“An out-and-back option into the Rawahs with branching trails to explore and Wilderness camping and lakes as a reward.”
— Zander Göpfert
Lake · River/Creek · Wildflowers
Wilderness Regulations apply.
Need to Know
Laramie River Road is dirt but easy to travel for 2wd cars.
The Rawahs are an unsung corner of wilderness in northern Colorado. The West Branch trailhead is a popular parking area with access to the Tunnel Campground as well as other numerous designated or dispersed campgrounds along Poudre Canyon and Laramie River Road.
This trail begins awkwardly along the road for a hundred yards before diving into thick willows heading west along the creek on a wide gravel doubletrack. This stretch is wide and easy for any ability and makes for a lovely stroll.
The trail then arrives at a bridge that marks the start of the more narrow and root-strewn tread, which you can expect for the duration. Generally speaking, heading west/southwest means heading uphill. The grade isn't that bad, but it is sustained and some switchback sections can be tough.
The tree cover is much appreciated for shade in the warmer months or for cover during passing rain showers. The signage is good marking access to the Tunnel Campground, entrance into the Wilderness area, and any branching trail like the Camp Lake Trail #968
, Rawah Trail #961
, and Blue Lake Trail #959
The higher in elevation you get, the more frequent the meadow crossings with views of the peaks to the west will be. The creek is an ever-present lullaby with easy access for filterable water. There are a number of cleared camp spots at logical junctures along the trail with logs across any potentially deep creek crossings.
The last mile of the trail kicks it up a notch in grade, but the excitement and anticipation of being above treeline dilute the lactic acid building up in your quads. The trail peters out at the end where runners can travel off-trail to find their Wilderness-approved dispersed campsites or turn back for a long day run.
Flora & Fauna
Songbirds (Pine Siskin, Mountain Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch), Osprey and other raptors, marmots, deer. Alpine sunflowers (Hymenoxys grandiflora), Elephant's head (Pedicularis groenladica), Colorado blue columbine (Aquilegia coerulea), Sulphurflower buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum), Rocky Mountain Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja covilleana).