Photography - Riding - Scenery - Wildlife - Exploration
This is an early summer trip into our beautiful Gates Park camp on the North Fork of the Sun River. We generally stay here 4 nights and explore the many points of interest on day rides from camp. The area around Gates Park is full of late 19th century western history, as well as earlier native Indian history. Additionally, there are spectacular vista points from areas like Biggs Creek meadows and Bear Top Fire Lookout. The fishing is unpredictable this time of year, as the river can be high if we get a lot of snow and a later run off. If we have a normal winter and spring, the river is clearing up and the fishing can be quite good. However, the following week and after are more predictable for clear water.
This early in the season we can occassionally find elk and moose antler sheds in the nearby by meadows, testament to these these animals moving through in early spring chasing spring grass and headed to their summering grounds. This week is a good week to see wildlife as many of the cow elk, deer, and other animals as the animals with their young will stay in the river bottoms and lower elevations where the feed is lush, and we can often see them in our day rides and in the meadows near camp in the evenings. We also see large numbers of raptors this time of year, ranging from golden eagles, owls, ospreys, hawks, falcons, and dozens of other birds of prey.
While the days are long, you will find our night-time skys are spectacular with deep space views of the galaxy and beyond. The stargazing, as with our daytime scenery, is simply unparalleled by any in the lower 48 states. Many of our guests find themselves staying up to early morning watching the evening sky. Evening comes late this time of year as our sun sets around 10:00pm in the evening. It can be a challenge staying up late enough for the stars to come out after an exhilirating day, but it's absolutely worth it. There are rarely any forest fires this early in the West, so we can expect crystal clear nights for star viewing. The is no night polution and now early summer haze as the humidity is always quite low. The nights are cool so be prepared for that when you step away from the campfire.
The ride into the Gates Park camp is about 14 miles, starting at the South Fork Teton Trailhead and crossing over Headquarters Pass. The pass is awe inspiring with views deep into the mountains and out to the Great Plains - truly breathtaking. The ride from the pass into camp is a long gradual ride down into the Sun River valley where we camp about 10 minutes from the river. Riding this trail in early July you have a great option to see elk, black bear, mule deer, and often other animals as we follow Headquarters Creek. At the river is a suspension bridge, which is quite useful if the river is high. This bridge was originally built in the 1940's but was washed out in a mid-60's flood of epic proportions, then rebuilt. It's a neat experience to cross a suspension bridge on horseback - you'll love it!
On our final day we ride back out the same trail to the South Fork Trailhead.
This is a great trip with shorter travel days than many of our summer packtrips. The day rides go to some fascinating places of interest, but are not very long rides from the Gates Park camp. Fishing is an option, depending on the snowmelt and spring run off. The wildlife viewing is unsurpassed this time of year, and we can get to some superb viewing points that give you some great photo-ops and exploration options.
This time of year is the end of the cool season and the start of the warming season. We recommending layers (always in the mountains) with an eye towards chilly nights and mornings, and days in the 70's. Raingear is always appropriate for protections in the occasional mountain thunderstorm. Definitely bring hiking boots, and several changes of good thick socks to help with the moist grass in the morning and the generally damper ground in many places you will walk. The mosquito hours are short, but you will need repellant. A detailed gear list below can be downloaded and has additional detail.