Driving Wyoming’s Smith’s Forks/Grey’s River Road–Part 1

Now that's a warm. beautiful, inviting camp! My first camp on Smiths Fork Road.

Now that’s a warm. beautiful, inviting camp! My first camp on Smiths Fork Road.

This is the first post of two on the Smiths Fork/Grey’s River Road. I loved it so much, and took so many photos, I can’t get them all in one post. The first post covers the Smiths Fork Road to the Tri-Basin Divide when you turn north on the Grey’s River Road.

After I was done with the Beartooth Highway the heat wave that was covering the Pacific Northwest was in full swing and the 4th of July was coming up. I hate being on the road when it’s hot and I refuse to be traveling over major holidays like Independence Day. I checked with the Rangers and found out that the Smiths Fork and Grey’s River Loop was finally open and snow-free. That was further south and at higher elevation which meant it would be cooler, so that’s where I was going next. I’m so glad I did; the drive far exceeded my expectations and was truly beautiful. It’s just a stunningly gorgeous area!

LaBarge Meadow at the top of the Pass.

LaBarge Meadow at the top of the Pass. The road in the distance cuts south to Lander while I was headed north to Alpine. It’s a BIG meadow! Those trees in the distance are very large.

One of the things I’ve learned by trying to travel the most fantastic drives in the Rockies is that the drives are so different in character you have to judge them in a different light. This drive is totally different than the Beartooth, but that doesn’t’ mean it isn’t just as extraordinary in a different way. The Beartooth is very intense and dramatic, almost forbidding in its beauty, while the Smiths Fork/Grey’s River Road is very inviting and comforting. You are thrilled by the starkness of the Beartooth; metaphorically it screams at you, “I’m the power and majesty of the earth!” but you don’t feel like you want to spend a lot of time there. The Smiths Fork/Grey’s River Road isn’t thrilling in the same way, but its beauty tugs at your heart and whispers, “Wouldn’t you love to set up camp, relax and spend some time here? l’ll renew your soul!” From the depth of my heart, my answer was “Yes!” I loved the drive and would have been very happy spending a summer exploring all its many different roads into the mountains on both sides, but without internet, I couldn’t.

Map-Grey-River-Smoot

You’ve heard the phrase, “A land flowing with milk and honey.” that’s exactly how I felt about this drive. One way I look it is that the Beartooth is natures way of teaching us humility, Smith’s Fork/Grey’s River teaches us we are loved and cared for–both are lessons every human needs to be reminded of often!

Cody must be jealous of wildflowers, he want to be in their pictures!

Cody must be jealous of wildflowers, he wants to be in all their pictures!

I drove south from Jackson to Alpine and enjoyed again the beautiful drive along the Snake River–it’s one of those drives you can’t take often enough because it’s both thrilling like the Beartooth, but comforting like the Smiths Fork/Grey’s River Road . You have the choice to either begin the drive at Alpine and end it south of Smoots on 89, or you can drive south on 89 to Smoots then drive north ending at Alpine. One thing I’ve learned is that I much prefer driving with the sun at my back because I’m not squinting into the sun all the time. But more importantly I can see the landscape in the best light so I can photograph it without the sun in it and in front of me. It’s become popular to shoot into the sun but I hate it and almost never do it. I want the sun behind me or at a side for the light that I find the most attractive. For that reason I decided to drive it as a loop from south to north which put the sun at my back.

greys-wide-van-best-use

The drive along the Smith Fork Road from Smoots was just as beautiful as I remembered from my first attempt to drive it. The valley is mostly wide and rolling with the beautiful Smith’s River alongside it. There is so much rain and then snow that the whole area is very green and lush. I got about 10 miles into it and it was getting late so I started looking for a place to camp for the night. Fortunately that’s easy to do because beautiful campsites are a dime a dozen the whole drive! We found a superb campsite and spent the night there amongst big trees, tall mountains and sparkling creeks. The next morning Cody and I took a very nice walk through the meadows near camp and walked up the hills–of course Cody had to play in each and every creek!

Of course Cody was in love with all the creeks. He spent more time in them than on land!

