The trailhead has a small parking area at the south end of the BLM campground. Start by crossing the Encampment River and you head south.
The trail drops away on your right to the river about fifteen feet below. Soon there will be sections winding through sage and a few small drops into normally dry creek crossings. A few miles along the trail, there are some rocky sections to watch your footing on.
After about five miles, you come to Purgatory Gulch. Here, the Encampment River Trail enters Wilderness or hikers can turn left (north) to continue up Purgatory Gulch on Purgatory Gulch Trail #477.