Experience the Natural Wonders of Encampment Wyoming

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Encampment Wyoming view of lakes, trees and clouds.
The many moods of southern Wyoming are as likely to be lakes and clouds as they are dense forests and deep snow. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Can tiny mean glacial? Yes, on a trip to the tiny town of Encampment, Wyoming, population 450.

I stayed a week, and every direction I turned, the views were long. Road trips every day were loaded with gigantic vistas and history eons old.

Each foray beyond the town of Encampment showed me different geology. No matter which way I went, the rocks or the snow or the rivers looked really different.

Curious though; sagebrush seemed the same.

This is southern Wyoming, west of Laramie, which is west of the capital city, Cheyenne. Feeling like a pioneer, seeking settlement possibilities, hearing those town names? I did.

Fly into the airport in Denver, Colorado, and rent a car. Nothing routine about this drive once you escape airport traffic. Think three hours to Encampment.

Read More: Where to eat and stay in Encampment Wyoming.

Encampment Wyoming - two women standing in front of Snowy Range and a rocky lake coastline.
Snowy Range sets the tone of wonder and awe on a trip to southern Wyoming. Double bonus for grandparent/grandchild explorations with travel journalist Christine Tibbetts and M. J. Tibbetts. Photo credit: April Warhola

Snowy Range, and Many More Mountains

Snowy Range is first and it sets the tone for a week of awe and wonder.

Know that this is Wyoming’s second-highest pass when you stare way up at the snowy peaks. And imagine the side roads as cross-country ski trails all winter.

That pass is 10,847 feet. I’m told you can see Colorado, the Sierra Madre Mountain Range and also the Continental Divide from observation points.

Even if you save driving the scenic byway which is US 130 for another day, at least get out of the car and stare at the snow. Memorial Day through October, the Snowy Range byway is likely to be open.

Might not all be snow. Some pre-Cambrian quartzite reflects sunlight.

Same short season for the Battle Pass Scenic Byway too; it’s US-70 which connects to Encampment.

Lakes Everywhere

Lakes seem to be everywhere in Snowy Range—- fed by glaciers. Hundreds of them all through the many campgrounds.

Walk around part of Lake Marie at any easy stop (with a restroom) on the road from Denver to Encampment. Medicine Bow National Forest — a peak for sure from this vantage point – towers above; 12,073 feet to be precise.

Hike up there from the lake’s edge, starting early another day , and only if you’re hardy.

The lake’s namesake was Mary Bellamy, elected to the Wyoming legislature in 1910—the first woman ever. Connect Lake Marie to the 19th Amendment too because Bellamy was a suffragette.

American history defines lots of the Snowy Range trails, roads, bridges and campgrounds. The CCC – Civilian Conservation Corps — built them in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Encampment Wyoming grasslands and grassy hills.
Just a short block from the Grand Encampment Museum, the look of Wyoming changes yet again. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Encampment, Nearby Towns

The town of Encampment was my destination but another southern Wyoming pleasure quickly became clear: little towns and their people feel like cousins or partners or siblings who delight in each other’s personalities.

Riverside for instance—-at the junction of Highway 70 and 230—-population 66. And proud of it, declaring that status on a highway sign.

Encampment Wyoming - Riverside population sign
Proud of the size of our town, this Wyoming highway sign declares. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Ranching has long been important here, so it’s kind of nice to know the small, private golf course has history too as part of the old Peryam family ranch.

I grew up in the shadow of New York City, but in Wyoming, I learned a new respect for pride in community.

Saratoga is another town in this Carbon County region; Rawlins too—-whose population tops 8,000. The base of the Sierra Madre Mountains is an hour away, but having their own “uplift” means a lot to people in Rawlins.

That’s a rock formation north of the city, kind of a boundary between sagebrush prairies and the Red Desert.

It’s as easy to meet local people with deep roots as folks from elsewhere who chose to shape a grand new life near the Encampment River or throughout the region.

The tramway is one of many exhibits at the Grand to the story of copper mining and the history of Encampment Wyoming.
The tramway is one of many exhibits at the Grand to the story of copper mining and the history of Encampment, Wyoming. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Encampment Wyoming History

Grand Encampment Museum is the name of the history center whose parking lot stayed full the entire week I explored this stretch of southern Wyoming. Trust this data because my lodging was a private home directly across the street.

Copper mining history comes to life here, an 1890s to 1920 turn-of-the-century 18-building exhibition, complete with an areal tramway showing the movement of copper and homestead cabins furnished with original-owner possessions to tour.