Of course Cody was in love with all the creeks. He spent more time in them than on land!

grey-creek-001

I was there in late June and that was the perfect time for wildflowers! There were huge fields of different kinds of purple and yellow flowers and even some fields with large amount of both which is unusual. I had to stop often and take pictures which is one of the ways I judge a drive. The longer it takes to drive it because I have to stop for pictures, the higher the rating!

It's a long and winding road!

It’s a long and winding road!

The road itself is a wide, well-maintained dirt road that any vehicle can comfortably drive. There were a few patches where the road was wash-boarded and a few where the mud had dried in ruts, but they are minor problems and will just barely slow you down.

gregs-field-wildflwrs

At the top of the Smiths Fork Road you reach LaBarge Meadow which is just stunning! It’s very wide and rolling with small mountains around it. It had huge fields of wildflowers in it when I was there but they won’t last the whole summer. It was very also very green and lush. From there you can either continue southeast to Landers or turn north toward Alpine along the Grey’s River Road. Of course I went north and in my next post I’ll tell you all about it.

greys-top-narrow-road-001

Another shot of our first camp.

Another shot of our first camp.

Bob
About

I've been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

44 comments on “Driving Wyoming’s Smith’s Forks/Grey’s River Road–Part 1
  1. tommy helms says:

    Cody wants to be a star

  2. Openspaceman says:

    Bob_

    Approximately how long after I leave my “Soul Crushing” Job will it take for me to “Renew My Soul” if I spend everyday in nature next year?

    Great pics!

    • Bob Bob says:

      Openspaceman, on average, it takes 7 month, 18 days, and 31 minutes!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

      I’m teasing of course, I don’t know how long it will take, but I can tell you how it worked for me. One day I was out walking with Homer and it suddenly dawned on me that I was totally at peace; the committee in my head had gone silent and my worries, fears and resentments were simply gone.

      But I wasn’t just passively happy, I was actively filled with a deep-down contentment that I could only classify as joy. For the first time in my life, I had joy. Of course I don’t walk around all the time feeling joy, but it is a regular part of my life.

      If you will let it, I’m confident it will happen for you too! I just can’t be sure how long it will take. Few people start as deep in the hole as I was.
      Bob

      • Openspaceman says:

        “I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.”

        – John Muir

      • Don says:

        Hi Bob, Really amazing pictures of you’re June adventure up north! Admittedly you are rich with inner peace & freedom and that’s incredibly rare these days, LOL this coming from a lowly minion surviving in the big urban jungle of Southern California, cheers!! 🙂

  3. Old Fat Man says:

    I would like a clarification please. My travel trailer is an Arctic Fox 22H built for off pavement service. The pictures looked like it could easily handle the roads in general of this area. Does “any vehicle” definitely include travel trailers like mine? I do not mind having to go slowly and am actually used to it. Thank you for your great reporting.

    • Bob Bob says:

      No question about it Old Fat man, you’re trailer will be fine! At the very top of the pass it’s a little narrow, but I’m sure you could get through. The worst that would happen is you run into someone and have to squeeze past them. Everywhere else its very easy, no issues at all.

      If you can do without cell/internet, it will probably be the best place you’ve ever been!
      Bob

      • Old Fat Man says:

        I no longer have internet ability unless it is Wi-Fi and I refuse to run boosters. Cell is also in the same category. Fresh water is my limiting factor on boondocking at 12 days normally without scrimping. I usually get to antsy to stay longer than 12 days in one spot anyway. Thank you for the reply.

  4. jonthebru says:

    Great post, fantastic photos. Imagine 300,000,000 people in America and you discovered a place where none of them are!

    • Bob Bob says:

      That’s a very good way to look at it jonthebru!

      I was very lucky to have found this drive, I think it’s almost totally locals who know about it.
      Bob

  5. Bob — another great post. I’m headed up into Wyoming next week, so I’m looking forward to walking in your footsteps. A request/suggestion,which applies to all of your “travel guide” posts: when you tell us about a campsite, can you post the GPS coordinates along with the map reference? It also sometimes helps to post a wider-scale ma along with the close-ups, to locate the campsite/road in context. I’m hoping that I’ll cross paths with you and Cody again at some point … on my way north, I may stay at that UT site just above Moab where we met. Safe travels, and be well! (Oh, and a scritch behind the ears for Cody!)

