Rocky Fork

Round Trip Distance: up to 14.4 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 7,658 - 10,052 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 2+ hrs.
Trailhead: Rocky Fork
Fee: none
Attractions: Forest hike

The Rocky Fork trail is located east of Basalt, Colorado in the White River National Forest. Beginning at a primitive campground in the Rocky Fork Day Use Area, that is popular with fly fisherman for it's stretch of Gold Medal waters of the Fryingpan River, the trail climbs up the Rocky Fork drainage for just over 7 miles with a connection to the Miller Creek trail near its end. The trail is fairly steep at first but levels off and continues with an easy to moderate slope.

From Basalt follow Highway 82, the Fryingpan River Road, for 10 miles and turn right at the sign for the Rocky Fork Day Use Area. After turning off of the highway cross the bridge over the Fryingpan River and follow the road to the left. Most passenger cars should be able to manage the road in good conditions. As the road passes the spillway below Ruedi Dam it climbs a hill where the a few primitive campsites can be found. You can enter 'Rock Fork Campground Basalt, Colorado' in your driving app for turn by turn directions.

From the parking area follow the obvious trail that heads up the valley. There is a kiosk at the trail and a brown carsonite trail marker but currently there isn't a sign that says Rocky Fork.

After a short distance the trail crosses Rocky Fork Creek. Even families with small children should find this first part of the trail enjoyable for a short hike or picnic.

For as far as we went (3 miles) the trail remained on the east side of Rocky Fork Creek after crossing the bridge.

The climb up the canyon goes from moderate to steep and stays that way for more than a quarter of a mile. The drainage is more like a ravine in a few spots where it is too narrow for any switchbacks to lessen the steepness of the trail.

After the trail levels off it is once again traveling close to the creek.

For the rest of the way the trail varies from relatively flat stretches to sections with some easy to moderate climbing. The further you go up the valley the less traveled the trail becomes but at no time in the distance that we went did the trail ever totally disappear. As you can imagine from some of these photos where the creek is so accessible from the trail that this is truly a dogs paradise.

We did see quite a bit of bear scat along the trail, especially after the first mile from the trailhead. Mother bears with cubs don't take too kindly to dogs but if they hear you coming they usually high tail it before you get very close. We always carry a large can of bear spray and try not to make too much noise so we can perhaps get some photos but in the process we are trying to be super sensitive to our surroundings. We generally try to keep an eye on our back trail to make sure something isn't stalking us.

It is always enjoyable each year to follow the springtime bloom of flowers from the desert to higher elevations as the valleys heat up down below and the snow retreats up above in the higher elevations.

We turned around at the 3 mile point on this hike because the thunder was beginning to sound rather ominous. It's tough sometimes when you always want to see what's around the next corner.

On this day it was raining for the last mile back to the trailhead but not enough to bother with the raincoat. Simply covering the camera with my cap to keep it dry was sufficient. It was all blue skies and 77 F. degrees when we left the trailhead and a thundering 55 degrees when we got back. We weren't at all worried about lightening reaching into the depths of the narrow canyon and the trees were too thick to let much rain through either so it turned out being almost perfect the way that it was. The steep part of the trail is excellent exercise and you can hike all the way up on top if you like. Rocky Fork is kind of a hike made to order for whatever type of workout seems good. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.