SheBuysTravel Tip: After visiting the two-story outhouse (handy for copper mining workers when the snow was deep) climb the 65-foot fire lookout tower for grand views. Plan ahead to make arrangements for a sunrise or sunset photo shoot for an extra fee.

Man choosing which lures to use for fishing the Miracle Mile in Seminoe State Park.
Choosing which lures to use for fishing the Miracle Mile in Seminoe State Park? What a setting! Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Seminoe Reservoir and State Park

Catching the trout in Seminoe Reservoir and the North Platte River is reason enough to travel here——and so is just watching the ones who do. The drive to arrive in what’s nicknamed the Miracle Mile is quite satisfying too.

Every mile is so beautiful and so different from the previous turn in the road, that missing the fish might not matter.

Some spots are lush and watery. Others feel like a desert with colorful cactus flowers and rocks smoothed by the centuries.

Blooming cactus flower in Encampment Wyoming
Just when Wyoming feels like a mountainous kind of place, up pops the desert and a cactus flower! Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Look for another “uplift” in Seminoe. Rocks likely to be 550 million years old – once deep in the earth’s crust.

Be prepared for paved roads to become packed dirt and then gravel. But delight in a public restroom and covered picnic pavilions right next to grassy banks for fishing without waders.

There’s more. Seminoe –named for a French trapper from the 1800s — offers camping, hiking, boating and ATV trails in huge white sand dunes. Expect to find 1600 acres of public land and 19,000 acres of water.

I even saw a big moose!

Seminoe State Park in Encampment Wyoming is also a reservoir, and the vistas change dramatically through all the acres.
Seminoe State Park is also a reservoir, and the vistas change dramatically through all the acres. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Other Things To Do in Encampment Wyoming


  • Encampment River Wilderness Trail: In this rugged canyon, the hike follows the river, sometimes rushing rapids and sometimes calm stretches, winds past some long-abandoned copper mining cabins
  • Medicine Bow Peak Trail: This is strenuous crossing wildflower meadows, glacier fields and the 12,013-foot summit. Maybe satisfy the urge by gazing up from Lake Marie in Snowy Range!
  • Continental Divide Trail: Wilderness areas are a feature of this national scenic trail, 45 miles worth! Hike here and be part of the 3,100-mile route from Canada to Mexico. In southern Wyoming, reach 10,000 feet and rejoice in the vista.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Think about your lungs when researching the vast number of beautiful hikes. They can include elevations from 6,000 to 12,000 feet – no small breathing matter.

Hilly treeline in Encampment Wyoming
Might be impossible to explore every kind of hiking, camping and picnicking spot in Carbon County, Wyoming. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts


Detailed camping data is readily available from the Carbon County Visitors Council. Some of the general facts might be Wyoming distinctive.

  • Majority of campsites are first-come, first-serve in Medicine Bow National Forest and on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands.
  • Some campsites can be reserved ahead. Here’s how: call 877-444-6777 or go online at recreation.gov
  • High-elevation campgrounds might require extra skills. Four in the Snowy Range are 10,200 feet to 10,700 feet high.
Blue skies and green conifer trees in Encampment Wyoming
Summer skies are spectacular; imagine these trees in the snow. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Winter Sports

Encampment restaurant and lodging owners believe staying open all winter is now a plan——not something they always believed. Same for nearby communities.

Winter sports vacations seem to be fueling those decisions.

  • Snowmobiling trail maps for groomed and ungroomed backcountry trails are easy to. find in shops and visitor centers. Snowy Range is the largest and boasts of play areas as well as 306 miles of groomed trails, with 170 ungroomed.
  • The Sierra Madre has two trailheads with parking lots. Six miles west of Encampment is the Bottle Creek trailhead.

Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing

  • Beginners might want to stick to Little Laramie and Corner Mountain trails, short loops west of the town of Centennial, or Brush Creek in the Snowy Range. Maybe Bottle Creek Trail west of Encampment too.
  • Know-what-you’re-doing adventurers can consider Libby Creek and Barber Lake trails in the Snowy Range. They’re steep.
Taxidermy animals above the food aisles of a grocery store in Encampment Wyoming
Restaurants flourish in the little towns of southern Wyoming, and the grocery store is an adventure. Taxidermy above all the food groups! Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

Places to Stay, Places to Eat

Eating out is definitely possible in these tiny southern Wyoming towns. Delicious and interesting too.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Satisfaction means more than just savoring a restaurant meal. A multi-community vacation week allows eating in every restaurant! But consider cooking too if possible because a trip to the grocery involves big taxidermy displays.

Lodging options range from old historic boutique-size hotels to a road-side one-story motel to cabins, lodges and a dude ranch.

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