OverviewMedicine Bow Peak is located in the rugged, beautiful mountains of the Snowy Range in central southern Wyoming west of Laramie. It has the feel of being in a remote part of the world even though it is accessible from the scenic Snowy Range Road connecting Laramie and Saratoga. There are some technical climbing routes on the steep east faces, and an awesome 7.4 mile trail loop that is great for recreational climbing or hardcore trail running. The road closes for most of the long winter months, but you can still access the area on snowshoes or cross-country skis. The easiest route is a moderate to difficult hike for the average weekend hiker.
The Snowy Range is a massive quartzite block sitting atop the Medicine Bow Mountains. The block is faulted on the SE creating a cliff system 500-1500 feet high providing a unique playground - Wyoming's highest paved through road passes directly along this escarpment at an altitude of 10,800'. When the road is open, from late May to early October, mountain enthusiasts have the option of skiing the snow-filled couloirs, climbing the clean blocky faces or peak bagging on 5-mile-wide Medicine Bow or 11,722-foot-high Browns Peaks. Routes of all grades are found on the walls above Lake Marie with most climbs starting within one mile of the highway. Disaster Wall is named for a United Airlines DC3 carrying memebers of the LDS church back to Utah from Europe which struck the wall after going off course after takeoff from Denver. Part of the wreckage can still be seen in Lookout Lake and on ledges above.
This is the highest peak in the southeastern quarter of the state. From the summit that much of the state can be seen as well as several mountain ranges of Colorado including Longs Peak, Mount Zirkel, and the Never Summers.
Getting ThereFrom Interstate-80 in Southeast Wyoming, drive to Wyoming Highway 130, which heads west from Laramie (Laramie is west of Cheyenne). Drive Highway 130 west through Centennial, and continue over Snowy Range Pass. Once in the mountains, you will pass Snowy Range Ski Area and a number of campsites, pullouts, and scenic stops before arriving at destination. The Medicine Bow Peak ridge is very obvious from Highway 130.
For Lewis Lake Trailhead, take the established road towards Sugarloaf Campsite, Libby Lake Campsite, and Lewis Lake Campsite (located about one mile east of the obvious loop in the road). Lewis Lake (the desired campsite/trailhead) is the farthest north of the three, just northeast of Libby Lake, and just east of Lewis Lake. See the Route section for further details on this route...
Lake Marie West Trailhead:
To reach it, proceed to the west end of the Medicine Bow Peak 'summit ridge', which is very steep and rocky. There are two Lake Marie Trailheads, but the best option for this route is the Lake Marie "West" Trailhead (see photos in this section for a picture of the sign). See the Route section for further details on this route.
'GETTING THERE' FROM OTHER DIRECTIONS:
For the I-80 directions from Laramie, see above.
Drive I-80 past Fort Steele and take the Highway 130 exit to Saratoga. Continue south until you see the east turn towards Ryan Park and Medicine Bow National Forest.
From Steamboat Springs in Colorado, drive Highway 40 to the Highway 14 exit that goes towards Walden. From Walden, drive north to the break in the road between Highways 125 and 127. The distance via Laramie and Saratoga is virtually the same, so use an ATLAS and decide accordingly. From the Front Range of Colorado, drive I-25 North to Cheyenne, and get onto I-80 which you'll follow to Laramie, as described above.
As from the South, the distance via Laramie and Saratoga is virtually the same, so again, decide accordingly and follow the EAST and WEST directions as described above.
Red TapeFor of all of the Snowy Range, it is requested that all fires are at least 200 yards from lakes, streams, and trails, and no discharging firearms within vicinity of the lakes, streams, or trails. Open fires are banned during the drier months (check with the ranger station), and for winter or low-danger months, it is RECOMMENDED that campers and climbers use stoves instead of open fires. Hikers are asked to restrain from cutting trails and donations are always encouraged. Also, cutting down timber is strictly prohibited - even when it involves dead trees. Picking up dead timber off the ground is permitted, but even scraping dry twigs off tree branches is prohibited, and hefty fines accompany violation of this regulation.
Considerably more regulations exist if you are going to hunt or fish, in which proper licenses and permits are required. See the Wyoming Game and Fish website.
When To ClimbIf you're into day hiking, the best months will be July, August, and September, but climbers up for a greater challenge should enjoy year-round opportunities. As always, be prepared for avalanches, especially on the south and east slopes were snow-loading is common. Stick to the wind-blown rocks if all else fails. In the summer, be ware of lightning. The Snowy Range receives a great deal of snow/rain, and thunderstorms build fast.
