LaBonte Canyon is a 5.6 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Garrett, WY that features a river and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking and birding and is accessible from March until November.
LaBonte Canyon Trailhead: Just to the north of Douglas Wyoming leave I-25 at exit 146 and head southeast on HWY.96 for 3.2 miles and turn right onto HWY.91. Drive about 13 miles where the payment ends and the road becomes Converse County Road 24. In another three miles the road forks; turn left onto Converse County Road 16 (Fort Fetterman Road) drive about 15 miles to the LaBonte Canyon/Curtis Gulch Campground Road (Forrest Rd. 658). Drive downstream along LaBonte Creek for about five miles. Just outside of the entrance to Curtis Gulch Campground you will find signage and parking for three different trails (Curtis Gulch, LaBonte Canyon and Big Bear Canyon). Park and walk downstream through the campground to start the hike.
Its very remote so bring all necessary gear to be safe plenty of wildlife saw a bear that was to close for comfort but I enjoyed it, little foot traffic so its nice and quite i brought my dogs. i also brought some bear protection the dogs chased the bear off
Trailhead: Just to the north of Douglas Wyoming leave I-25 at exit 146 and head southeast on HWY.96 for 3.2 miles and turn right onto HWY.91. Drive about 13 miles where the payment ends and the road becomes Converse County Road 24. In another three miles the road forks; turn left onto Converse County Road 16 (Fort Fetterman Road) drive about 15 miles to the LaBonte Canyon/Curtis Gulch Campground Road (Forrest Rd. 658). Drive downstream along LaBonte Creek for about five miles. Just outside of the entrance to Curtis Gulch Campground you will find signage and parking for three different trails (Curtis Gulch, LaBonte Canyon and Big Bear Canyon). Park and walk downstream through the campground to start the hike.
Driving to LaBonte Canyon from Casper for the first time as I left I-25 it took me approximately one hour and forty five minutes to reach the trailhead (confirming my route as I traveled with map and looking at new scenery and wildlife). Leaving the canyon driving more deliberately it took just under an hour to reach I-25.
LaBonte Canyon Trail is an out three miles and back three miles trail. The trail is open to ATV traffic for the first two miles. This would at first glance seem to distract from the hike, however I saw no evidence of ATV traffic leaving the established trail and almost no litter. People who use the area it seems are aware of and follow Leave No Trace ethics I hope all of you will as well. I was there on a Saturday afternoon and saw one camper in the Curtis Gulch Campground and no one else.
Curtis Gulch Campground is a small (approximately 8-10 sites), but beautifully tucked away mostly shady campground. A pit toilet that is well kept and a clean water supply are available. Cost is ten dollars a night. Curtis Gulch Campground could act as base camp for days of hiking and climbing. If climbing interest you, the area contain hundreds of domes some approaching four or five hundred feet in height.
The quality of rock is excellent. There are many meandering crack/face routes. The rock doesnt lend itself to long straight cracks. I did however spy a few that where at least two pitches long.
This is not as far as I can determine an established rock climbing area. I scrambled to the top of two domes via easy routes and saw no evidence of previous attempts or any repel anchors. So if you come to climb make sure youve got your shit together and you know what you are doing. Because you will die before any rescue operation is even launched.
Back to the hike: The trail follows and criss crosses LaBonte Creek for three miles downstream to the border of the Medicine Bow National Forrest and the back again. The first two miles along an ATV trail. The last mile or so is a foot path. The day I was there it was 102 degrees and I chose to turn around just after the ATV trail ended and the foot path began. The walking was easy, although the beginning of the foot path portion was a little difficult to find. You cant really get lost as long as you stay in the bottom of the canyon I saw at least two other trails leaving the LaBonte trail heading up other canyons (not on any of the maps I had).
The valley bottom that you walk is an interesting mix. For a short section one is walking in high plains like sagebrush environment.
And then back along the stream in the midst of large cottonwood and willows. Some sections are among huge Ponderosa Pines.All the while you are gently steered down canyon buy steep canyon walls. Stream crossings provided views up and down stream I couldnt help but stop and take in.There were lots of fish. Not sure what kind of trout but I assume native. Fishing would be great especially around the end of mile two walking in where one encounters abundant beaver ponds.
By the way, if you cant control your dogs please dont bring them. Keep them out of the ponds please.
This ripairian enviromen was incredibly rich with wildlife. The trail often raises up above the creek affording you veiws(with the aid of binoculars) into the top of trees along the creek.This canyon truly is a bird watchers paridise. I am an amature bird watcher and I identified no less than tweny six speicies in my four hours in the canyon!
Larger wild life also abounds. I saw white tail deer, beaver and Elk. I also saw sign of Bighorn Sheep, Black Bear and Racoon. There also was no shortage of butterflys.
No matter what your interest, whether it be hiking, climbing, fishing/hunting, wildlife viewing or just a quiet little place at the end of a not very busy road to spend some time in the shade of a large tree by a stream with friends cooking good food a perhaps enjoying some fine single malt LaBonte Canyon can deliver.
Hope you come. I know you will enjoy if you do.