WY – Roaring Fork Mountain, Southern Wind River Mountains, Popo Agie Wilderness

My recent visit to the Stough Creek Lakes Basin was all too short and left me fantasizing about rambling those beautiful ridges of Roaring Fork Mountain.

My friend Keith joined me for this adventure. The plan was to take the Stough Creek Lakes Trail #702 directly to the Stough Creek Basin which is surrounded by Roaring Fork Mountain, a U-shaped range.

Just a short-distance down the trail, we ran into the Llama Mamas from Colorado, whom I’d met at Big Stough Lake during my previous trip. It was their first day and my last day; this time the reverse as it was my first day, their last. What a fun reunion! 

I confidently but erroneously led us down the Sheep Bridge Trail #701. I could blame Keith for the distraction, but maybe it was just meant to be. Thankfully I had maps and realized we could take new-to-me trails, Twin Lakes to Stough Creek, turning this into a loop trip. I call these happy accidents!

One of the Twin Lakes

It would have been easy to miss this junction as the sign was on the ground, and the trail immediately crossed a creek. 

The Stough Creek Trail . . . as suspected meanders along the creek. It was in pretty good shape and a great alternative to taking the Roaring Creek Lake Trail.

This Middle Fork sign is cause for confusion as you’re on the Stough Creek Trail, which according to my map you’d continue on west for 1.4 miles prior to reaching the Middle Fork trail. 

Because of our alternate route, we had to cross Stough Creek at the place were I’d fallen off the log the previous week, wrenching my knee. We both elected to walk through the water skipping a potential repeat experience. 

This is another confusing sign. It’s only about a mile, not 3 miles to the Stough Creek Basin. The Middle Fork Trail is now 1.7 miles west (not north as the sign points). Roaring Fork Lake is 5.7 miles not 4. 

It’s pretty hard to keep your feet dry when tromping through wet meadows and muck surrounding the lakes. 

Although we could have avoided the snow, it was an easy walking surface in the afternoon. 

We camped near Footprint Lake, under thunderstorm skies. 

Just after dinner we were treated to a hail storm. 

Not a bad room with a view. 

Our goal is the high ridge on the left of the lake.

We started with a traverse on the right of Footprint Lake

One concern was whether the shelf in the middle (under the pointy peak) would be sufficiently wide to safely traverse. 

Wonder what’s behind the ridge? 

Keith successfully made it to the top of the first hump. 

We found Toad Lakes and Ponds. There are a couple wildfires in Wyoming with subsequent smoke in the air. 

It was exciting to discover partially frozen Eyrie Lake.

Then it was time to work our way up the next slope. 

Lightning Lake on top, Zig-Zag Lake to the left, Footprint Lake at bottom. 

Finally we found the namesake shape of Footprint Lake

We arrived at the shelf and found it plenty wide for safe passage. 

Then it was time to traverse around Lightning Lake

Our goal is still the ridge on the other side of Lightning Lake.

Lightning Lake had many faces. 

Working our way up. Where’s Keith? 

The final push to the top. Can you find Keith? 

We made it to the first viewpoint where we could see Canyon Lake

We found a good lunch spot before scrambling just a bit higher. 

And a treacherous cornice. 

We had a great view of Stough Lake basin including Lightning Lake, Footprint Lake, Shoal Lake and Big Stough Lake

What did our route look like? 

Our ramble wasn’t many miles but it sure was a workout. 

Back at Footprint Lake, it was siesta time! 

Another night with glorious views. 

The next morning we were treated to a colorful sunrise. 

We returned to the trailhead via Roaring Creek Lake, first enjoying a view of Wind River Peak, the highest mountain in the Winds, thus aptly given the namesake. 

The finale was crossing Roaring Creek Lake.

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: 8/2-4/17
  • Mileage: Approximately 22 miles
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: Unknown, but a LOT. Thus far in the Winds I’ve found very little flat.
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: All clear!
    • Overgrowth: Main trails, zero. A bit on the secondary trails to the lakes
    • Signage: Confusing at a couple junctions; mileages inaccurate
    • Terrain: Good on main trails with some snow and muddy muck conditions
  • Water: Plentiful
  • Camping: Plentiful
  • Solitude: Moderate. We only saw the Llama Mamas between the trailhead and the basin. There were a few groups camped in the basin. We crossed paths were several groups near the trailhead as we exited.
  • Bugs: Plentiful although I didn’t need deet
  • Precip: Thunderstorms daily in July and early August
  • Temp: Lows of 30’s to 40’s, highs 60’s to 80’s.
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 4++ cherries (out of 5). Would be a 5 if trails weren’t so mucky from livestock.

Tips:

  • Be prepared for altitude, elevation changes, weather changes, snow, bugs and navigation.

Resources:

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WY – Stough Creek Lakes, Southern Wind River Mountains, Popo Agie Wilderness

Under crisp blue skies, Bill and I said goodbye to beautiful Tayo Lake. This is a continuation of a trek which started at Sheep Bridge Trailhead and traversed counterclockwise to Deep Creek Lakes (link to Part 1), then south through Ice Creek Lakes and on to Tayo Lake (link to Part 2).

We hiked cross country in search of Coon Lake.

From Coon Lake we hiked to Mountain Sheep Lake.

Back at the Ice Lakes/Tayo Lake junction, it was time to say goodbye to my new friend Bill. He was headed north, while I began the eastern trek to hopefully complete my counterclockwise loop. 

Based on beta, crossing the Middle Fork of Popo Agie River may be my turnaround point. I’d been told it could be too high, to look for braided waterways for safer crossing, but instead I found a wide slow shallow outlet. 

