Wyoming's Medicine Bow: A Cure For Hikers

Wyoming's Medicine Bow National Forest is just what the hiker ordered.
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Wyoming's Medicine Bow National Forest is just what the hiker ordered.

The locals like to say that snow doesn't land in southeastern Wyoming-it just blows through on its way to Nebraska. A trip to the Snowy Range in Medicine Bow National Forest will dispel that notion, since plenty of snow lands here, especially between October and May.

Perhaps it's the turbulent weather that makes this part of southeastern Wyoming a secluded haven. The national forest boasts four wilderness areas covering 123 square miles and more than 210 miles of often underused trails.

Divided into four units, the Medicine Bow National Forest sprawls across more than a million acres of the Laramie, Medicine Bow, and Sierra Madre ranges.

In the Huston Park Wilderness, you'll find a 46-mile segment of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. This is the longest trail in Medicine Bow and also one of the least used, partly because it has an average elevation of 9,750 feet.

In Savage Run Wilderness, sheer-sided canyons open to rolling upland plateaus at higher elevations. The 9-mile Savage Run Trail traverses the wilderness.

Or try the Platte River Wilderness. Two footpaths-the 9.5-mile Douglas Creek Trail and 6.5-mile Platte River Trail-wind through secluded canyons. Encampment River Wilderness is crossed by the 16-mile Encampment River Trail, which passes mining ruins in a steep, narrow canyon.

One day on a lark, I hiked the 4.5-mile Medicine Bow Peak Trail. It was a blustery September day, and slick boulder fields and punishing wind made for slow going as I approached the 12,013-foot summit.

The payoff, a staggering view across the Continental Divide, was soon veiled in flurries. By early afternoon, driving sleet forced a retreat to Lookout Lake. (Lakes and ponds dot the Snowy Range, and in good weather, cross-country navigation is easy.)

Incidentally, the weather can be fine in Medicine Bow. After a night of flurries and buffeting winds, I awoke to a warm sun and crystalline sky, without another soul in sight. Pretty close to perfect conditions, if you ask me.