Climbing Medicine Bow Peak, West of Laramie, WY

Medicine bowl peak, cr-Wikipedia

Medicine bowl peak, credit-Wikipedia

The climber is given key information about the Lewis Lake Trail to the summit of this snow-lined peak at 12,013 feet, the highest point in southern Wyoming’s Snowy Range.

The two-mile long trail to Medicine Bow Peak in the Snowy Range forty miles west of Laramie, Wyoming begins at Lewis Lake just beyond the parking lot that holds thirty or so cars. There is no other way to get here other than by private car. The starting point of the Lewis Lake Trail is 10,750 feet above sea level and just 800 feet shy of tree line. Hikers should register just beyond the parking lot at the beginning of the trail.

Be Aware of Possible Sudden Snow Storms

The best times to climb Medicine Bow Peak are between late June and mid-September. Be aware of sudden snow storms that can occur as late as the latter part of June and as early as Labor Day in September. The worst times to climb this peak would be from mid-September through late June.

There are no man-made hazards on this two-mile trail, but the hiker should bring along walking sticks to assist him/her over angled snowfields higher up toward the summit. Once the hiker is on the way, she will descend slightly to cross the Lewis Lake outlet whose shoreline is usually laced with sub-alpine wildflowers.

Striking Views of the Snowy Range and Brown’s Peak

As the hiker walks along the trail past rocky up-crops, he is afforded constant views of the granitic Snowy Range with the high- rising bald summit of Brown’s Peak directly eastward with sparkling Lewis Lake directly below. Less than a quarter mile from the trail head begins a very lush shoreline marsh laced with bright yellow marsh marigolds and white-yellow glacier lilies. Just beyond the marsh, the trail bounds upward through narrow rocky crags at a forty-degree angle. The rocks are lichen-covered in varying colors of orange, green and rust. In sheltered spots one may find clusters of blue columbines. The spruce trees at this point are quite dwarfed and twisted by winter winds. As the trail approaches a high and treeless plateau, one cannot help but notice many chunks of white quartzite, sometimes pinkish in color on either side of the trail.

A Grand View of Medicine Bow Peak and the Sugar Loaf

After about one mile, the trail winds across a high plateau where one can see Medicine Bow Peak rising to the northwest and the trail-less Sugar Loaf (11,400 feet) rising directly to the south. The Sugar Loaf is so called because of the abundance of white quartzite chunks up and down its slopes. At the north side of the plateau, the trail begins to switch back and forth as it gains elevation on the flanks of the Snowy Range. The hiker should pause along these switchbacks to appreciate the panoramic views of Lewis Lake below and Lake Marie to the west and the Colorado Rockies to the south.

Snowfields Await the Climber at 11,500 Feet and Upward

The trail straightens out at about 11,500 feet when one begins to look down on the summit of Sugar Loaf. It is in this zone that one might encounter in June and July snowfields angled at forty degrees on so. Use extra caution while crossing these snow-covered portions of the trail. They may be as long as thirty or forty yards. Use your walking sticks for balance! The trail winds its way through rock slabs until it reaches the final ridge-line. From here to the summit, a quarter mile away, one will encounter a perpetual snowfield that is crusty and usually around three or four feet deep.

Panoramic Views of Colorado’s Rawah Range and Wyoming’s Sierra Madre Mountains

Once on the summit marked with a rock cairn and stake, the climber can enjoy sweeping panoramas southward to the Rawah Range of Colorado, westward to the Sierra Madre Range of Wyoming, northward to Elk Mountain and eastward to the Laramie Plains. The hike takes up to two hours with a vertical gain of 1,263 feet. Bring sufficient water as there are no sources of water along the trail nor are there any restrooms. You can pick up a trail map at Medicine Bow National Forest Headquarters in Laramie or download one from Medicine Bow National Forest web page.

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