The Fourth of July Trail begins in forest and brush, with two hops over Fourth of July Creek. It quickly begins to climb with dedication, and it doesn’t stop until nothing is left but downhill slopes on either side of Icicle Ridge and the spine of the ridge itself. The entire trail lies on the south- to southwest-facing slope of the ridge, so this approach to Icicle Ridge is notoriously hot and notoriously mined with rattlesnakes. An easier approach can be seen here. The upside to the scorching heat is that it gets the juices flowing in the trees, and the air is thick with the vanilla-butterscotch scent of ponderosa pines. After a seasonal spring at about 2 miles, switchbacks tack up a slope occasionally punctuated with shade-giving pines. The Stuart Range, home of the Enchantments, looms directly across the narrow valley. There are no campsites along the first half of the trail because the slope is simply too steep. Evidence of wildfires begins to appear: Trunk-blackened but still-living trees and time-silvered skeletons whisker the slope, and young aspen take advantage of the open space.
The grade eases somewhat, but blowdowns make an obstacle course of the trail and are strewn around the first campsite. After a few more switchbacks through a dense but open forest of bleached dead trees, a second small campsite lies at the west end of a switchback under a rock outcropping. The ground around the fire ring is cramped, but there’s a flat spot under a pine a few paces to the southwest. From here, the trail starts a gentle traverse beneath Icicle Ridge, and a few final switchbacks lead to the broad ridge itself. Plenty of level, if lumpy, spots provide suitable campsites. It appears that the dispersed camping done on the ridge has been random enough not to leave any campsite scars, though there’s evidence of disassembled fire rings.