Also, remember that during the winter months the roads are closed a few miles past Snowy Range Ski Area (which puts a damper on the day!). Climbs are still possible during the winter, but long slogs amidst buzzing snowmobiles may not be your cup of tea! However, Highway 130 from Centennial to Saratoga is usually plowed during May, opening great "winter" climbing opportunities on all the peaks within the vicinity of Medicine Bow Peak.
CampingCamping is allowed, but as noted in Red Tape section, no fires within 200 yards of lakes, streams, or trails, and stoves are recommended instead of fires. If you want a fire, the preferred method is camping at a designated campsite (Lake Libby, Lake Lewis, or Sugarloaf Campsites...). Otherwise, use caution and make sure there are no fire bans with the Ranger Station. Gathered firewood must be dead and on the ground; cutting down timber (even dead) is strictly prohibited.
Mountain ConditionsCentennial, Wyoming
Contact the Brush Creek Ranger Station:
South Hwy. 130
Saratoga, Wyoming 82331
History and Misc.A brief history of Medicine Bow National Forest is available here:
Medicine Bow National Forest Information
Special thanks to SP member Sequoia for the following information:
"2002 marks the 100th year of Forest Service conservation and public service for the Medicine Bow! The Medicine Bow has had a long and colorful history.
The Medicine Bow Forest Reserve was established on May 22, 1902. The original boundary of the forest reserve was about two million acres. The east boundary was the Laramie Ranger District. The west boundary was the Brush Creek Ranger District. The north boundary was just south of the present one. And, the south boundary extended south into Colorado all the way to Estes Park, and included part of the Parks Ranger District and the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests.
In 1908, the forest reserve was divided into two National Forests. The Colorado portion became the Medicine Bow National Forest, and the Wyoming portion became the Cheyenne National Forest.
In 1910, the Forests went through another name change. In Colorado, the Medicine Bow National Forest was renamed the Colorado National Forest. In Wyoming, the Cheyenne National Forest was renamed the Medicine Bow National Forest.
In 1924 some lands within the Medicine Bow were eliminated and the Sheep Mountain unit was added. There were then four ranger districts – Centennial, Fox Park, Bow River, and Brush Creek.
The Hayden Division of the Medicine Bow National Forest was originally the Sierra Madre Forest Reserve established in 1906. This forest reserve also had a complicated history. In 1908 the Sierra Madre Forest Reserve and Park Range Reserve (now part of the Routt National Forest) combined to form the Hayden National Forest. In 1929 Herbert Hoover dismantled the Hayden National Forest. The Colorado portion became the Routt National Forest and the Wyoming portion was added to the Medicine Bow National Forest as the Hayden Division, later the Hayden Ranger District.
What about Pole Mountain? Pole Mountain was established in 1900 as part of the Crow Creek Forest Reserve. In 1903, by Executive order, the land was transferred to the War Dept as the Fort D.A. Russell Target and Maneuver Reservation. In 1905, the Crow Creek Reserve became part of the Cheyenne Forest Reserve and later became part of the Medicine Bow National Forest in 1910. However, in 1910, the War Dept took complete control of Pole Mountain. In 1925, Pole Mountain was transferred back to the Forest Service, and in 1961 all military interest in the Pole Mountain area was terminated.
The Laramie Peak unit of the Medicine Bow National Forest was added in 1935.
Originally in the early 1900’s, the Forest Service was in the Bureau of Forestry in the Department of the Interior. In 1905 the Forest Service was transferred to the Department of Agriculture while the Medicine Bow Forest Reserve was under the administration of the first forest supervisor, Lewis G. Davis, who served from 1903 to 1907."
A sign above Medicine Bow Peak summarizes HISTORY, GEOLOGY, and GLACIATION in the area.
"The Snowy Range is part of the Medicine Bow mountains that extend 90 miles from Elk Mountain, Wyoming south to Cameron Pass, Colorado. The Medicine Bow Mountains derived its name from the Native Americans who first came to the area to cut mountain mahogany, water birch, and juniper for bow making. Native American groups have inhabited these mountains over the past 12,000 years. Family groups would move into the area during the summer months to hunt, collect plants, and enjoy the scenery, as we do today.
The original Snowy Range Road was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the early 1930's. This organization was founded by Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to the great depression. The CCC provided jobs and training for a number of people. They were responsible for constructing many of the trails and structures that still exist today on the forest."
- Trip Report
1995 Trip report details a hike up Medicine Bow Peak
- WInter and Spring Snow Climbs
Detailed trip report for Medicine Bow Peak, WY