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Day 22: Teton Reservoir to USFS Sandstone Work Center (42.4 miles, 3,622ft)

Today, we had a shorter day than we’d had in a while, but we returned to the mountains and had a good deal more climbing than the previous few days, even over a much shorter distance.

Hoping to be in Steamboat Springs in two days, we planned a relatively short day to a primitive campsite near Aspen Alley (a narrow dirt road bounded on either side by aspen groves) followed by a long day into Steamboat Springs.

We started out from Teton Reservoir, still riding in open, arid countryside on a wide, relatively smooth dirt road (County Road 401).

The last miles in desert

Around 15 miles into the ride, we reached the top of Middlewood Hill—our 15th divide crossing—and an aspen grove. These were the first trees we’d seen in a while.

Meeting some Continental Divide Trail thru-hikers on the way up Middlewood Hill

Those trees aside, the terrain remained barren for the next 15 miles along a winding and rolling road until we entered the Medicine Bow National Forest on Forest Road 801. Here the road quality became much more gravelly, but the scenery improved greatly. We rode through beautiful aspen forests, descending to and ascending from several clear streams—good for water filtration (the largest of which was Big Sandstone Creek).

Our map noted a primitive camp area where we hoped to camp, just before Aspen Alley. Unfortunately, when we arrived the Little Sandstone Creek was mostly dry, and the pipe and pit toilets that we’d heard of had been removed in recent years.

Aspen Alley

On the advice of some locals camping in the area on account of Labor Day weekend, we continued via Aspen Alley to Wyoming Route 70 and rode a couple of miles to the US Forest Service Sandstone Work Center—our map noted water and restrooms here.

When we arrived at the center—a few cabins and the work center hosts’ RV—we asked about camping options in the area, and the gracious hosts said we’d be welcome to set up a tent by the cabin picnic tables for the night. Complete with restrooms and water, we couldn’t have found a better spot (for camping with kids).

Eleanor amongst the Aspens.
US Forest Service cabin