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Backpacker Magazine – June 2010

Rip & Go: Snowy Range Loop, Medicine Bow National Forest, WY

See snaggly summits and hook trout galore on a high-alpine trek.

by: Kelly Bastone

At the foot of Medicine Bow Peak. (Brett Deacon,
At the foot of Medicine Bow Peak. (Brett Deacon,
Essential fishing gear. (Courtesy Orvis)
Essential fishing gear. (Courtesy Orvis)

Download a printable version of this entire trip right here.
Get IMAX-size scenery for iPod-size effort on this 15.6-mile circuit, which serves up constant vistas of ridiculously rugged peaks, but climbs fewer than 1,500 vertical feet and connects the range’s best fishing lakes—so trout dinners are almost a given. From the parking area at Brooklyn Lake (1), hike north past unnamed tarns on the Sheep Lake Trail to North Twin Lakes (2) at 1.5 miles. Follow the trail west across boulder-strewn tundra to the junction at Sheep Lake (3), and head west on the Gap Lakes Trail. Pass through small patches of Englemann spruce and subalpine fir. Just beyond sits Cutthroat Lake (4), which despite its name yields few trout. For better fishing, hike a half-mile farther and camp on a high plateau at 10,900 feet (5). From here, Crescent Lake is visible to the east, 120 feet downhill. Hike off-trail .25 mile to its treeless shoreline (6) and use a Royal Wulff to catch your dinner. Wyoming fishing license required ($6-14/day; Next morning, head south skirting windswept North Gap Lake, climb to the saddle (7), and ogle the jagged cirque hemming South Gap Lake. Descend to the shoreline, past the Lost Lake Trail junction (8), and head south on the Gap Lakes Trail, entering a parking lot and picnic ground (with pit toilets) at Lewis Lake (9). Take the Medicine Bow Peak Trail up 1,260 feet to the 12,013-foot summit (10). Savor views over turquoise ponds and sawtooth ridges, then return to the Lost Lake Trail (11). Go east over glacier-carved rollers, through fragrant forests, and camp along Telephone Lakes (12). Next day, take the bridge over a bog and reach the Nash Fork Campground (13). Go left on the dirt road to the Sheep Lake trailhead and your car (14).

The Way
From Laramie, take WY 130 west (Snowy Range Rd.) 36 miles to Nash Fork Campground. Turn right on FR 317 and go one mile to the trailhead. 

Gear up Get fishing supplies and gas at Big Hoss Mountain Sports in Laramie. (307) 742-9125;

Get up-to-date trail conditions and fishing information at Medicine Bow National Forest, Laramie Ranger District: (307) 745-2300;


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Jul 25, 2011

Research on this article was weak. Big Hoss is closed and they never sold fishing or gas. You must be thinking of the West Laramie Fly Store. Comments from hikers suggest the same lack of research.

Jul 25, 2011

Research on this article was weak. Big Hoss is closed and they never sold fishing or gas. You must be thinking of the West Laramie Fly Store. Comments from hikers suggest the same lack of research.

Mac Jones
Mar 13, 2011

My wife and I live in Cheyenne, we hike this area every summer. The forest service says we have alomost 175% of normal snow fall this year,and it is only March. So this area will be late June before you can get in.

Dave Lorenzen
Feb 16, 2011

I just saved the day at Animal Services

Paul Mags
Nov 09, 2010

My girlfriend and I did this loop suggestion with a slight variation. We x-countried it from North Gap lake to Medicine Bow rather than do the out-n-back section. Made a nice loop if you enjoy cross-country travel.
Photos here:

Matt L.
Jul 11, 2010

Just did the hike this weekend. Not a lot of people, but still a fair amount of snow on trails to stomp through. Made it through the whole loop, though we did it in reverse and went along the Glacier Lakes trail, as opposed to the author's suggested, seemingly non-existent route. Great hike.

Ted E
Jul 01, 2010

The road up brooklyn lake is still blocked with snow, and the trails still have a ton of snow on them (6/30/2010). However, i still was able to hike into Brooklyn lake, and spent the night there. There wasn't another person anywhere to be seen and i caught 4 nice little trout.


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