Curt Gowdy State Park is an outstanding destination for mountain bikers and can sometimes be challenging for hikers due to bike traffic on the trails. The Lariat Equestrian Trail is a nice alternative that doesn’t allow bikes and covers a lot of the same country that the mountain bike trails cross. One issue with the Lariat Trail is that, because it is maintained for horses, many areas of the trail lead cross-country through meadows of high grass; navigation is a bit of a challenge and annoying, and sharp seeds will fill your boots. This adventure consists of a hybrid hike using the Lariat Equestrian Trail for the outbound and the Stone Temple Circuit Trail for the return.
The Aspen Grove Trailhead is a major launching point for the entire trails complex west of Granite Springs Reservoir. Ample parking for cars and horse trailers as well as several camping spots for tents or RVs make this a busy spot. The Lariat Trail begins at the gate on the west side of the horse-trailer parking area and goes through the corrals on both sides of the trail. Past this point the trail is a faint double-track through rolling hills dotted with aspens, pines, and wildflowers. It is a pretty steady climb to the far western end of the trail, and the Lariat Trail disappears almost entirely at the intersection with the Stone Temple Circuit Trail. Taking a left and following the Stone Temple Trail downhill provides an easy to follow and scenic path through tall rock outcroppings and long views down to Granite Springs Lake. Be aware that bikes can appear quickly behind you and stay alert to move to the side of the trail. One highlight on this section of the trail is the impressive Stone Temple rock formation that towers a few hundred feet over the trail and can be a fun scramble to the top.