Hiking the entire Camp Lake Trail #960 is usually more of an overnight or weekend trip than a day hike because not only is it 12.2 miles out and back but this trail is also one of the most challenging hikes you can climb. In fact, the average length of time of the hike is over eight hours so bring camping gear, food, and plenty of H20 for both you and your canine companion. You also need to bring cleanup baggies to pick up after your pooch. There is a large parking lot and restrooms at the trailhead but no water access.
Camp Lake Trail #960 is only open from May until October. Your adventure begins at the West Branch Trailhead, which is on the left side of Laramie River Road (County Road 103), just past Tunnel Campground. The trail travels along the road south about 100 yards, and then veers right (west) at the Laramie Tunnel on Skyline Ditch Maintenance Road for a quarter of a mile. Cross a wooden bridge across the ditch, and stay right past the Tunnel Campground Trail.
You and your pooch will then continue for one half mile until you get to the Rawah Wilderness boundary. Here you will begin going through the thick willows, oaks, and pines. The wide path meanders along the creek at an easy incline for the next 2.5 miles. You will likely see a lot of other hikers as well as mountain bikers on this pupular trail. You and your poochie will also be seeing a lot of wild critters out in the woods so keep Fido on a leash at all times.
The Camp Lake Trail then takes you over a bridge where it starts to ascend steeply for about another 1.5 miles through the woods with plenty of cover for shade. Some of these switchbacks are known to be rather tough so be prepared for a workout. Camp Lake Trail #960 is clearly marked, and you will see several trails that branch off such as Camp Lake Trail #968 at the 2.7-mile mark, Rawah Trail #961 at the 3.5-mile mark, and Blue Lake Trail #959 at the 5.2-mile mark.
For the next five miles you and your fur buddy will be walking on a level path and you will start seeing open meadows with fields of wildflowers in a plethora of vibrant colors. You will be able to catch some views of the mountains and the Laramie River the higher you get until you reach Island and Carey Lakes. There is excellent fishing here and you will likely be sharing the space with elk and bighorn sheep.
You and your canine kid can camp anywhere you like along the trail, but you must be 200 feet from the trail and water sources. Many backpackers camp about 3.2 miles into the trail where there is a large open space or at the Blue Lake Trail Junction around the 3.5-mile mark. No campfires or any open flames allowed over 10,800 feet elevation in the Rawah Wilderness Area, which includes both Island Lake and Carey Lake.
On the hike back whether you wait until morning or come back the same day, take the time to look around to see what you may have missed on the way up the path. There's always something new to see since nature is always moving and changing. You and your pup should also take some photos to share on Facebook, so you can remember this pawesome trail until you get to come back again