Western US

A hidden waterfall and obnoxious geese – Curt Gowdy State Park, Wyoming

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.

Granite Springs causeway and Crow Creek

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.

If you squint, you might be able to see a little bit of Hidden Falls way back in there

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).

Crow Creek
Albert’s Alley
Pat walks through a natural tunnel on El Alto Trail
Views from El Alto
Balanced rocks and a wonky tree at El Alto

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.

Stone Temple Circuit
As we walked, Pat and I decided the rock in the middle looked like a chameleon. Later, when I consulted the map, I learned that it is in fact called The Chameleon
Crow Creek

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.

View from our lunch spot… before it was interrupted by geese

After an obnoxious lunch, we left the geese behind and set out along the road connecting the two reservoirs.

Granite Springs Reservoir
Crystal Reservoir
Both reservoirs as seen from the visitor center

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

33 thoughts on “A hidden waterfall and obnoxious geese – Curt Gowdy State Park, Wyoming”

  1. Hidden falls are really hidden … but I’m with you … no way that I would have dipped my feet in the cold water with those chilly temperatures! Love the view of that natural tunnel (one do wonder about that round rock on top 😬). Sad to read about the litter (one would think that outdoor people will be more considerate … but sadly it seems not to be the case). Thanks for the hike and great pictures.

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  2. It’s a surprisingly desert-like landscape. The reservoirs look beautiful and serene. I wonder about the park name – did he give money or land to the park? After mentioning the indigenous tribes from that area, it seems kind of weird to have a sportscaster’s name.

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    1. It is, although it was also early April so I imagine it’s much more green now. I’m actually not sure why they named the park for him. I imagine this is something I would have learned at the visitor center had it been open.

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  3. I have been reading extensively about the Comanche. I am going to go to Parker’s Fort soon where the Comanche kidnapped Cynthia Ann Parker who was the mother of the last great chief of the tribe Quanah Parker. The Comanche were actually a wide-ranging group of individual tribes who fought other Indians for supremacy of the plains. The southern band in Texas rarely had contact with the northern Wyoming bands until…… In 1867 a treaty (Known as Medicine Lodge Treaty) was signed giving the Comanche, Kiowas, Cheyenne and Arapaho rights to hunt buffalo in the Texas Panhandle. In 1873 White buffalo hunters moved in. A prophet arose among the tribes named Isa-tai who claimed he could protect the Indians from the white man’s bullets and that he himself could spit out of his mouth more than enough ammo for the tribes. He was able to unite the tribes of the Cheyenne, all the Comanche bands, the Kiowa and the Arapaho to fight for the buffalo hunting grounds. The 4th United States Calvary routed the bands at Palo Duro Canyon killing not many Indians but destroying their lodging camp supplies and taking almost all of their horses. In fact, 1500 Indian horses were slaughtered at Tule Canyon. For the plains Indians this was grievous event as it took away their mobility as well as their wealth which was measured in the size of their herds. By the way Isa-tai had no special powers.

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  4. Ugh, the litter! (It’s everywhere. All over Yosemite the “new” litter is masks. I even saw a rolled-up baby diaper on the trail. Come on people!) Aside from that, your photos were great, and the trip sounded fun.

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    1. Yes, it was upsetting. Nothing ruins a place for me faster than rude people, whether it’s noise or litter or something else disrespectful

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  5. The views from El Alto are really nice. Geese are very aggressive, but they bother me less than people littering – how selfish and rude. Another lovely walk and a great way to finish off your weekend 🙂

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  6. What a lovely place to explore on foot. I’ve never heard what sound male geese would make during the mating season in order to attract the female, but I know that the birds often become aggressive if they believe that their eggs or goslings are threatened. We have heaps of goose nests along the Garavogue River in Sligo and it’s an area we try to avoid in the springtime because if you get too close to the nest, a goose may attack to defend it. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    1. Haha well you’re not missing anything with the goose sounds. It was unpleasant. They are definitely aggressive. We have geese in our back yard right now and we always keep our distance. I don’t like being close to birds in general, and I especially don’t want to have a standoff with a goose.

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  7. Hidden Falls was hidden– literally! Haha, bad pun…any case, it’s a shame that you couldn’t get closer to it, as it’s the highlight of the hiking trail. Those geese were all about business with their ruckus, and despite how annoying they were, you have to admit they were amusing all the same! A pleasant end to your time in Wyoming, and I have a feeling you might be back sooner than later! 😉

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  8. I had to laugh at your description of your noisy lunch companions. Earlier today, after reading The Quiet Quail (who doesn’t like how loud Dottie Duck is) with my Kindergarten students, we talked about times when it’s appropriate to be loud and times when it’s appropriate to be quiet. Apparently those geese could use an education on this topic! By the way, I didn’t see a handstand photo?!

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    1. Haha yes, the geese definitely missed the memo. You’re right, I guess I didn’t end up doing a handstand here. I considered it at the high point but there wasn’t a safe spot to do so. I did one in Cheyenne, though, so that will have to count as the handstand for this whole trip.

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    1. I’d actually never heard of him, and since the visitor center was closed, I didn’t get to learn much about him. I’ll have to do some research of my own.

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  9. Too bad about the geese. They are all over the place here right now and new goslings are coming into the world. During the mating and molting seasons, they can be quite loud and dangerous. As to the litter, I have come to the conclusion that most people do not care about rules and common sense. Pity. Thanks for sharing Diana. Allan

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