Here in Converse County, your Douglas Ranger District of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests has been very busy managing the public lands that surround our community. As part of its land base, the Douglas Ranger District administers 572,000 acres of the Thunder Basin National Grassland. In addition, the Laramie Peak mountains are also administered by the Douglas Ranger District.
LARAMIE PEAK UNIT – Laramie Peak is the highest point in the Laramie Mountains with an elevation of 10,272 feet. Those who traveled the Oregon and Mormon trails used the Peak as a guidepost. Laramie Peak was the first rocky mountain they saw from vantage points as far away as Scottsbluff, Nebraska. The peak was also a forewarning of the rugged crossing of the Continental Divide that lay ahead. There is a steep 4.8-mile trail to the top of Laramie Peak that is open to ATVs, horses, bicycles, and hikers. This trail offers a panoramic view of southeastern Wyoming. The Laramie Peak trailhead is located one-quarter mile from the Friend Park Campground and requires a $5.00 day use fee. Forest Road 671 offers access to the trailhead.
LABONTE CANYON – LaBonte Canyon is an area of steep granite rock formations well-suited for hiking and photography. The scenic steep canyon walls, groves of aspen, and stands of conifer can be viewed from Forest Road 658. Large populations of deer, elk, and bighorn sheep inhabit the area. LaBonte Canyon has several trails open to ATVs, horses, bicycles, and hikers. The Curtis Gulch Campground is located at the end of the canyon. Also, there are many beautiful undeveloped, dispersed campsites available along LaBonte Creek.
BLACK MOUNTAIN – Black Mountain is located off Forest Road 633 in Harris Park. The Black Mountain Lookout Tower on top of the peak is accessible by a rugged 3.5 mile long road that is suitable for 4-wheel drive vehicles. The tower was built by the Forest Service in 1958 and is now on the National Historic Lookout Register. Black Mountain is one of the few fire lookouts still in operation in the United States and is open from June until October. Visitors are welcome!
ASHENFELDER BASIN – Wilderness without the official designation, this area encompasses the western, northern, and eastern sweep around Laramie Peak. New trails have made accessing this wild country safer and easier, but still offer solitude and challenge. The best access trails to the basin are the Roaring Fork Trail west of Black Mountain and Harris Park Trail east of Black Mountain.
THUNDER BASIN NATIONAL GRASSLAND
FIDDLEBACK AREA – The Fiddleback area is a large area of prairie on the Thunder Basin National Grassland located between Douglas and Gillette. The area includes the Cheyenne River Valley with the Red Hills and Rochelle Hills surrounding the area to the west and north. It is also a haven for eagles and other raptors, deer, elk, and antelope. To access this area, take Highway 59 to Bill and then take the Steinle Road turnoff (a good gravel road). Follow Steinle Road to the Dull Center Road up through the Fiddleback Ranch. You can return to Highway 59 via the Steckley Road.
UPTON/OSAGE RECREATION AREA – The Upton/Osage area is located in the far northeast part of Wyoming between Gillette and Newcastle. This grassland area forms the foothills of the Black Hills to the east. It offers a variety of country including low sage/grass plains and thick pine covered hills. Year-round fishing is the recreational highlight of the area. Several reservoirs contain smallmouth bass and trout. For hikers and dirt bike riders, there are nearly 19 miles of good trail that wind through the hills and plains for a challenging hike or ride.
SPRING CREEK UNIT – The Spring Creek unit is considered a satellite of the national grassland. This parcel of land is located north of Gillette and extends almost to the Montana border. Popular activities in this area include 4-wheeling, wildlife viewing, hiking, and hunting. In addition to recreation opportunities offered on this remote portion of the national grassland, there are more activities available on nearby Bureau of Land Management administered lands. These lands make Spring Creek an attractive getaway.