Wyoming is a place to experience the great outdoors at its best. The state provides a variety of options and opportunities no matter what type of traveler or outdoorsman you may be. A particularly vibrant outdoor area located two hours west of Cheyenne, Wyoming or three hours north of Fort Collins, Colorado, is Saratoga. This quiet Platte Valley town offers a scenic spring or summer getaway for all ages and experience levels. Saratoga, WY and the surrounding area is located at the base of the Snowy Mountain Range and features a multitude of outdoor opportunities including: camping, fishing, boating, hiking, biking, photography, bird watching, and just plain relaxing.
On recent trip taken with my husband, I discovered a new found appreciation for the outdoors. Both of us grew up in Wyoming though we now live in Fort Collins, CO. My husband grew up hunting and fishing with his father and has often reminisced about the glory of the outdoor experience. I am admittedly not much of a camper, but remember going fishing often with my parents when I was a little girl. I am also a photographer and have a general love for nature. Last summer, my husband decided that we should take a four-day trip up to Saratoga for fishing and camping. I figured I could tough it out for a few days even if I wasn’t that thrilled about sleeping in a tent.
No matter which direction you are traveling from, the Saratoga mountain scenery is spectacular to see. Since we have family in Cheyenne, we decided to make a circle trip up through Cheyenne and take I-80 to Saratoga and return via Rocky Mountain National Park and the Poudre Valley back to Fort Collins, CO. Driving through the mountains on both sides was breathtaking. The trees and wildflowers painted the outside of my car window through most of the drive to and from. Although it was mid-July snow still capped the peaks of the Rocky Mountains along the Continental Divide and left a cooling chill in the air. We stopped often to take pictures and take in the amazing scenery.
Lakes, rivers, and camping areas are plentiful around Saratoga and Encampment, Wyoming. We had decided to stay near the North Platte River and the Miracle Mile to try our hand at some fly fishing. This area is known as one of the best trout destinations in the west and my husband was set on catching a prize worthy fish. The popularity of this area means it is often crowded during prime fishing months. I was pleasantly surprised when we found a nice clean camping area near the river with a flat enough surface to pitch our tent.
I spent two days basking in the summer sun, enjoying the sounds of the river and taking pictures of the surrounding habitat. Beautiful butterflies, wildflowers, random harmless wildlife, and occasionally my husband’s daily catch graced the front of my lens as I snapped off pictures for the preservation of our outdoor vacation together. My husband spent the hours tying flies and trying to land the “big one.” I joined in on the fishing once in awhile, but found that I’m not much of a fisherman. My husband was able to catch a few good-sized brown trout of about 4 lbs each and one rainbow that I would have estimated to be at least 5 or 6 lbs. We ate well and enjoyed the evenings together by the fire. Camping isn’t complete without a few toasted marshmallows or a S’more. Evenings were quiet and the sky so clear that the Milky Way truly looked like a river of twinkling stars.
During our trip through the area we met a variety of campers, fishers, climbers, hikers and bikers. However, I was most impressed by the many couples I observed riding the winding mountain roads on their mountain bikes. Not just for great rides on a motorcycle, of which we saw many, Saratoga is also a popular destination for hardcore bicyclers. Many bicyclists make the long distance ride from Fort Collins, CO, up through Walden and the mountain paths to the camping areas and hot springs in the Platte Valley. I had no idea this was a new wave in vacationing activities, perhaps because I would never have even considered making that long of a trek myself. But talking with multiple people as we stopped in different areas on our trip, I learned that the mountain pass between Colorado and Wyoming is an extremely popular area for avid cyclists, many of whom travel more than 50 miles a day. With the many camping areas and beautiful trails, this region provides many incentives for the cycling and mountain biking vacationer.
Another of Saratoga’s great outdoor activities includes bird watching. My husband and I were able to spot a variety of birds hiking along the mountain trails, rivers and lake areas. Although we missed it on our trip, the second week of June in the Saratoga area marks the Platte Valley Festival of the Birds. Sponsored by Wings Over Carbon County, this event is a fantastic opportunity for those interested in observing and learning about bird species that dwell in riparian, woodland and wetland habitats. The Festival of the Birds features a dinner banquet, informational speakers, and multiple guided bird watching tours along with opportunities to meet other like-minded birders.
On the way home we stopped once again in Saratoga and spent the evening around the Hobo Springs.
The natural hot spring area is a great way to warm up in the evenings and get the kinks out from sleeping on the ground in a tent. The hobo pool is located in the middle of Saratoga and is open all day, every day, all year. The water ranges from 117 to 128 degrees F. The therapeutic mineral waters of the North Platte River are considered beneficial for those suffering from rheumatism, eczema, kidney disease, paralysis and other illnesses. Mainly I just enjoyed relaxing in the pool and letting my muscles soak up the warmth. It was a perfect ending to our outdoor adventure.
I would highly recommend taking a trip through the Platte Valley area and taking in the wonders of nature. For extreme outdoor adventurists and even the leisurely there are a plethora of options to consider. For singles, couples and families there is something for everyone to enjoy. Saratoga is a friendly little town with plenty of resources to assist in making the most of your time outdoors.