No crowds here: Climbing Wyoming's Medicine Bow Peak in the Snowy Range
I'm convinced that we Coloradans find it fun to rip on Wyoming. After all, Wyoming is the Cowboy State full of oil wells, coal mines and lots and lots of uncool empty space that doesn't rise above 14,000 feet. (Oh, wait... Colorado has all those things, too!) If you live in Fort Collins, the state line is as much an iron wall to many people as Interstate 25 — cross either (headed east across the interstate or north across the state line), and you're in the world of bland backwardness full of rednecks and a conspicuous lack of organic arugula. Kind of like Kansas.
Except, of course, southern Wyoming isn't the wasteland we uppity Colorado mountain people like to think it is. In fact, it has some amazing wild country outside of the Wind Rivers, Absarokas, Tetons and Bighorns. Some of the most accessible alpine backcountry close to Fort Collins is in Wyoming's Snowy Range, about 90 minutes away. The best part is: The throngs of elk-ogling tourists you'll find at Rocky Mountain National Park or the conga lines of pseudo-mountaineers threading up Longs Peak or the Indian Peaks are conspicuously absent north of the border. Yes, there are plenty of people in the Snowys, just a gazillion fewer than in Colorado's Front Range.
So, that's where we found ourselves today — in need of a change of scenery and a tremendous lack of crowds after baking on a short hike around the screaming-child infested Vedauwoo area of the Medicine Bow National Forest between Cheyenne and Laramie. After living in Fort Collins for three years, I'd never taken the time to check out Vedauwoo. If you're not a rock climber, Vedauwoo is well worth a visit — once. Then, your best bet is to head to higher climes where the view is better.
Once we arrived in the Snowy Range, I discovered that the lightweight backup DSLR camera I bring on hikes with me (previously drenched in a storm on a hike in Congaree National Park in South Carolina) had finally bit the dust. The backup's backup is my iPhone, which accompanied me on our short climb of Medicine Bow Peak.
Medicine Bow Peak, which at 12,013 feet is the highest point in the Snowy Range, is one of the easiest peaks above treeline to climb anywhere in the Rockies. The summit is only two miles from the trailhead, which sits at the crest of Snowy Range Road halfway between Saratoga and Laramie. The views at the top range from Longs Peak in Colorado to — on a very clear day — the Wind Rivers far into northwest Wyoming.
The Snowy Range Road is closed in winter, but in the summer, the area is a sublime diversion from Colorado's mountains and proof that southern Wyoming has much more to offer than Laramie, Cheyenne and the yawn-inducing I-80 corridor.