West Branch Trail
The West Branch Trail
leads you to some of the most spectacular scenery in the Rawah Wilderness.
It begins at an elevation of 8.562 feet and climbs for seven miles to an elevation
of 11,130 feet near Island and Carey lakes. The trail is accessed from the
West Branch Trailhead just north of the Tunnel Campground. It can also be
reached for those staying in the campground via a trail located just behind
Site 37. The trail heads south along the Laramie River Road from the trailhead
and then turns west along a ditch road for a short distance. It soon crosses
a creek and travels up through some aspen and spruce behind Tunnel Campground.
The trail is wide and easy to follow as it passes through the aspens.
beginning of the trail is fairly level with some gentle climbs as it parallels
the West Branch of the Laramie River. It is very pretty here as it travels
through the aspen, especially in the fall. It makes a few switchbacks as it
climbs the north side of the West Branch drainage. After about 2.5 miles you
begin to approach the Camp Lake intersection. Here the trail gets very rough
trail is fairly level as it continues west from the Camp Lake Trail intersection
under a fairly dense spruce canopy. It winds its way through the forest until
it comes to a major stream crossing. There is a two log bridge to the right
for hikers. After crossing the stream it is a short distance to its intersection
with the Rawah Trail. The West Branch Trail continues straight while the Rawah
Trail turns to the right. It is about 3.7 miles to this juncture.
trail makes a moderate, rocky climb the West Branch drainage. Here it is generally
rocky and wet in spots. At one point it makes a short steep climb through
an old clearcut to a level wet meadow area. The views of the peaks to the
west from the meadow are magnificent. The trail travels back into the spruce
forest and skirts the edge of the meadow, making several stream crossings,
before meeting the Blue Lake Trail in the middle of a meadow. There are plenty
of potential campsites all along this stretch of the trail.
last leg of the trail leaves the Blue Lake Trail intersection and begins the
moderate to steep climb toward Carey and Island lakes. The trail winds its
way up a ridge, generally paralleling a stream coming from Carey Lake. After
passing through some stunted spruce trees you break out onto the tundra and
get a spectacular panoramic view of the rugged peaks. The trail ends near
the lakes and can be difficult to follow here. Carey Lake is to the right
and Island Lake is over the rise to the west. Timber Lake is across the valley
to the southeast and requires a moderate cross country hike to reach. The
surrounding area is located in the alpine closure zone of the wilderness where
campfires are not permitted. Although the hike on this section of the trail
can be strenuous at times, the spectacular scenery is well worth the effort.
||7.1 miles (11.4 kilometers)
||8,562' - 11,130'
||July 1 - Sept 30
||Rawah Lakes, Boston Peak
||Pets must be on a leash
|Suitable for mountain bikes:
||No (not permitted in wilderness)
|Suitable for horses:
Other Nearby Resources:
West Branch Trail is located in the Rawah Wilderness and can be reached via
the West Branch Trailhead. Take Highway 287 north from Fort Collins to Laporte.
Continue on Highway 287 to Highway 14. Travel west on 14 for 50 miles to the
Laramie River Road. Turn right and travel 6.5 miles to the West Branch Trailhead.
The trailhead is on the left side of the road.
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