The worst part was wading through the 6-8′  stretches of muck on both edges of the outlet crossing. 

I’d been stressing about this crossing since the beginning of the trip. I was so glad to have it behind me, avoiding a dreaded reverse course. 

Tayo Park. I passed through many of these meadow or green belt areas and sadly didn’t seen any big wildlife.

I’d asked Bill about Sweetwater Gap and he said it wasn’t memorable, so I’d planned to skip this short out and back. It was getting late and I was thinking it was about time to find camp. 

I didn’t consult my map and for some reason thought I was supposed to take the Sweetwater Gap Trail #700 to connect with Stough Creek Lakes Trail #702. Along the way I heard crashing water and just had to go off trail to find this waterfall. Maybe this was why I was destined to take this trail?

Looks like Yogi liked this trail also. 

I found a nice campsite and the next morning continued upward to the gap. 

Bill was right, nothing too memorable. Looking south into Bridger Wilderness.

Looking north into Popo Agie Wilderness. 

The Sweetwater Gap Trail, as well as the Stough Creek Lakes Trail were used frequently by livestock thus they were quite mucked up. 

I stopped at the waterfall again to enjoy them in much better light. 

Back at Tayo Park, still no wildlife. 

Cool find along the way. 

I love finding the little pops of color. 

Heading back into open grazing area. 

I wasn’t really convinced this sloppy x gate would do a very good job keeping the cows out, especially given the human element of placing the log back in the correct position. 

I was on the final stretch to close the counterclockwise loop as I stepped onto the Stough Creek Lakes Trail #702.

I love bridges and am thankful everytime I find one over waterways or marshy areas. Thank you again trail builders and maintenance crews. 

When there isn’t a bridge, water crossings look like this. If you look around you might find a log, such as this one upstream, or rocks providing opportunities to keep your feet dry. 

Over the years, I’ve become more proficient with log and rock crossings. For some reason today was not my day. I stood on the end of this log and felt slight vertigo. Instead of listening to my intuition, I took a second step, immediately loosing my balance and falling in. I twisted my knee in the process. Thankfully the water was shallow. I’ve never experienced vertigo on a log crossing before. It’s gonna take a while to rebuild confidence. I should have just walked through, afterall my feet were already wet. 

I arrived at Big Stough Lake to find these llamas. Later I met the five gals who used them as pack animals. Convenient yes, but they sure mucked up the trails. 

I spent time exploring the areas searching for a view campsite. I landed near Shoal Lake

This rocky hillside beckoned me to the top so I could get uninterrupted 360 degree views of the area.

Shoal Lake

Views from the top. 

It was hard saying goodbye to this beautiful place the next morning. But given I had very little food left and hoped to meet my friends later that day, it was time to say so long. 

I’ll be back I’m sure. 

So much water coming out of the outlet. 

The llamas were getting ready for another day of adventure also. 

Back on the main trail, my feet were feeling the urgency of town calling. Real food! 

All of the main trails on the loop have been logged out. Some very recently by the smell and look of those trees. Thank you again trail maintainers. You are my heroes! 

Another new find. 

When they are in full blooms, they are going to be an amazing sight. 

My pole gives an idea as to size of the plants. 

There were a couple rubble fields and it sure was nice to have a trail cut through. 

Stough Creek Pass provided some WOW views! I’d love to camp up here, but carrying water up the long steep ascent makes it a highly unlikely possibility. I truly lucked out getting to enjoy these views before the thunderstorms turned this peaceful setting into a forceful one.

There was a little snow on the trail as I started down the pass. Not 15 minutes later, it started sprinkling. I attached my umbrella and kept hiking. Soon it began to hail. 

Then the skies let loose and I got a real soaking as the trails turned into rivers. I was thankful for both my umbrella and Frogg Toggs poncho. The rocks and mud made for a slippery treacherous descent, especially with my sore knee from my water crossing incident of the previous day.

What? Another lake outlet crossing? More muck to wade through at the Roaring Fork Lake outlet. 

I’m standing in the middle of the crossing at Roaring Fork Lake. Swim anyone? Maybe on a different day. I was plenty wet after an hour or so of rain. 

Oh how you have to love Mother Nature.

The completion of the loop. Success!

A few things I picked up on my way out the last day. It’s important to practice LNT (Leave No Trace). 

I could have survived a few more hours on the food I had left. I love it when my planning works out and I don’t carry home extra weight. The Pro Bars are my meal of last resort and they seem to get carried more than ever eaten. I ran out of fuel my last night and had cold breakfast thus the reason my oats were not eaten.

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: 7/27-29/17
  • Mileage: Approximately 20-22 miles
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: Unknown, but a LOT. Thus far in the Winds I’ve found very little flat.
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: All clear!
    • Overgrowth: Main trails, zero. A bit on the secondary trails to the lakes
    • Signage: Good on main trails. Non existent on secondary trails.
    • Terrain: Good on main trails with some snow and muddy muck conditions
  • Water: Plentiful
  • Camping: Plentiful
  • Solitude: Moderate, although I didn’t see anyone between Stough Basin and Tayo except for the group of 5 gals. I saw quite a few people between Stough Basin and the trailhead.
  • Bugs: Plentiful although I didn’t need deet
  • Precip: Thunderstorms daily in July
  • Temp: Lows of 30’s to 40’s, highs 60’s to 70’s.
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 4++ cherries (out of 5). Would be a 5 if trails weren’t so mucky from livestock.

Tips:

  • Be prepared for altitude, elevation changes, weather changes, snow, bugs and navigation.

Links:

Resources: