Miller Mountain: Exploring Wyoming Hogbacks

Wyoming Wheeling

Larry E. HeckPhotographer, Writer

Lone Writer and Happy Jack were relaxing on the banks of the Green River a few miles south of a community called La Barge, Wyoming. They had been exploring back roads along the Oregon Trail, but ran out of tracks at the river crossing.

During the 1800s there would have been no question about which way to go next. The route was carved into the landscape from the wooden wheels of many wagon trains. There were no highways or towns and no concerns about private property. The only concern in those days was getting through the untamed wilderness before winter snows stopped them in their tracks.

The mountains west of La Barge were never a part of the Oregon Trail. The first Euro-Americans to see that part of the country were fur trappers and trail scouts. The first documented expedition through that part of the country for the purpose of fur trading was led by Robert Stuart in 1812. He is credited with the discovery of South Pass over the Continental Divide, which eventually became the primary crossing of the divide for people traveling the Oregon Trail.

The Oregon Trail went southwest from where La Barge is located. About half way to where Kemmerer, Wyoming, is now located, the trail turned west and passed through current day Cokeville, Wyoming. Use of the Oregon Trail declined in 1869 after the railroad was completed.

Kemmerer was founded in 1892 and is now a major city. In 1902, James Cash Penney opened his first dry goods store. Mr. J. C. Penney went on to create one of the largest chain stores in the nation.

Lone Writer took a sip of Pepsi from a cup filled to the brim with ice. His lawn chair was positioned a short distance downstream from a bridge over the Green River. He was watching a critter swimming upstream with a large stick in its mouth.

"Is that a muskrat or a beaver?" he pondered aloud.
Happy Jack pushed his hat back on his head and took another drag on his cigar.
"Don't look like no beaver to me."
The critter swam under the bridge and went out of sight. Lone Writer leaned back in his chair.
"We can't follow the Oregon trail from here," he said. "It crosses into private lands. Probably faded out anyway."
He pointed to a mountain peak in the distance.
"I ain't never been to Miller Mountain. How 'bout we spend the night up there."

They followed Highway 189 going south to the intersection for Muddy Creek Road. After turning west, they followed the creek as it climbed gradually in elevation to a point where other creeks flowed into it. The road turned north and then back west making a steeper ascent along Delaney Creek. Eventually, the road reached the top of the hogback that makes up the foothills of Miller Mountain. There are actually two peaks along that hogback that are designated as Miller Mountain. Both of them can be found on the Internet and in other publications where someone has counted the mountain peaks in Wyoming.

The landscape in that part of the state has taken on the name of the Fontenelle Hogbacks. Imagine being in an ocean with enormous waves. Now imagine those waves frozen in place. Imagine the tops of those waves rising a thousand feet above the valleys between them. In that imaginary world, change the water to land and you have a visual of the Fontenelle Hogbacks.

In the hogbacks, the tops of the waves are ridges many miles long. The valleys between them have become the paths of least resistance for water flow and each one has its own creek. Some roads follow the tops of the ridges and some follow the creeks. Other roads cross the valleys and ridges connecting them together. Beautiful forests and fields of flowers flourish in the fertile lands along the creeks. The ridges are mostly covered with a semi-arid breed of brushy grass.

Lone Writer and Happy Jack camped at the top of a grassy ridge. They were overlooking the valley where the Green River flows on the east side of the hogbacks. Their camp was about 2,000 feet higher in elevation than the bridge where this story started. Portions of the Green River and lakes formed by its flow were visible from the camp.

A camp for Lone Writer and Happy Jack leaves no trace. Both of the Nissan Xterras were parked beside the trail with the front ends facing west. Lawn chairs were the first to be unloaded. They were placed behind the Xterras facing east. Lone Writer also has two small tables that are placed on either side of his chair. One table holds the cook stove and the other is used as a place for plates and drinks.

Since there had not been a campfire at that location before, they did not make one. Happy Jack ate one of his prepared meals. Lone Writer started out with a dinner salad covered in ranch dressing. He followed that with a couple pork chops cooked on a camp stove. The meal was finished with a can of fruit cocktail. Both of them ate their meals while admiring the scenery across the valley floor where the Green River flowed.

The night was clear and the sky was full of stars but neither traveler lasted very long after the sun went down. They do not use tents so the back end of the Xterras become bedrooms. They moved things around a little and made beds using lawn chair cushions. It is nice and cozy no matter what the weather does. When they left in the morning, nothing remained to indicate they were ever there.

The Xterra Pro-4X driven by Lone Writer was provided by Nissan. Tires are provided by BFGoodrich. GPS and mapping software is provided by DeLorme. For more information, visit or email

Navigation: GPS Positions
This trip begins south of La Barge, Wyoming, or north of Kemmerer, Wyoming, depending on which way you arrive. The first position below is between the two cities on Highway 189. Most of the name references used are not marked on the route. They were obtained using DeLorme Topo North America and using GPS logging.
Latitude Longitude Comments
N429.4603 W110 11.2790 Turn on Muddy Creek Road going west off Highway 189.
N42 10.0263 W110 18.6599 The road crosses Muddy Creek and then takes a turn to the North until it connects to DeLaney Creek.
N42 11.0279 W110 21.6136 The road crosses DeLaney Creek and begins a gradual climb up the ridge.
N 42 12.0070 W110 27.1005 The road runs along the top of the ridge for a while. The elevation is about 8,600 feet with a great view to the east.
N 42 12.9889 W 110 28.7945 We turned right at this intersection so we could connect to the La Barge Creek Road. Before doing that, we spent several hours exploring the roads going left. Lots of beautiful mountain country.
N42 18.6001 W110 28.3037 This intersection is La Barge Creek Road. Turn right to complete a loop back to the starting point. Turn left to enter the Bridger Teton National Forest and eventually connect to Highway 89 north of Geneva, Idaho.

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