Lake Marie Trailhead

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 41.36100°N / 106.318°W
Additional Information Route Type: Hike / Basic Snow Climb (Seasonal)
Additional Information Time Required: Half a day
Additional Information Difficulty: Moderate Walk-up
Sign the Climber's Log


Medicine Bow Peak can be accessed via the Snowy Mountain Scenic Biway (Hwy 130) via the West from Saratoga and the East from Laramie. From Laramie, enter the town of Centennial and go 14 miles west to the Lake Marie Picnic Area Parking. Please note that this scenic Biway is typically closed during the winter and does not reopen until Memorial Day following a 2 to 3 week snow plow assault conducted by the highway department in WY. The beauty of this trailhead is that it is located pretty much in the center of the Biway at the almost the highest point of elevation and is a great place to stop and take pictures for passer-bys. Lake Marie is the Western most lake at the top of the Biway in front of the granite faces of the Medicine Bow range. Unless, its really foggy or cloudy its hard to miss while driving. The range itself is much more striking coming from the East so for a better view, drive from Laramie

Route Description

Lake Marie Trailhead seems to be much more of a tourist photo stop than it does a trailhead. Arrive early because parking seems to fill up as the day goes by. The lot itself is just to the southwest corner of Lake Marie which falls below the impressive granite faces of the Medicine Bow Range. Doing a quick internet search via Google will show you that once an airplane crashed into this face and rests in the bottom of Lake Marie. I looked for parts sticking out of the water but had no success. There are sites that describe it in better detail. The trailhead begins as a nice inviting trail at approximately 11,000' (I would double check this) that heads in a westerly direction to the rounded edges of the granite monolithic structures.

From here, it gains elevation going in a northerly direction to put you high up on the structures of the granite faces. One soon finds out that atop these impressive cliffs are nothing more than rolling hills that subside away in a northerly direction away from the cliff edges. The peaks of granite from the parking lot look rather impressive and technical but the easiest route takes the backdoor approach winning the summit via switchbacks and a family hiking route. The entire trail up is clearly marked with visible carins that have wooden post centers. I think they are the best rock carins I have seen in my time climbing! Once on the Northern side of the monolithic granite, the trail forks with a distinct sign showing the way to Medicine Bow Peak.

Just below the peak there is a semi-exposed section of rock and/or snow that really isn't that bad. Some trip reports make this out to be some type of monster of a couloir that one might need a rope for. Its basically a slanted 35 degree pitch about 25 foot long that traverse just above the edge of one of the cliffs and the top of a real couloir that leads to the summit rocks above. Don't be intimidated and just take your time. In icy conditions crampons might be helpful but probably not necessary. See the photos in this route section for a picture.

Once at the summit, one is tempted to go back the same way but the trail makes a full circle coming back down going east. it travereses the cliff edges in a safe manner and then hits a saddle that gains switchbacks to the lower valley. The trails below the summit are very noticeable from the top and you can get there fairly quickly. Once in the "bowl" below the granite peaks, continue heading westerly along the beautiful lakes to Lake Marie. Overall the route takes about 5 or 6 hours depending on your rest breaks and physical ability and in my estimation was a good 5 or 6 miles in roundtrip.

Essential Gear

Seasonaly, this would be a great snow climb affording one the chance to kick step trail with double plastics and maybe an ice axe. For the most part late summer hikes can be done with a good 'ol pair of Nikes or trail running shoes. Early Summer poses more snow melt problems where sneakers at lower elevations will become soggy and no fun. My over all recommendation is leather boots and the 10 essentials. There have been a lot of lightning incidents in the area so be careful and even though the peak is a "tame" one, don't let complaceny strike you down.



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