Want big scenery with little planning? Wyoming's Medicine Bows, a pocket of alpine grandeur just three hours north of Denver, Colorado, requires no reservations, no jostling for trailhead parking, and no competition for primo campsites. Just show up and hike an undiscovered classic. The best trek is a four-day, 35-mile traverse from Rock Creek trailhead (41 miles west of Laramie) to Lake Marie trailhead and 12,013-foot Medicine Bow Peak.
Begin with a 2,000-foot climb over five miles on the Rock Creek Trail to the Crater Lake Trail. At the junction, turn right and climb a half-mile to the lake, a spring-fed beauty with good camping.
Retrace your steps to the Rock Creek Trail in the morning, then hoof south three miles to the sparingly used Deep Creek campground. Here the trail is renamed Brush Creek and winds through boggy fireweed-filled meadows to a lush glacial valley ringed in aspen and birch. From here, it's four miles to Mutt and Jeff Lakes, where you'll cut south off-trail a half-mile to a killer campsite on the east bank of dreamy Deep Lake. The next day, trace the shore south to pick up Deep Lake Trail. Follow it one mile south to North Gap Lake Trail, then cruise two open miles to the base of spiky Peak 11,761. The trail winds up the east ridge, becoming faint. In a mile, you'll drop to the twin Shelf Lakes, then link to Circle Trail. It's only four more miles and one more junction (at Lost Lake Trail, go west) to Telephone Lakes. Set up camp on the open flats, take a dip, and eyeball tomorrow's goal: fin-shaped Medicine Bow Peak.
Get an early start the following morning, and take Lost Lake Trail west to Medicine Bow Peak Trail for a 1,300-foot, three-mile climb to the peak's summit. Look back on Browns and Sugarloaf Peaks to the southeast and your route across some of Wyoming's quietest country. Linger in airy solitude before your three-mile downhill walk on Medicine Bow Trail to your shuttle at the Lake Marie trailhead.
From Laramie, go 30 miles west on WY 130 to Lake Marie trailhead, then drive to Rock Creek trailhead (follow Rock Creek Trail signs at the Arlington exit off of I-80, 40 miles west of Laramie).
Book and Maps
Pair Hiking Wyoming's Medicine Bow National Forest by Mark Smith ($17) with the following USGS quads: Arlington, White Rock Canyon, Sand Lake, and Morgan.