trailhead. This would give us a fairly thorough tour.
The hike began next to the Granite Springs dam and followed the hillside along Crow Creek, which we roughly paralleled all the way to Hidden Falls.
Hidden Falls is well-named. It was barely visible from the shore. Had it been warmer, we would have taken our shoes off and walked up the creek to see it up close, but 45°F (7°C) and cloudy was not exactly ideal weather for submerging our feet in cold water. So we had to settle for barely seeing the tumbling water from afar.
We re-traced our steps part way down Crow Creek Trail and turned north at the junction onto Albert’s Alley. This trail climbed steadily toward El Alto, a loop trail that encircled a high point and led to a scenic overlook above Hidden Falls (although the falls wasn’t visible from here, either).
We descended from El Alto on Stone Temple Circuit, which ultimately led back to the Crow Creek Trail and the parking lot. It ended up being about a 7 mile (11.3 km) loop with 1050 feet (320 m) of elevation gain, and I feel as though we did a reasonably thorough job of visiting the highlights and seeing what the trails of Curt Gowdy had to offer.
After our hike, we pulled into an empty lakefront site at South Causeway Campground, carefully positioned the car to serve as a wind block, and sat down for what should have been a peaceful lunch by the water. No sooner had we made our sandwiches, then were we rudely interrupted by four geese creating an absolute cacophony. Apparently it was goose mating season and, amidst the plethora of honking, the two males were making deranged noises I didn’t know geese could make. It was very unpleasant.
After an obnoxious lunch, we left the geese behind and set out along the road connecting the two reservoirs.
The one thing that disappointed me about this park was the litter. I’m not sure if this is a common party location or there’s just a culture of not caring about public lands (I’m assuming it’s a combination of both), but the number of beer cans, plastic bottles, and other discarded items along the trails and roads was upsetting. I usually pick up any trash I see when I’m hiking, but this park had far too much litter for that to be feasible.
Aside from that, we enjoyed our visit to Curt Gowdy State Park. This was the final stop on our three-day weekend in Wyoming. Outside of Yellowstone, I haven’t spent much time in Wyoming. But it’s a pretty underrated state. I’m glad we decided to spend the weekend visiting, and we already have some ideas for other parts of the state to visit in the future.
The Important Stuff:
- Getting there: Curt Gowdy State Park is located almost exactly halfway between Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming on Happy Jack Road (Highway 210)
- Fees and passes: admission to the park is $6 per car for Wyoming residents or $9 per car for non-residents
- Hiking: there is a huge network of interconnected trails in this park, giving dozens of hiking and biking options; here is a trail map
- Where to stay: this park is easily visited as a day trip from either Cheyenne or Laramie (or even Fort Collins, CO), but for overnight lodging there are hotels and cabins available in both cities and over 200 campsites in the park
- Other: we visited in the off-season and the park was fairly quiet, but I definitely got a party vibe. I don’t think I’d want to camp here during the summer; it seems like it would be loud and obnoxious