    Rich
    Richard Muller recently posted…Revised routeMy Profile

    • Bob Bob says:

      Richad, I’ll try to remember to give the GPS coordinates. Because I don’t use GPS, it’s just another step that takes extra time and extra time is something I have very little of. Plus, not everyone uses them, so if I only have time to do one or the other, I can’t stop using maps–nearly everyone can use a map, not everyone can use GPS.

      I use Google maps for nearly all the maps I snip and publish as photos. All you have to do is google search “Alpine, WY”or “Smoot, WY” and then click on the map that will come up and you are looking at exactly the map I used. You can zoom it in and out to see everything you need or you can put it in satellite view and literally see it in a birds-eye view. You can even search on “directions Moab, UT to Alpine, WY” and it will give you turn-by-turn directions.

      Once you are there stop at the Rangers office and ask about the road conditions and get a free MVUM or a NF map and you are set. You can even download the MVUM as a .pdf.

      In this particular case, there are so many campsites there is no need to tell you that one–although sometimes that is not the case and GPS would really help.

      Finally, my experience with GPS off highway has been very, very poor. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been camped in the middle of nowhere and someone pulled into camp and said, “I’m looking for so-and-so and my GPS sent me here.” I said, “That’s 20 miles from here, good luck finding it.”

      When I was a campground host south of Yosemite in the Sierra NF, it was a standard joke among all the hosts at how bad GPS was in that area. It would send people in 40 foot RVs down these little roads Jeeps could barely handle. There used to be a backroad into Yosemite from our area that is impassable now and every summer GPS would send people that way because it cut a few miles off the trip.

      Once you leave the pavement, my experience has been that GPS does more harm than good. If you have a handheld backpackers GPS, they work good, but most of my readers aren’t using them.
      Bob

  6. jeff johnston says:

    Beautiful areas and photos. I am currently in the upper peninsula of Michigan within the Ottawa National forest camping in free campgrounds.Tremendous beauty and remoteness considering it’s the midwest.The campgrounds used to charge for a stay but they are no longer maintained by the feds therefore they no longer charge money for those particular ones.They still provide TP for the pit toilets but the water pumps no longer work. Works for me! Jeff the nomad

  7. PamP says:

    Thanks so much for writing about your travels. Time has run out on me and I can’t expect to have such adventures anymore, but I can sure enjoy yours. Love seeing Cody having fun too.

    • Bob Bob says:

      PamP, I’m very glad to share my life with you! I think the reason I love dogs so much is they just revel in life without a thought, worry or fear in the world. It’s a joy to watch–and to envy!

      Do you follow RVSue and Crew? I think you will love her!
      Bob

  8. Ming says:

    you’re right about the feel of the area! Your photos make it look so peaceful and gentle there, one could just sit and soak it in for weeks.

  9. Nancy bee says:

    Jeff

    Thanks for posting about the UP national forests. I checked it out. The Midwest is not all cornfields after all. When I read about the forest I felt the pull of the road so strongly. So thanks!

  10. I Love all the photo bombs Cody takes advantage of. Such a beautiful world and so many don’t take the time to see it. Your pictures are an encouragement to those that aspire or can’t get out.
    Diane Bentley recently posted…Boondocking and Keeping Dogs SafeMy Profile

  11. Al says:

    Hi Bob,

    Yours is such a fun blog. Look fwd to it. My wife,(who has experience camping in the jungle’s of SE Asia)thankfully,is just as enthusiastic about boon-docking FT as you and me. We both dry camped for 6 weeks in Borrego Springs Desert State Park,CA(very nice)and Holtville,CA., during the holiday season 12-2013/14 and have been talking about it ever since. After which we somehow discovered your blog and the inspirational documentary which reaffirmed our belief that life is to be traveled and enjoyed as opposed to being a “city slicker”. Fine with me all around!
    Our hope is to meet up with you one day on the trail.
    You sir are an inspiration and we cannot wait to rid ourselves of this “rat race”.

