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Medicine Bow Wyoming
Medicine Bow Wyoming; the Medicine Bow Mountains and National Forest
Southeast of the small town of Medicine Bow, Wyoming lie the Medicine Bow Mountains and the Medicine Bow National Forest. The Snowy Range is part of this area as well. Along Interstate Highway 80, Laramie which is to the east, is the nearest sizable town but the forest can be easily reached by Highway 130.
With peaks over 11,000 feet, Medicine Bow National Forest provides panoramic views of the surrounding Wyoming countryside and access to pristine lakes, streams and ponds.
On this page I will share information and pictures from an August 2010 trip to Medicine Bow Wyoming. If you are traveling near this area, a visit is worth your time. It's far less crowded and much more affordable than visits to the national parks in the northwest corner of Wyoming, so a side trip should be considered if you're headed to Yellowstone or Grand Teton. There is no entrance fee of course, and lodging is more reasonable in the area.
My Visit to Medicine Bow Wyoming
The Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming has 3 main districts. I visited the Laramie District and the Brush Creek-Hayden District, but didn't get to venture into the Douglas District. It offers activities like backpacking, hiking, walking, bicycling, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, camping, four wheel driving, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.
I was traveling east on interstate highway 80 through Wyoming after hiking in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Exiting on highway 130, I stopped at the Ranger station in Saratoga to pick up some detailed trail and park maps. I spent the first of two nights in Ryan Park on the west side of Medicine Bow National Forest. For the next day and a half I hiked trails around the area and had meals and lodging between Ryan Park (on the west) and the town of Centennial which lies on the eastern border of the park.
One of the most dramatic views from the road itself, is the Lake Marie area which is pictured above. Medicine Bow Peak can be seen towering above the blue lake at 11,755 feet.
Across the road from this, is Lake Marie Falls which has a short trail that leads from the falls, around a small pond and lush growth, and then potentially on to the French Creek Canyon. There are a couple of photos in the slideshow below that feature this area.
The Lake Trail is one that starts at the southwest end of Lookout Lake (just northeast of Lake Marie) and continues through Alpine country and provides excellent views of Medicine Bow Peak and the lake below. There are some pictures of this view lower on the page as well.
To the right is a view of a small portion of that trail which was blanketed with a wide variety of wildflowers, including Columbine.
The trail is only 1.8 miles but fairly steep at points. The high altitude also needs to be considered when hiking this and other trails in the area as hydration and frequent rest periods may be needed.
While the Medicine Bow Peak trail extends further and takes hikers to a great view of the surrounding area, my time didn't permit me to explore that far. I have posted a video below however, that gives you a glimpse of the peak and surrounding countryside.
In fact, there are many trails to the north and east of the peaks that take hikers past the various mountain lakes that were out of reach for my short visit. Of course hikers taking these trails definitely need to consider high winds and dropping temperatures as well as the altitude. Even the sunniest August day can become quite cold in this environment.
My next hike offered access right off of highway 130 just a bit further east. I took a short .7 mile walk around the Miner's Cabin trail to view the Red Mask mine (or what is left of it) and the cabin where miners once lived. A view of the cabin is here to the right.
From here, I extended my hike down the Tipple Trail which traverses wooded alpine areas westward toward the Lake Marie Falls area and the French Creek Canyon about 2 miles away. Following this hike, I continued eastward to the Libby Flats Observation Point to get a view of the landscape to the south. This is the highest point along the road and allows you to see for many miles. It's windy, but requires no hiking, just a short walk to small tower. (A photo taken from the tower is immediately below)
Other trails that I hiked included the Silver Lake Trail and some of the Brush Creek trails at the west end of the park. Silver Lake was the more challenging hike with a 280' elevation change but it rewarded me with nice views of an alpine lake and millions of wildflowers. The Slash Ridge Trail and Slash Ridge Loop combined provided around 4 miles of hiking that was fairly easy in the Brush Creek area just inside the western border of the park.
At the eastern end of the park I sampled the Corner Mountain trail in the late afternoon. It was 7 miles long so I wasn't able to walk the entire distance that late in the day, but it was heavily wooded on the portion that I walked with a gradual upgrade.
Medicine Bow Pictures - Click on Thumbnail Photos to EnlargeClick thumbnail to view full-size
More Medicine Bow Pictures - Click on Thumbnail Photos to EnlargeClick thumbnail to view full-size
Additional Medicine Bow Photos - Click on Thumbnail Photos to EnlargeClick thumbnail to view full-size
Find Medicine Bow Wyoming
Sit Atop Medicine Bow Peak
More Snowmobiling, Biking, and Hiking Trail Information at Medicine Bow Wyoming
There are over 60 miles of snowmobile trails in Medicine Bow National Forest/Routt National Forest. Calling 307-745-2300 or 307-326-5258 to one of the Ranger Districts will allow you to obtain information about the opportunities.
There are several dozen trails in the Medicine Bow area but about 18 that lie along the highway 130 route that I took. The most rugged trails in this area are probably the Medicine Bow Peak trail at 4. 5 miles with steep climbing as well as the French Creek Canyon trail which is 5.3 miles long with an equal elevation change at 1600 feet. The longest trail is the Sheep Lake Trail at 8.2 miles; it has a 1300' elevation change.
There are also many trails under 1 mile that are suitable for those who just want to sightsee. Viewing Lake Marie Falls requires little more than a walk down a few steps and seeing Lake Marie itself involves a walk across the parking lot. The Heart Lake Trail (0.8 mi), Vagner Lake Trail (0.5 mi), Deep Lake Trail (0.5 mi), and Miners Cabin Trail (0.7 mi) are all under a mile in length.
There is also a hard packed rail trail that is perfect for biking and walking which extends probably 21 miles. It provides a fairly level surface which means that even if you bicycle only casually, the ride should be fairly easy. You can find more information about this trail here.
Medicine Bow National Forest trail maps generally indicate not only distance but elevation changes so that visitors can easily determine the difficulty of any hike.
Medicine Bow Wyoming Lodging and Campgrounds
There are at least a couple of dozen campgrounds in the mountain ranges in and around Medicine Bow. To get information or make reservations, call 1-877-444-6777. There are cabins, lodges, guest ranches, and bed and breakfasts as well. You can also visit http://www.recreation.gov to make reservations.
Laramie is approximately 48 miles to the northeast and certainly offers lodging but even the tiny towns of Ryan Park and Centennial on each end of Medicine Bow National Forest have facilities as well. I spent the night in Ryan Park at the Rendezvous Lodge. I had no reservation, but they had a vacancy. The room was large, modern, and clean and the attached restaurant featured homestyle meals. This is also where I got my closest look at a moose. (pictured in a slideshow above)