North Fork Little Laramie River
Location: Medicine Bow National Forest, southwest of Laramie, Wyoming
Access: From Laramie, take Hwy 130 west for 28 miles to Centennial, then continue for another 3.8 miles, then turn north onto the Sand Lake Rd, and go 2 miles to the parking area on the west side of the road, just past the North Fork Campground. 
Trailhead: 401588e 4579945n  Elev: 9340'
Trail: Well-marked trail that follows the North Fork of the Little Laramie through lush forest for 3 miles upstream, then branches off through sparse lodgepole forest to the Brooklyn Lake Rd, which it reaches in a little over 4 miles, making this an 8-mile roundtrip with a little over 1000' elevation gain en route. 
Maps: USGS 1:24,000 Centennial, Morgan
Dogs: No posted regulations
Fees: None
Webcam: Arlington Interchange, 30 miles north
Weather: Current & Recent Conditions
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North Fork Little Laramie River, Medicine Bow National ForestJuly 30, 2003
Long about 1820, a group of French-Canadian trappers were collecting beaver pelts in the network of mountain streams that feed the North Platte River in Wyoming and Northern Colorado. Jacques LaRamie, a member of this group, set out one day to explore a tributary of the North Platte and never returned. He was apparently at the very least a well-liked fellow, as the tributary he explored was subsequently named the Laramie River. The Laramie River has its origins high in the Laramie Mountains of northern Colorado at Chambers Lake. It runs north into the Larmie Plains of Wyoming. There's also a Little Laramie River that begins in the Snowy Range, with North, Middle and South Forks, all of which come together and logically feed into the Laramie River just north of the city of Laramie Wyoming, home of the University of Wyoming, not to be confused with Fort Laramie, which lies further north. The beautiful Laramie Mountains continue north from Colorado into Wyoming and extend north of Cheyenne up to Casper just west of Interstate 25. The capital city of Cheyenne is in Laramie County, but oddly enough the city of Laramie is in Albany County (and so is Saratoga). Across the state border from Laramie County is Larimer County, which holds Fort Collins and Loveland, Colorado. Both counties, naturally, name virtually all civic projects Larimie or Larimer, respectively. Geologists have even termed the upthrust of the Rocky Mountains "The Laramide Revolution". Only Presidents have so many things named after them...and LaRamie was just a beaver trapper! Thoughts of this sort, most not quite so profound, circled through my head one fine July day in 2003 as I shouldered my pack and herded Frank onto the trail. I was the lone car in the lot on Sand Lake Rd, so I had high expectations for the trip. Frank also had high expectations from the trip, but mostly due to the chirps and clutters from warm-blooded animals in the woods. We were at this point to hike along a brisk stream named North Fork Little Laramie River. 

North Fork Little Laramie River, Medicine Bow National Forest

For the first couple of miles, the trail led through a fairly thick forest of spruce, lodgepole pine and fir, crossing the North Fork at a few places. Frank chased down and killed a chipmunk for the first time in his life. He crunched its bones and swallowed it without a drop of blood spilt. He seemed extremely pleased with himself. Several excellent photographic opportunities presented themselves, and I dallied long trying to find the perfect angle for the photogenic stream. I came across two forest service employees installing a new foot bridge, talking loudly, the guy plainly flirting with the girl to the point that my approach went completely unnoticed. Only as I crossed the defunct bridge did they notice me. 

For a brief period, a wide meadow opened up to the right of the trail. Quite in contrast from the rushing water downstream, this section of the North Fork was lazy and meandering, slowly sweeping back and forth through thick, squat willows. Away from the willows, alpine flower species bloomed in moderate profusion. I had clearly missed the peak by just a bit. This was the high point of the trail, and after that it descended towards Barber Lake Rd. I followed the trail as it reentered trees, and before long my stomach told me it was time for lunch. Retreating from the trail a comfortable distance, I sat down in the shade of the pines and snacked on granola bars, fruit and chocolate. Frank lay down in the sun just beyond the shade of the tree. Never seen a dog that likes the sun so much. A large group of hikers passed by, completely unaware of me. After they had passed, I continued down the trail until it intersected Barber Lake Rd. At that point, I turned around and walked back.

North Fork Little Laramie River, Medicine Bow National Forest
North Fork Little Laramie River, Medicine Bow National Forest

On the way back, I encountered more hikers walking opposite my direction, some fishing in the small current of the North Fork. After topping out in elevation, once again, at the meadows, I snuck off the trail once more and climbed up the steep side of the stream to find a nice, hidden ledge in the deep woods. I laid down in the soft pine needle bed, and dozed. Frank dozed as well. I woke up chilled, and moved over next to Frank, who had been napping in the sunshine all along. I dozed longer until shade overtook my bed.  A short hike can take all day if you find a good napping spot.

After the nap there were no more long stops. I passed the folks I had already seen at the meadows, and ended the hike shortly after back at the car.

Lodgepole pine and spruce line the North Fork Little Laramie River

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