    Thanks again,and Happy Trails,
    Al & Kristi Cox

  12. Omar Storm says:

    Bob,

    Thanks for all the great info and pics. I was wondering what size file and format do you most often shoot your pics? RAW or JPEG? If JPEG, what size file? I’m trying to take notes and learn from your experience.

    Thanks again,
    Omar

  13. Teresa Poss says:

    Thank you for the wonderful photos! They bring back great memories! I was raised in Wyoming (part of it on the Shoshone/Arapaho Reservation, and part in Star Valley. I graduated from Star Valley High School), and my folks and I used to go up the Grey’s River all the time, hunting, fly fishing, camping, etc.! I have not been there in many years, but if your photos are any indication, it doesn’t look as though it has changed much! =)

  14. HOTROD says:

    Hi Bob,

    Every day I learn a little bit more about boondocking in NF. I am planning a trip This March to Sam Houston NF, TX.
    The SHNF tell me that I can camp anywhere off forest roads 150 yrds But, I must not take my 4×4 truck off the forest road. I was told I could park it on the side of the road then hike in. This effects my overall plan as I was going to sleep in my truck.
    I see that SHNF has designated Dispersed camp areas (8 of them) with fire rings and lantern hooks but everywhere else you must not drive off into the woods. This puts things into a different perspective and I must change my whole approach. I want more than just a thin tent wall between myself and the wild. I don’t want to be around screaming kids and rude city people, I want to be alone in nature hard to do sometimes at these prearranged dispersed camp sites.
    You appear to be very alone in your camp sites as I want to be so….

    In your experience is that normal for all NF to restrict dispersed camping vehicles to forest roads only?
    thanks

    • Bob Bob says:

      Hotrod, the problem is that Texas is so populated and most of the NFs there are full of homes and even businesses. To control it they are very strict with disepersed camping.

      Most other states out west do not have those oppressive rules. Long ago I gave up on Texas and just drive a little further to Lousiana or New Mexico where there is plenty of great dispersed camping. I stay at Flying Js or Walmarts in Texas. I avoid it like the plague!
      Bob

  15. Omar Storm says:

    Bob,

    Thanks for the info on picture file type and size.

    Omar

  16. Omar Storm says:

    Bob,

    I’ve been shooting small JPEG. pics. Those large files suck up a lot of hard drive space on my computer. How do you deal with space? External hard drive?

    Thanks,
    Omar

    • Bob Bob says:

      Omar, I have a laptop that is mainly for photos, it has Intel I7 with a Nvidia graphics card and 1 terabyte hard drive so I have enough room for lots of photos.

      What do you shoot with?
      Bob

  17. Omar Storm says:

    Bob,

    I have a Canon SL1 DSLR, but I’ve been considering the full frame Canon 6D, but it makes no sense unless I shoot large files, I suppose.

    Omar

    • Bob Bob says:

      Omar, by a total coincidence I have both of those cameras! I love the 6d but with a battery pack it’s a beast. I got the SL1 as a second body to be very light and small and also to always have a telephoto ready for action.

      Yes, if you are only working with small files the 6d would be wasted.
      Bob

  18. Omar Storm says:

    Bob,

    I think I should purchase an external hard drive and start shooting large files. Does Picasa also allow you to edit RAW files or are you using something else?

    Thanks,
    Omar

    • Bob Bob says:

      Omar, surprisingly Picassa works fine with RAW files but it is slow on my Intel Core I5. That’s why I bought the I7 with Nvidia graphics card. It handles them fine even with Picassa.
      Bob

  19. Omar Storm says:

    Bob, As you well know both the 6D and SL1 have great reviews. As you had mentioned, the 6D can be heavy to lug around but I guess that’s the price one pays for using FX format. I have lots to think about. Your pics are great as usual.

    Omar

  20. Omar Storm says:

    Thanks Bob.

    Omar

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